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The following FAQs address some of the key current concerns related to the continuity of SFU’s research activities. As the response to COVID-19 is subject to ongoing changes, these questions will be reviewed and updated daily as necessary with the latest available information.

Planning

SFU is currently at H1 on our COVID-19 impact scale.

The following is in effect at H1:

  • No in-person meetings, events or programs, except some essential academic meetings with approval, can proceed in-person during this time. 
  • Only visitors providing or assisting with a core service, with an invitation approved by a manager, are allowed on campus.
  • There should be no non-essential travel outside of Canada per the Government of Canada travel advisory.
  • Staff, faculty and students attending campus are required to conduct a COVID-19 self-assessment every day before they come to campus. Please use the following link to access the tool: https://bc.thrive.health/ - If the assessment identifies that you have possible symptoms, do not come to campus and contact your supervisor/dean/professor.
  • Masks are required to be worn in all indoor common areas on SFU campuses. Common areas include building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms, study areas, coffee shops, dining halls, fitness facilities, libraries, health centres, student services areas, student residences and other high-traffic common areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Masks are also required in classrooms and shared study, work and research spaces.

This scale includes three research types: General On-Campus, Human Participants Research (HPR) and Fieldwork. At H1, essential services like research, as well as student support and teaching are operational. Researchers are still expected to work remotely where possible. Researchers who require on-campus resources in order to perform their research are allowed access to labs or offices where an approved site safety plan is on file and displayed. The required site safety plans are based on a common set of standards defined by a cross-university working group, and are designed to comply with WorkSafeBC health and safety guidelines.

As indicated in the COVID-19 impact scale, the requirement of an approved site safety plan is expected to remain in-place for some time, including if the impact rating moves to “moderate”. 

With regard to in-person Human Participants Research (HPR) activities, while remote is still encouraged, at H1, “minimal intervention” HPR continues to be permitted. Examples of minimal intervention HPR permitted at H1 include: 1:1 interviews in an appropriate space, or small focus groups that can maintain required distancing.

All in-person HPR, on and off campus, requires a HPR safety plan approved through the Office of Research Ethics (ORE) processes. The HPR safety plan details how procedures will be modified to take participant safety into account. Detailed guidelines and processes for developing and submitting an HPR safety plan, on and off campus, are available on the ORE website

Fieldwork activity plans should continue to be submitted and approved through departmental and faculty processes, as they were pre-pandemic. For information about conducting research that involves fieldwork, including guidance for preparing and submitting COVID-aware templates for field work activity plans, please see Research Recovery - Fieldwork & Third Party Sites.

The SFU Recovery Framework outlines several guiding principles for learning and research continuity. These include:

  • The university will protect the health and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff.
  • The university will consider issues of accessibility, equity, diversity and inclusion in all decisions.
  • The university will consider the carbon footprint and climate change adaptation implications of all decisions.
  • The university will communicate decisions and guidance as early and as broadly as possible.
  • Research activity will be supported to every extent possible.
  • The university will take advantage of opportunities to innovate and collaborate.

The following common principles guide on-campus research activities at this time. These guiding principles can be updated at any time, following advice from the provincial government and/or WorkSafeBC.

  • Minimal intervention human participants research (HPR) is permitted with an approved safety plan outlining updated protocols and in accordance with the university ethics processes. The HPR safety plan is reviewed and approved through the Office of Research Ethics processes.
  • Research personnel who can work remotely should continue to do so.
  • All research personnel are advised to stay at home if they are feeling ill or experiencing respiratory illness symptoms such as fever or cough - with no exceptions.
  • Research personnel returning from outside of Canada need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
  • Any faculty members who wish to restore on-campus activity for their research group need to create a site safety plan to resume activities in their research space. That plan needs to be approved by their Dean or delegate (and Department Chair or School Director where appropriate).
  • Plans for continuity of research activity on campus should be written with equity diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations in mind. Deans, and the VPRI, will be available to work with research personnel to address support and accommodations concerns of both a general university-wide nature and those that are specific to the restart of any particular research program.
  • Research personnel, including graduate students, who do not feel safe doing research on campus at this stage should be accommodated.
  • Routine daily screening is required of research personnel who will enter the research space.
  • Plans to resume research on campus are required to address safety, including:
    • The physical distancing plan for the research space.
    • The enhanced cleaning plan for the research space.
    • Any requirement for use of personal protective equipment in the research space.
    • How compliance with the plan will be monitored.
    • Training requirements for research personnel who will be using the research space.
    • Health and safety signage for the research space
  • Faculty Deans may need to prioritize applications for return to campus. Considerations for prioritization include:
    • Any research to perform COVID-19 related research will be high priority.
    • The need to access specialized equipment or facilities that can only be found on campus.
    • Applications with clear career progress implications. For example, Deans may consider the situation for graduate students close to finishing their thesis work, or early career researchers in their prioritization.
  • All research personnel returning to campus (including students) must complete required training and sign an acknowledgement that they have completed the training and understand the risks. Online training is available through SFU Canvas.
  • Safety plans for research spaces must be posted publicly, outside each space. The Dean has the right to close any research space under their authority due to a failure of personnel to abide by these plans.

For general on-campus research, or where HPR research takes place in a physical space (e.g., on campus), a site safety plan is required. The site safety plan for on-campus research is reviewed and approved through faculty processes. Please access your faculty site safety plan template through the appropriate link below or connect with your Associate Dean, Research for further information on site safety plan processes and approvals for your faculty.

FAS:  https://www.sfu.ca/fas/covid19/restart.html.
FASS: https://advance.science.sfu.ca/fass/faculty-staff/access/
Science: https://advance.science.sfu.ca/science/faculty-staff/access/
Environment: https://www.sfu.ca/fenv/covid-19/covid-19-guildelines.html
FCAT: http://www.sfu.ca/fcat/fcat-covid-19-information-and-resources/information-for-faculty/directors-and-managers.html

All in-person HPR, on and off campus, requires an HPR safety plan approved through the Office of Research Ethics (ORE) processes. The HPR safety plan details how procedures will be modified to take participant safety into account. Detailed guidelines and processes for developing and submitting an HPR safety plan, on and off campus, are available on the ORE website

 

As research activities are approved and proceed forward, ongoing compliance and monitoring must be performed for all safety plans. Responsibilities for compliance and monitoring of safety plans is as follows:

  • Compliance, monitoring checks for Human Participants Research is the responsibility of VPRI/ORE.
  • Compliance, monitoring checks for labs, facilities, offices, etc. are the responsibility of departments/faculties.
  • General guidance for COVID-19 Safety Plan Inspections is provided by SFU Safety & Risk Services.  

A gradual increase in the presence of researchers on campus has implications for support services, on-campus staffing and increased safety measures. While we still expect most SFU staff to work remotely during this period, exceptions will be needed in order to support research activities.

The health and safety of researchers and staff remains paramount. Supervisors, including faculty deans, will consider issues of accessibility and equity when determining what staff are needed to do work in-person and what additional health and safety protocols and accommodations will be put in place in each work space. Please see further guidance on managing staff.

Staff, faculty and students attending campus are required to conduct a COVID-19 self-assessment every day before they come to campus. Please use the following tool to access the assessment: https://bc.thrive.health/ - If the assessment identifies that you have possible symptoms, do not come to campus and contact your supervisor/dean/professor.

SFU community members and visitors are required to wear non-medical masks in all indoor common areas on our campuses. Common areas include building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms, study areas, coffee shops, dining halls, libraries and other high-traffic common areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Science Stores and Receiving has resumed normal hours of operation and staffing levels to support SFU research activities. A calendar booking system is set up to access Stores and Receiving areas. Note that you must also have a Science Stores account to access stock items, please use this form to set up your account.

The Science Technical Centre has resumed normal hours of service and operations. To access the facility please contact staff using (scst-electronics@sfu.ca) for the electronics shop or (scst-machine@sfu.ca) for the machine shop to discuss your relevant needs (equipment repair, plexiglass shield install, etc.) and set up an appointment to visit. You may also call 2-3303 or 2-3302 to reach relevant staff in these areas, if preferred.

Please refer to IT Services for resources to assist you with working remotely.

The Government of Canada released a suite of tools and information for researchers on protecting their research data and intellectual property from theft or misuse. The “Safeguarding Your Research” portal will help researchers self-evaluate and take actions to mitigate the risks of theft or misuse of knowledge and results associated with research, partnerships and international travel. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of such tools; there have been repeated efforts to gain illegal access to Canadian research on a COVID-19 vaccine.

Universities Canada and the U15 have also developed practical tools to help researchers consider security risks that can be associated with international research partnerships and travel.

Core Facilities

  • 4D LABS: The facilities are open to authorized users. All SFU researchers must have an individual approved safe work plan before resuming work in the facility. Protocols include COVID-19 training, daily health screening forms, limits on the number of people in labs, and no non-essential visitors. The facility is currently running operations with reduced on-site staff. In-person training is restricted at this time. More details are posted at: http://www.4dlabs.ca/news-events/covid19.html
  • Big Data Hub (BDH): The BDH has moved operations completely online. Those with offices or labs in the facility will still be able to access, using the site safety plan and subject to social distancing requirements.
  • Imagetech Lab: The SFU ImageTech Lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital is not conducting research activities currently but staff are preparing for the resumption of research activities and other services, beginning soon.
  • eBrain Lab: Staff continue to work remotely but will be resuming activities soon. 

Research involving human participants

While remote research is still encouraged at H1, “minimal intervention” Human Participant Research (HPR) continues to be permitted. Examples of minimal intervention HPR permitted at H1 include 1:1 interviews in an appropriate space, or small focus groups that can maintain required distancing.

All in-person HPR, on and off campus, requires a HPR safety plan approved through the Office of Research Ethics (ORE) processes. The HPR safety plan details how procedures will be modified to take participant safety into account. Detailed guidelines and processes for developing and submitting an HPR safety plan, on and off campus, are available on the ORE website.

Where HPR research takes place in a managed physical space (e.g., on campus), a site safety plan for the space will also be required in order to satisfy the ethics approval process. The site safety plan for on-campus research is reviewed and approved through Faculty processes. Please read the question above or connect with your Associate Dean, Research for further information on site safety plan processes and approvals for your faculty. Site safety plans for other managed physical spaces (e.g., schools, community centres) where HPR may take place can be obtained from the relevant supervisory bodies for those spaces (e.g., School Districts, Facility Managers). As the COVID-19 Impact Scale moves from Extreme to High to Moderate to Low levels there will be a corresponding loosening of restrictions placed on HPR and the level of interaction/intervention allowed with participants in the research will increase.  Also, as targeted population groups become vaccinated within BC through the proposed phased approach, restrictions on HPR will loosen for these groups.  Please be sure to reference the ORE website for more details on this.  

Fieldwork and international research collaborations

For information about conducting research that involves fieldwork, please see Research Recovery - Fieldwork & Third Party Sites.

Research involving animals

SFU’s Animal Care Services (ACS) has a crisis management plan to mitigate specific issues pertaining to the current COVID-19 situation. As an essential service, ACS anticipates being able to maintain current animal colonies with designated staff in ACS facilities. Please refer to the ACS webpage for specific updates to services.

Research Funding

The federal Tri-Agency funding bodies are looking at a number of issues relating to grant applications and funding and providing updates on an ongoing basis. We encourage you to visit the Funding Opportunities Database for major external funding deadlines and to check funding agency websites such as NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR for the latest updates. 

The federal Tri-Agency funding bodies previously communicated that they will consider the costs associated with canceled and postponed travel events paid through agency funds as allowable project expenses, provided they align with agency policies. Please see their announcement for more details. For funds from other sources, be sure to check with the appropriate funding agency/sponsor regarding eligibility. The current Government of Canada Official Global Advisory is to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. Please refer to the CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

Please refer to CIHR, NSERCSSHRC, and CFI websites regularly for updates. Please visit the Government of Canada website for the latest updates on travel restrictions, exemptions and advice.

You can also contact ors@sfu.ca to find out about current funding programs and opportunities that have been extended.

Under H1 there should be no non-essential travel outside of Vancouver and Fraser Health regions until further notice.

In partnership with Mitacs, SFU International has launched a program to support new and developing international research collaborations called the “SFU-Mitacs Globalink Award" program. This program supports Canadian-based research collaborations between Canada and select partner countries. These funds are intended to support travel in 2021/22. While the University does not permit non-essential travel at this time, SFU is partnering with Mitacs on this call in hopes that travel may be able to resume in the fall of 2021. Applicants should consider these uncertainties as they pursue this opportunity and SFU will work with Mitacs to request extensions on successful proposals should travel in Fall 2021 continue to not be permitted. More information can be found on the Funding and Awards Opportunities Database.

Research opportunities related to the investigation and mitigation of COVID-19 continue to arise on short notice.

We expect that similar announcements will continue to emerge. Please consult the Funding Opportunities Database Bulletins and its regularly-updated list of opportunities related to COVID-19 research for the most current information.

For application development support on programs related to COVID-19 research, please contact ISA at isa@sfu.ca. For any other questions, please contact the Office of Research Services at ors@sfu.ca.

SFU Response

The SFU community can find information and resources related to the university’s response to COVID-19 at https://www.sfu.ca/covid19. The information is updated as frequently as possible.

Key Contacts

Research Ethics: dore@sfu.ca
Institutional Strategic Awards: isa@sfu.ca
Research Services: ors@sfu.ca
Office of Animal Care Services: ckennedy@sfu.ca, nba36@sfu.ca
Other VPRI operations questions: trevor_davis@sfu.ca
All other questions: vprdir@sfu.ca

 

Resources

Last updated: April 8, 2021