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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 recently adopted a common COVID-19 impact scale and the current rating is High (H2). This scale now includes three research types: General On-Campus, Human Participants Research (HPR) and Fieldwork. 

At H2, researchers are still expected to work remotely where possible. However, at this phase, 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”. Faculty Deans have been rolling out individual site safety plan approvals. A significant number of researchers with approved site safety plans have returned to campus, or are in the process of doing so. 

 All in-person Human Participants Research (HPR) activities were previously restricted to remote-only. While remote is still encouraged, at H2, “minimal intervention” HPR may now resume. Examples of minimal intervention HPR permitted at H2 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. We are currently working with faculties and environmental health and safety to provide guidance and to develop COVID-aware templates for fieldwork activity plans. 

For further information on human participants research (HPR), please check this FAQ .

For further information on fieldwork, please check this FAQ.

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 abroad or elsewhere in 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.
  • 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/

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.

Support services normally provided by SFU’s Environmental Health & Safety Department (EHS) will be limited at this time, including spill and incident response assistance. Consideration should be given to postponing all higher risk activities and experiments. Please refer to EHS for further updates.

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.

The Science Technical Centre is currently staffed on a 50% rotation with normal hours of operation. 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.

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

Core Facilities

  • 4D Labs: Currently running operations with skeleton on-site staff. Protocols are to screen users and maximize social distancing in equipment operation.
  • 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, subject to social distancing requirements.
  • Imagetech Lab: The Imagetech lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital has shut down on-site operations, but staff are accessible and working remotely. All non-clinical essential research within Fraser Health has been shut down.
  • eBrain Lab: On-site operations have been shut down, and staff are working remotely.

Research involving human participants

Human Participant Research (HPR) activities were previously restricted to remote-only. While remote is still encouraged at H2, “minimal intervention” HPR may now resume. Examples of minimal intervention HPR permitted at H2 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 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 connect with your Associate Dean, Research for further information on site safety plan processes and approvals for your faculty.

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 CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

At this time, SSHRC and NSERC have officially recognized that agency-funded research delayed on account COVID-19 may be eligible for extensions.

If you have a SSHRC or NSERC Grant that ends February 1, 2020 through to March 31, 2021 that is being delayed due to COVID-19 related issues, regardless of whether it has been previously extended, Research Services is authorized to directly approve extension requests for up to 12 months. Please note that Grant Amendment Forms do not need to be completed for extension requests that meet this criteria.

For researchers with active NSERC Discovery Grants: please note that NSERC has announced that all active Discovery Grants can elect to receive a one-year extension with funds at their current funding level. This includes grants from the recent 2020 competition. The announcement is now featured on the NSERC website and is included in the NSERC program information in relation to COVID 19 webpage.  Frequently Asked Questions are also posted and will be updated as details become available. 

CIHR is providing an automatic one-year extension to the authority-to-use-funds date for all active grants. This will give researchers an additional full year to use any residual funds not yet spent to compensate for disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that the CIHR extensions are automatic and that no action is required from primary investigators or SFU.

If you wish to have your grant extended because of delays caused by COVID-19, please email your grant information and a brief justification of the delays to Research Services ors@sfu.ca.

Faculty supervisors are expected to maintain existing contracts for grant-funded personnel to the end of their current term. This includes Research Assistants (RA). If an RA cannot perform their duties due to illness, self-isolation requirements, or inability to work remotely, NSERC announced on March 17 that their salaries can continue to be paid from grant funds. We are expecting similar announcements from other federal funders.

Please refer to CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC websites regularly for updates.

At this time, Mitacs has cancelled the Globalink Research Internship Program this summer. Visiting research students have been instructed to discuss deferment with the Faculty of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies. Please refer to Mitacs for ongoing updates on fellowships/internships. 

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: July 24, 2020