Information for the research community

University research around the world has been significantly impacted by the restrictions on access to campuses and public health directives in every jurisdiction. In line with these requirements and effective March 20, 2020, until further notice, Saint Mary’s University suspended all on-campus research, all field research and activities involving physical face-to-face (in-person) interactions (e.g. surveys or focus groups with research participants). The only exceptions to these suspensions have been a small number of research projects directly related to the COVID-19 issue.

The suspension of research activities creates many concerns. To address these and other concerns related to research and graduate studies at Saint Mary’s, Graduate Studies & Research is working with various teams of Saint Mary’s faculty members and programs, and with other Canadian universities. You can expect to hear more on these issues and how we are addressing them in the coming weeks. I can tell you now that Saint Mary’s will be ready to take quick and responsible action to support our researchers and students to resume research activities safely as soon as public health directives allow.

Notes for researchers


A message from Dr. Adam J. Sarty, Associate Vice-President, Research

March 17, 2020

Dear SMU Research Community,

I’m sending this message to provide some comments regarding faculty and graduate student research activities following the latest updates on Saint Mary’s University’s response and the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

First, I’ll just remind all to please continue to monitor the latest status of Saint Mary’s responses at - this website is updated frequently, whenever new information arises; so I won’t re-iterate information posted there, but rather will provide information related to research activities.

While SMU is working to protect the integrity of our research activities, our first priority is your health and well-being.  With that in mind, we provide the following notes for guidance:

  • I’ll start with noting that the Canadian Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSRHC) has just released a message to provide updates to the supported research community in Canada, as they themselves implement appropriate social distancing measures and other modifications to their business operations.  Please see their latest message here.
    Note that they previously have released a message related to canceled Tri-Agency funded travel due to COVID-19.
  • Faculty members should be flexible with members of their research group, particularly students (undergraduate and graduate), and especially those who may be at higher risk or have special concerns; please accommodate graduate student or research associate/support staff absences (and refer back to with respect to managing  staff absences).
  • The university is encouraging all students to go home if they are able, particularly residence students. Therefore, undergraduate research/honours students (and some graduate students) may no longer be on campus, and they should not be required to be on campus - this likely means expectations need to be adjusted for such honours thesis; similarly, since graduate courses are included in the current suspension of face-to-face courses, your guidance on these student thesis/course issues will be forthcoming from the SMU Senate Executive.
  • While the university remains open and supporting full operations at this time, there could also be future government directives that would prevent people from coming to campus as we have seen in other provinces. If you haven’t already done so, please consider what your research activities would require should our position change so that you are prepared. 
  • Take advantage of online communication tools as much as possible so that your research students and any others doing research with you can work remotely; consider tools such as “zoom” or “Microsoft Teams” to run group meetings without people needing to be in the same room (support is available for such tools from the Studio for Teaching and Learning).
  • Scheduled upcoming Masters and PhD defences will be planned to proceed making use of these remote communication tools - please be in touch with Shane Costantino in the FGSR Dean’s office if you have an upcoming student defence (if you haven’t done so already).
  • If you need to be on campus to sustain your research, it is the researcher’s responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 - follow all provincial and federal guidelines for stopping the spread of infection: implement the principle of social distancing, frequent hand washing, and frequent disinfection of surfaces … so coming up with plans to not have many people in your lab (or office - since I know many of you who share an office with a research student!) at the same time, keep 2 metres between people in the room, etc.  The Public Health Agency of Canada has guidelines around prevention strategies about mitigating COVID-19 spread which are helpful to review in your planning.
  • Similarly to the above bullet, students or research-group members may not be comfortable with one-on-one discussions/advising, so please accommodate with alternate methods.
  • Given the university’s latest statement on travel restrictions, remote fieldwork or attending to work at off-site research facilities, special considerations may be needed; if you are uncertain, please contact me and I will try to help (or direct to someone who can!).
  • For research involving human subjects, the REB, REO and REB Office staff will continue their work to provide research ethics services to the university community; researchers should consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, etc. – and please contact the REO by email ( if there any questions related to implementing protocol changes.  The REB will send a separate short message to researchers with currently active protocols to follow up.
  • For research involving animals: please refer to CCAC for updates. Please contact the new ACC Interim Chair with any questions.
  • For researchers involved with contract-based work and have deadlines or pending deliverables that may be interrupted:  please connect with the Office of Innovation and Community Engagement (OICE) and/or the funder directly to request an extension; it is important to note that some changes or revised work plans may require Contract Amendments, so notify OICE as soon as possible.

We hope this provides some guidance on research and research-student activities during this time of change and rapid-response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

My best to all,

Adam J. Sarty, Ph.D.
Associate Vice-President, Research
Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research
Saint Mary's University

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