Application to resume research

Applications to resume research activities through access to on-campus facilities or spaces, fieldwork, or the engagement of physical face-to-face activities, can be prepared and submitted on behalf of a single faculty researcher, or a research team comprised of one or more faculty researchers along with students and/or research support employees.

Applications are to include the following components:

  • A list of the primary faculty researcher(s) submitting the application, and all research team members to be involved in the research activities; include each individual’s position at SMU (faculty, graduate or undergraduate student, postdoctoral research fellow, etc.).
  • A description of the requested research activities to be resumed. The description may be brief, but must:
    • be sufficient to outline the nature of the research to be undertaken;
    • be clear in the reasons why it cannot be done remotely (that is, that it either requires access to campus, or be done in the field, or require physical face-to-face interactions with research participant);
    • be clear in how the research connects to one or more of the listed Priorities;
    • includes a hazard assessment identifying all hazards associated with the research;
    • provide links to the listed Governing Principles, as appropriate and possible.
  • A Plan outlining how the proposed research activities will be conducted in a manner that complies with the University’s OHS Program and all provincial COVID-19 related requirements as directed by the CMOH (nothing that these requirements will likely change with time, and significant changes in the CMOH’s requirements may necessitate resubmission of updated Plans for previously approved research activities).
    • The Plan should also include appropriate responses to identified hazards including, a discussion of how the activity could be relatively quickly paused/stopped if the CMOH were to increase activity restrictions due to COVID-19 back to a level to require re-suspending previously approved activities.
    • If the Plan requires particular modifications that may require assistance to implement, in order to properly respond to the COVID-19 and/or other hazard requirements, those should be identified.
    • If the research requires PPE as part of hazard mitigation (non COVID-19 related), the Plan should provide confirmation that such PPE is available for use.
    • If support is required from other units on campus to perform the research activities, those should also be identified.

Saint Mary’s University has high expectations for Plans in terms of how research activities will be conducted to comply with COVID-19 related safety requirements (e.g. minimizing the number of people in shared space, requiring/maintaining physical distancing requirements, enhanced cleaning protocols, etc.). Researchers must remain prepared to modify, scale back, or suspend approved research activities should external conditions require (e.g. CMOH increasing restrictions), or if provisions to protect public health are not being met.

When preparing the Plans, researchers should consider how the proposed research (either on-campus, or in the field) will be conducted while meeting all key public health obligations, including, but not limited to:

  • Outlining work protocols that allow physical distancing between researchers and participants, and minimize the number of people in a lab/room at any time (this may necessitate, for example, having research team members work in alternate shifts to avoid being together in a lab/room);
  • For on-campus work, clear listing of which spaces will be required to be used and accessed, and a designation of planned hours/days of work; use of daily sign-in/out registers will be needed for each researcher, to be maintained by the principal researcher.
  • Demonstrating how all reasonable measures will be taken to ensure minimal interaction of people within two metres of each other, including limiting the number of persons who travel in a single field vehicle to one;
  • Discussing if, or under what circumstances, masks or other PPE for COVID-19 purposes are planned to be utilized (and whether such PPE is available);
  • Demonstrating how every reasonable step will be taken to prevent persons who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the workplace, including vehicles for field activities;
  • Implementing and specifying cleaning and/or disinfecting protocols in research workspaces – this will be the responsibility of the researcher, not custodial staff;
  • Limiting interactions with others as much as possible, and interactions with the general public to essential businesses (e.g. gas stations);
  • Taking every reasonable step required to prevent persons from entering workplaces (including vehicles) who have travelled outside Nova Scotia in the previous 14 days;
  • Demonstrating, for field research taking place out-of-province (after such time that restrictions on such domestic travel has been lifted), how measures will be taken to ensure that all researchers comply with Public Health requirements to self-isolate for 14 days at all stages, in all relevant provinces;
  • Preventing gatherings of persons involved in the proposed research efforts;
  • Considering the method that any researcher can be sent home should they start experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; if any researcher shows 2 or more symptoms of COVID-19, all research activities should stop immediately, and medical help sought for the affected individual(s) – within Nova Scotia, call 811 for further assessment.

It is recommended that researchers review the Nova Scotia Government’s “COVID-19: Working” website for information regarding keeping workplaces safe and guidance on items that may be helpful in developing the proposed Plan. 

Finally, approval to resume research through this process does not remove the normally expected or required safety and compliance practices – for example, clearance from the Research Ethics Board or Animal Care Committee as needed, completion of Graduate Research Hazards Assessment, following the University’s OHS Program, following established Science standard operating procedures and safety protocols, etc.

Any additional information to guide or inform researchers in their return to research planning, or in requirements for researchers approved to resume their research under this process, will be provided at the “Return to Research” webpage which will be deployed under the Saint Mary’s University Virtual University site.

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