Research that can be carried out remotely must continue in this manner wherever possible. Research that can be carried out without need of on-site campus resources, without working in the field (outside of one’s own home), or without interacting physically face-to-face with research participants – may continue without following the processes outlined in this Guide.
Researchers must follow this Guide to request access to on-campus research spaces, re-start field work, or begin face-to-face interactions with research participants only when absolutely necessary and allowed under public health directives. Our top priority remains ensuring the health and safety of Saint Mary’s University students, staff, faculty, research participants and collaborators, and our broader community.
Saint Mary’s University will enable as much on-campus and field research activities as possible, while both respecting the necessary limits required by the evolving response of the CMOH to the COVID-19 situation in Nova Scotia, and ensuring that research activities will be in compliance with all University policies and guidelines. While this Guide provides the framework for approving certain research activities, it may become necessary to re-impose restrictions on research, should the situation and direction from the CMOH require them. We will also ensure that the process for approving resumption of on-campus research activity, field work and face-to-face interactions with research participants is informed, fair, reasonable, and transparent.
During any period in which entry and access to campus, or ability to travel and work in the field, have restrictions imposed in response to directives from the CMOH, permission to resume on-campus or field research activity will be granted through the process outlined in this Guide. Only on-campus or field research or face-to-face interactions with research participants which have been approved through the process outlined here can proceed during such periods.
For all reviews for approval, the Governing Principles which will guide decisions regarding resumption of research activities are as follows:
- Research activities must adhere to all relevant public health directives from the Province of Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health with respect to actions required to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- The details of these directives will change over time, with a planned gradual staged easing of restrictions according to specified criteria to be established by the Province.
- As Provincial guidelines change during the various stages, researchers will be expected to similarly adapt to the current requirement at any given time.
- NS public health directives are outlined at these websites:
- Researchers must complete a new/updated risk assessment of all research activities to be undertaken (including the potential for exposure to COVID-19 as indicated in the first bullet above), and ensure appropriate controls are put in place.
- This is a requirement under the Saint Mary’s University Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Program Manual, Chapter 3 (Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment, Risk Control); particularly noting this portion: “Formal hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control must be an ongoing process,...”, with a particular focus on being required when significant changes in operation are experienced – which is now the case.
- Research activities must protect the physical, mental and emotional health and safety of our students, staff, faculty, research participants and collaborators.
- Researchers – including students, and staff – must not feel compelled to work on campus or in the field during this period of restricted activities if they feel it presents risks to their personal health and safety. Research involving, or partnering with, community members must be conducted to ensure these people similarly do not feel compelled to be part of the research; vulnerable communities should not be involved during a time of risk.
- Priority focus should be maintained on career/program progression of early career researchers.
- Disruptions to research have had significant effects on many full-time research-based graduate students in particular, so research activities that serve to mitigate these effects and help ensure timely program completion will be high priority.
- While researchers of all seniority levels are impacted by activity restrictions, greatest long-term career impacts will be experienced by postdoctoral researchers and un-tenured faculty members, and so their research activities will be prioritized.
- Undergraduate research training has long been a hallmark of Saint Mary’s University, so focus will be retained on research activities that directly involve undergraduate students.
- Recognition and support should be directed to other disproportionally affected researchers in accordance with equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) principles.
- Women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and people of colour have greater burdens of care and less access to resources during this time – our researchers experiencing this will have had their research ability impacted.
- Efforts should continually strive to enable as much research activity as possible, while respecting the necessary limits required by the evolving COVID-19 situation in Nova Scotia, following the directives of the CMOH, and understanding the potential to re-impose tighter restrictions should the situation require.
- A “Return to Research” webpage will be developed and deployed under the Saint Mary’s University “Virtual University” site. This will provide links to useful information from other North American expert sources regarding considerations, suggestions and guidance for researchers returning to the field or lab during the COVID-19 recovery period, and beyond. This site will also provide a description of (or links to) any control measures or active screening required to be in use for researchers if directed by the provincial CMOH.