Mobilizing research on campus
As the campus begins to open for research, all faculties have presented plans for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of a safe return to research laboratories. Most faculties are under or at a 33% return of researchers to their important work. That number will increase quickly in the fall.
Off-campus research activities are permitted if all public health directives and rules of the research location are followed. In-person research involving humans is now allowed. The Office of the Vice-President, Research, the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity, the Office of Risk Management have developed guidelines and procedures, which are available on the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity website.
As for scholarly gatherings, conferences or in-person meetings, researchers will be able to plan and host events as of September 1, so long as participants are local. No travel to on-campus events will be permitted until at least the end of October. Again, Ottawa Public Health directives must be followed. No outside groups will be permitted to host events on campus until further notice.
What is the plan to remobilize research on campus?
All faculties have received approval for Phase 1 of reopening plans, and some are now progressing to Phase 2. By all accounts, research remobilization and the return to research labs have gone extremely well, with each faculty managing the process carefully. There have been no major issues to date, and while most faculties are still under or around the 33% benchmark, we anticipate that numbers will rise more quickly moving forward.
Are off-campus research and academic activities (local and within Canada) permitted?
Off-campus activities are now permitted, as long as they are carried out in accordance with:
- The directives of the relevant public health agency; and
- The directives in effect at the location and site host where the activities are taking place.
A document on field trip safety (PDF) prepared by the Office of Risk Management can help you plan and prepare off-campus activities.
Is in-person research (off and on campus) resuming?
The Office of the Vice-President, Research, the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity and the Office of Risk Management have developed guidelines to allow the resumption of in-person human participant research. They are available on the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity website.
Are on-campus events permitted?
All uOttawa-organized conferences and meetings involving participants who must travel from outside Ottawa are cancelled until the end of October. As of September 1, uOttawa community members will be allowed to host specific events if they are attended by local participants only. Events must follow public health directives and for now, no external groups can host events on campus.
Is the campus closed and if not, is it safe to come on campus?
Based on the most recent changes to COVID-19 related restrictions, only authorized people are permitted on the campus.
Can I continue to allow research personnel – students, fellows, research associates and technicians – to work on active research projects in my laboratory?
As per the official March 19, 2020 message from the Vice-President, Research, only those laboratories/projects for which a formal derogation request was submitted and approval granted from the Office of the Vice-President, Research, can continue their limited operations. Those laboratories still open must remain vigilant in adhering to preventative measures such as social distancing, good laboratory hygiene practices, and cleaning/sanitizing protocols.
Are students currently employed in my laboratory (via paid internships, research assistantships or employment contracts) still able to work?
The only individuals authorized to be on campus in research laboratories are those deemed to be essential workers, as part of the formal derogation request approved by the Office of the Vice-President, Research.
Do I need to adopt more stringent cleanliness and sanitation standards in my laboratory during this time?
Yes. All research laboratories should exercise heightened vigilance in ensuring that good laboratory practices for cleaning and sanitizing are followed.
Does the OVPR have a business continuity plan to ensure the operational readiness of its research facilities?
We have been proactively working with the Emergency Operations Centre (OVPR is a key member of the EOC), central administration, OVPR staff, Faculties, Facilities and Procurement to address key business continuity elements. These elements include:
- The Animal Care and Veterinary Services team, under the leadership of Dr. Holly Orlando, is working diligently with the OVPR, key Faculties and researchers to ensure continued operation and support for our animal facilities (animal husbandry, life systems, feed, supplies).
- Scientific instrumentation and equipment that requires care, maintenance and regular handling that may be disrupted by lack of personnel, support services or unreliable supplier response:
- Cryogenic and other gas/liquid supplies – liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, liquid/solid carbon dioxide, liquid/gaseous oxygen, gaseous argon…
- reagent and consumable supplies – to maintain safety, preservation and integrity of science collections, specimens and experiments
- other research mission-critical supplies
- on-site/in-person monitoring and observation that are research mission-critical
- research mission-critical specific/scheduled maintenance
- Research labs that are in the midst of longer duration experiments that require regular monitoring, handling and observation that may be disrupted by lack of personnel, support services or unreliable supplier response.
- Researchers in remote field camps or research sites who may find their plans disrupted by unpredictable supplier response.
The OVPR has carefully identified the key uOttawa support staff functions that are critical to ensuring business continuity, including facility management, animal care, shipping and receiving functions, specialized waste/bio waste management, monitoring and security, cleaning and maintenance. Business continuity plans for each of these functions are being reviewed by the Emergency Operations Centre.
Are you working with suppliers to ensure the timely provision of critical supplies and consumables?
Yes. The OVPR is working closely with our Procurement Services to monitor supplier provision of research “mission-critical” supplies and consumables. To date, our key suppliers have indicated no anticipated negative impacts on their supply chains and inventories, except for personal protective equipment (PPE – gloves, masks, etc.); therefore, we encourage reduced use of PPE where possible.
What happens if the university undergoes a partial or complete shutdown?
While we do not anticipate a partial or complete shutdown, the Emergency Operations Centre is preparing for all possible scenarios.
For research, this includes special consideration for research “mission-critical” elements: 1) animal facilities, 2) cryogenic and other gas/liquid supplies to ensure continued operation, safety and integrity of scientific equipment and instruments, 3) reagents and other supplies to maintain the safety, preservation and integrity of research collections, specimens and experiments. We are working closely with our key suppliers to ensure predictable and timely provision of critical research supplies and consumables.
It would be prudent for all researchers to be formulating preparedness plans for prioritizing research activities and a scaling down of activities should those situations arise. For example, each lab should update their emergency contact list, have a ready-to-implement plan to quickly ramp down research projects, consider delaying the start of longer-duration research projects, and consider elements of work that can be conducted remotely.
Each Faculty is actively working on their emergency preparedness plan, and we would encourage contacting your Faculty’s research office or Vice-Dean, Research if you have specific questions.
What level of support can I expect for managing my grants, from application submission through to awards processing and providing access to my research funds?
Research management support is fully operational. Funders, including the Tri-Agencies, are making ongoing changes to programs and policies, including project end dates, grant extensions, submission and reporting deadlines, and eligibility matters. As the Office of the Vice-President, Research becomes aware of these, we will inform the research community through the Research Management Services (RMS) newsletter.
Researchers can also check the CIHR,
For other grants management needs or questions, please address them to your regular faculty contact and/or the relevant OVPR service (RMS, ISS) that will be able to assist you.
Visiting Researchers Program, Office of International Research / Programme des chercheurs invités, Bureau de la recherche internationale
For projects impacted, award end dates will be extended and accounts will remain open for active awards under the Visiting Researchers Program managed by the Office of International Research. Any incoming visits planned to take place before June 30, 2020 should be rescheduled by the uOttawa professor and their international colleague. For any questions, please contact Carmen Bauer.
While we will not have answers to every question, the Office of the Vice-President, Research (OVPR) will continue to be guided by the principles of flexibility and responsiveness in our approach to address all situations regarding delays and interruptions in research activities and plans, including potentially significant delays resulting from lost field seasons. The OVPR will continue to provide the maximum level of support for the management of the grant proposal processes and awards, commensurate with the availability of staff.
Research Prizes and Awards Competitions (deadlines)
The OVPR will regularly inform researchers regarding changes in dates that may impact major competitions. Le VRR fera preuve de flexibilité par rapport aux dates limites internes pour les compétitions en cours qui requièrent une sélection interne ou un appui institutionnel.
What do these measures mean for Visiting Student Researchers?
Regarding current and upcoming Visiting Student Researcher (VSR):
- The Centre for Research Opportunities has communicated with all current VSRs to ensure that they are supported at this time.
- For upcoming VSRs, the Centre has contacted them to recommend postponing or cancelling their research visit. For those who decide to postpone, the Centre will support them with this process. For those who decide to cancel, the Centre will refund the payment of the processing fee.
If you know of any students who are not registered through our Centre, please tell them to contact us at email@example.com so that we can register them to our program and provide them with the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) in order to access health services.
Students doing research abroad through programs offered by the Centre for Research Opportunities:
- The Centre for Research Opportunities has communicated with our students abroad and is strongly urging them to come home as soon as possible, following the Government of Canada’s recommendation.
- For students who can return, the Centre will support them with all the logistics they need. Please share travel arrangements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For students who do not wish to return or for whom it is not safe to return, the Centre will be in continuous communication with them during this time.
The OVPR strongly recommends keeping all receipts and invoices related to expenditures incurred due to COVID-19.
Should I delay my research project?
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the uOttawa Research Ethics Boards (REBs) advise investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, laboratory visits or trips into clinics and hospitals. Revised participant consents or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with use of different communication channels).
While Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
What happens next?
The Office of the Vice-President, Research (OVPR) is in constant communication with the Faculties through the Vice-Deans of Research and the Deans. Should you have any question or concern that is not addressed, please contact your Vice-Dean, Research who will consult with the OVPR as necessary. Updates to this Q&A will be posted as required.
For emergencies, the key contact for the Office of the Vice-President, Research will be Philippe-Thierry Douamba (Tel: (office) 613-562-5800 X2252 or (cell) 613-410-6749).
The OPVR is looking at various scenarios to address delays and interruptions in research activities. We will keep you informed as they become available.
International Postdoctoral Fellows
How does COVID-19 impact International Postdoctoral Fellows employees?
The Employment and Immigration Sector of Human Resources (HR) is working with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Graduate and Post-Graduate Studies (OVPGPS), Faculties, and Research Supervisors to provide all international Postdoctoral Fellow employees with appropriate information regarding their registration and employment at the University of Ottawa in this challenging time.
Regarding upcoming International Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) employees:
For registered international PDFs currently living outside of Canada, the Employment and Immigration Sector of HR is contacting them and their Research Supervisor to advise them that the start date of their employment is deferred until such time as the Government of Canada confirms that it has lifted the travel restrictions for Temporary Foreign Workers. We ask that they continue with their work permit application using the employment offer they have already received from uOttawa, and following the instructions on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. Please note that the deferred start date will also depend on the travel restrictions imposed by the country of origin.
Regarding current International Postdoctoral Fellow employees:
For international PDF employees currently at uOttawa, HR is monitoring the end date of their current work permit. For PDFs with permits expiring before July 1, 2020, HR will review each case individually and contact the PDF and Research Supervisor to determine the next steps.
Regarding the registration of new International Postdoctoral Fellow employees:
For new registrations of international PDF employees living outside of Canada, the offer of employment letter will have a start date of July 1, 2020. This date is, however, subject to change depending on the evolving circumstances. This letter of offer is to be used to complete the work permit application following the instructions on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
For new registrations of international PDF employees living inside Canada, HR and the OVPGPS will review each case individually and contact the PDF and Research Supervisor to determine the next steps.
Who should I contact?
For information related to registrations, contact the OVPGPS: email@example.com
For information related to immigration, contact the Employment and Immigration Sector, HR: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on the work permit application delays related to COVID-19 can be found on the IRCC website.
How does COVID-19 impact affiliated International Postdoctoral Fellows?
The Office of the Vice-Provost, Graduate and Post-Graduate Studies (OVPGPS) at uOttawa is working with the affiliated institutions, Faculties and Research Supervisors to ensure that all affiliated international Postdoctoral Fellows with appropriate information regarding their registration and employment at the University of Ottawa in this challenging time.
Who should I contact?
For information related to registrations, contact the OVPGPS: email@example.com
For information related to immigration, contact your institution.
Information on the work permit application delays related to COVID-19 can be found on the IRCC website.
Research Involving Humans
Is the REB accepting new submissions?
Can previously approved research continue?
Off-campus research can continue if public health guidelines are followed, for example if there is no direct contact with participants (e.g. online survey, Skype or phone interviews).
If the currently approved project involves direct contact and you want to make changes to your project, either to continue the in-person activities or to change in-person activities to an online format, please consult the Guidelines for research involving humans during COVID-19.
Can I conduct on-campus research with humans?
In-person research activities are now permitted on campus, with the exception of activities involving populations vulnerable to COVID-19, as defined by the Government of Canada’s webpage on Vulnerable populations and COVID-19. For more information, please consult the Guidelines for research involving humans during COVID-19.
Should I be sending in my requests for renewal of the ethics certificate and project closure?
Yes. These requests will still be reviewed. A reminder that a valid ethics certificate must be in place in order for research activities involving humans to occur.
I have a new project involving COVID-19, what do I need to know?
- COVID-19 studies are being prioritized by the REB
- We highly recommend you contact us at ethics@uOttawa.ca so we can ensure the file is dealt with as efficiently as possible
- You can submit these at any time – there is no deadline to send in the submission
- If the project is minimal risk, it will be sent immediately to evaluators
- If the project is above minimal risk, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a protocol officer via ethics@uOttawa.ca
- Feedback will be provided as soon as possible following the ethics review
Please note uOttawa-affiliated hospitals are focusing on clinical care. If your project involves a hospital site, please check their website for information on the status of current research projects.
If you want to pursue non-participant research activities for a funded project that does not yet have ethics approval, please complete the Conditional Release of Research Funds form and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who can I contact if I have questions?
As with the rest of the University community, ethics staff are working remotely. Please contact them by email as phone messages may not be accessed regularly.
Contact information: https://research.uottawa.ca/ethics/
For more information on REB review, please see TCPS 2: Research Ethics Review during Publicly Declared Emergencies
Ethics of research with animals
What are the plans in place to ensure the continued operation of our animal facilities?
A separate communication from our Animal Care and Veterinary Services team will be sent to researchers and investigators. The decreased availability of animal care staff will require some adjustments in the near-term, and a plan to ensure business continuity is being implemented, including redeployment of staff to ensure basic animal husbandry and care, life systems support, and maintenance of current active projects.
Is the Animal Care Committee still reviewing and approving animal use protocols?
Yes, the Animal Care Committee continues its work, including receiving amendments to and renewals of existing animal use protocols, as well as receiving new protocols.
For projects with animals that won’t be able to be done immediately (see the March 19, 2020 memo from the Vice-President, Research and the March 20, 2020 update from the Animal Care & Veterinary Service), the Animal Care Committee will work with the protocol author towards an approval in principle of the work, and then towards final approval when conditions allow the animal work to proceed.
For critical or time sensitive research work involving animals, including work related to COVID-19, can the Animal Care Committee review the work between regular meetings?
Yes, for work that has received approval from the Vice-President, Research, the Animal Care Committee can work with the protocol author to review the protocol or amendment between regular meetings. The Animal Care Committee uses the same standards it would normally apply during regular review processes and provides an expedited review and approval process for critical or time sensitive animal-based research.
Can field research with animals continue?
Yes, if it is approved by the Animal Care Committee and all public health directives and guidelines are respected.
Who can help me clarify what is needed and apply to the Animal Care Committee?
Please contact Marie Bédard, Director of Animal Ethics, email@example.com, 613-853-2910, who will help you clarify what is needed and with her team will help you prepare a new animal use protocol or amend an existing protocol as appropriate, working with the Animal Care & Veterinary Service. Marie and colleagues will then assist you and the Animal Care Committee in the review process to facilitate review and approval of the work.