March 30, 2021, statement regarding on-campus research and scholarly activities, fieldwork and interaction with research participants from the vice-president (research)

Mar 30th, 2021

By Dr. Neil Bose

March 30, 2021, statement regarding on-campus research and scholarly activities, fieldwork and interaction with research participants from the vice-president (research)

In keeping with the move to Low Risk on Memorial’s COVID-19 Impact Scale, I am pleased to advise that for the St. John’s Campus we are expanding the access to on-campus research spaces and resuming more low-risk fieldwork, as well as resuming low-risk research involving interactions with research participants. Researchers at Grenfell Campus and the Marine Institute Campus should contact their research offices to confirm processes for those campuses. We will also implement a more streamlined request process while we are operating at the Low Risk or Very Low Risk levels.   

Consistent with the appeals from the chief medical officer of health, researchers who are able to carry out their research remotely should continue to do so, regardless of the provincial alert level. By continuing to limit our contacts throughout the pandemic, we will help ensure our own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others, including our colleagues who are required to carry out work on-campus, our research participants and members of the general public.

For on-campus research, field research and research involving face-to-face interactions with research participants, researchers may request permission from their supervisors to undertake research that satisfies the following criteria:

(1)    It is not possible to carry out the planned research activities remotely or to adjust the research activities to be able to carry out the research program remotely.

(2)    On-campus research that can be carried out without exceeding density limits for research spaces and that follows an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) approved activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan.   

a.  If the requested on-campus activity already received EHS approval for an activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan (e.g. in 2020), that plan may continue to be used for the research to be resumed at this time. Previously approved plans will need to be adjusted to address any new research locations, current density limits, requirements for health and safety briefings and monitoring, and protocols for contact tracing. If the research did not have a previously approved plan, researchers must have an EHS-approved plan in advance of making a request to their supervisor. Updated or newly approved plans must be made available to all members of the research team, with a copy to research.requests@mun.ca, before commencing the research. For some research activities, the measures described in Memorial’s COVID-19 Safety Moment may cover some of the measures required for the planned research activities. Where on-campus activities require additional health and safety measures, these additional measures must be detailed in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. For assistance in determining whether additional measures are required, contact health.safety@mun.ca

b.  At this time, density limits have been set at 114 sq. ft. per person within shared spaces. Multiple researchers may access a space coincidentally subject to not exceeding density limits, maintaining physical distancing, using appropriate PPE and defining and following cleaning protocols. Memorial’s COVID-19 Density Calculator must be used in planning access to on-campus research spaces with the results included in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan.

c.  Research activities must be planned using Memorial’s COVID Density Calculator with appropriate adjustments to account for equipment/etc., for each room that access is being sought. Where density limits (currently 114 sq. ft. per person) can’t be met, a schedule of room access must be put in place to ensure safe access can be maintained. Similarly, a schedule of room access will be required for spaces that will be shared among different research groups.

d.  Principal Investigators (PIs) must carefully track the use of spaces by their research teams to ensure that contact tracing can be carried out if needed.

e.  Requests that require support from other units (e.g. CREAIT, Animal Care, Technical Services, Library, etc.) require researchers to coordinate the support directly with those units in advance of making a request to their supervisor. Please note that operations of the various support units are also all impacted by COVID-19. Also, each support unit will have its own COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan which must be followed by individuals receiving support from these units.

(3) Low-risk fieldwork within the province and within Canada that complies with Memorial travel restrictions and that follows an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) approved activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. Research that involves travel outside of Canada is subject to federal government advisories on travel and at present is not being approved.

a.  If the requested fieldwork already received EHS approval for an activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan (e.g. in 2020), that plan may continue to be used for the research to be resumed at this time. Previously approved plans will need to be adjusted to address any new fieldwork locations, current density limits, requirements for health and safety briefings and monitoring, and protocols for contact tracing. If the research did not have a previously approved plan, researchers must have an EHS-approved plan in advance of making a request to their supervisor. Updated or newly approved plans must be made available to all members of the research team, with a copy to research.requests@mun.ca, before commencing the research. For assistance with activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans, contact health.safety@mun.ca.

b.  At this time, density limits have been set at 114 sq. ft. per person within any shared space, on- or off-campus, that is used in the course of fieldwork. Multiple researchers may access a space coincidentally subject to not exceeding density limits, maintaining physical distancing, using appropriate PPE, and defining and following cleaning protocols. Memorial’s COVID-19 Density Calculator must be used in planning access to on-campus research spaces with the results included in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. For off-campus spaces, researchers will need to confirm that the density limit of 114 sq. ft. per person can be maintained in any off-campus space and this must be detailed in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan.

c.  Indigenous communities across the province may follow a different scheduling for research opening and Memorial University will follow recommendations from the Miawpukek (Conne River) First Nation, Qalipu First Nation, Nunatsiavut Government, Innu Nation, NunatuKavut Community Council and any other Indigenous governing body or community regarding research implicating Indigenous groups. In the case of research impacting Indigenous groups, please contact Indigenousresearch@mun.ca.

d.  In the case of Labrador, Memorial will also follow recommendations from Labrador-Grenfell Health and the municipalities in Labrador. The Labrador Institute is also available to answer questions about research in Labrador during COVID-19. In the case of research pertaining to Labrador, Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, interim dean, School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies, (ashlee.cunsolo@mun.ca) can provide guidance.

(4)    On-campus or field research that involves low-risk face-to-face interaction with participants and that follows an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) approved activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan.

a.  In all cases where research involves interaction with research participants, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) must approve an activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan that ensures that the risks to research participants is evaluated and mitigated. Researchers must have an EHS-approved plan in advance of making a request to their supervisor. Approved plans must be made available to all members of the research team, with a copy to research.requests@mun.ca, before commencing the research. The plan must include an assessment of the health and safety risk to research participants and a justification as to why this risk is considered Low. For assistance with activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans, contact health.safety@mun.ca.

b.  At this time, density limits have been set at 114 sq. ft. per person within any shared enclosed spaces, on- or off-campus. Multiple researchers may access a space coincidentally subject to not exceeding density limits, maintaining physical distancing, using appropriate PPE and defining and following cleaning protocols. Memorial’s COVID-19 Density Calculator must be used in planning access to on-campus research spaces with the results included in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. For off-campus spaces, researchers will need to confirm that the density limit of 114 sq. ft. per person can be maintained in any off-campus space and this must be detailed in the activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan.

c. For research requiring approval from the Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research (ICEHR) or from the Health Research Ethics Board (HREB), researchers must first obtain their supervisor’s approval for the research before seeking ICEHR or HREB approval. Requests to ICEHR must include confirmation of the supervisor’s approval and a copy of the EHS approved activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan. More information about HREB approval can be found here.

(5)    In all cases where research impacts on Indigenous groups, the permission from the appropriate Indigenous group is a condition of approval to undertake or resume research. In the case of research pertaining to Labrador, Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, interim dean, School of Arctic and Sub-Arctic Studies, (ashlee.cunsolo@mun.ca) can provide guidance. In the case of all other research impacting Indigenous groups, please contact Indigenousresearch@mun.ca.

(6)    An activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan must include a briefing of all members of the research team about the scope of the approved activities and the measures in the plan.  Also, there must be a procedure defined within the plan for record-keeping for the purpose of contact tracing, and a protocol for working alone where that is to occur in the course of the research. 

Subject to the criteria noted in (1) – (6) above, and once permission of the supervisor has been obtained, researchers on the St. John’s Campus who are unable to carry out their research remotely must complete the Memorial University Activity FormPlease note that each member of the research team must complete the Activity Form after they have reviewed the approved activity-specific Health and Safety Plan.

See the accompanying flowchart for a summary of the request process here.

If the research does not have an EHS approved activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan, the required plan template can be found here.  

Thank you once again for your continued co-operation in these unusual times.

Dr. Neil Bose
Vice-President (Research)
March 30, 2021

Contact

Research

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000