COVID-19 Research Impacts
The following information is provided in order to facilitate the continuation of faculty and student research during this global pandemic and resulting physical distancing measures. Because this situation is unprecedented and rapidly changing, this website will be updated regularly.
- SSHRC COVID-19 impacts on SSHRC's policies and programs
- NSERC Program Information in Relation to COVID-19
- CIHR: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
- CanCOVID: Canada's COVID-19 Research Network
- BC Academic Health Science Network: Resources for researchers studying COVID-19
- COVID-19 Resources Canada
- TRU: COVID-19 updates
Last updated: Oct. 22, 2020
Research Continuity Planning & Processes
Guidelines for Research Continuity Planning
The following is intended to provide researchers with considerations for conducting research activities and for ensuring continuity of research.
All Active Research Projects
Principal Investigators and Faculty Supervisors should evaluate each active research project they are leading/supervising and develop project-specific plans for continuity of the research. These plans should take into account the necessity of continuing the research (direct benefit to participants and/or risks of discontinuing the research) and any necessary modifications to research project procedures. If the research does not offer participants direct benefit or if the project interactions place the research team and/or participants at risk of viral exposure, consider whether changes in procedures to limit the risk or a pause in the research is prudent. The external Sponsor (for sponsored/contract research) and the Research Office should be contacted as appropriate. The Research Ethics Board is available for consultation, but researchers should evaluate their specific research project circumstances before contacting the REB. General questions of an informational nature may be directed to Debbie Krebs, Ethics and Compliance Officer.
In an effort to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 in human participant research interactions and to preserve personal protective equipment for clinical care, the University is advising restrictions on human subjects research effective Friday, March 20 and continuing through May 28. We will continue to re-evaluate this timeframe.
Research Continuity Planning
Research project-specific plans should adhere to any changes in access to campus as they develop, and the need to maintain “social distancing” (keeping a distance of at least two meters apart) and other protocols for slowing the spread of COVID-19. These changes will include some disruption to research activities both on campus and in the field.
The following considerations should be used to develop an individual research continuation/slowdown plan for each research project:
Guidelines for individual Research Continuity Plans:
- Consider the need for continuity of the research activities during the study period based on the requirements of the TRU disruption
- Make every effort to change from on-site visits to home visits or telephone/virtual visits
- Consider facility availability appropriate for social distancing
- Consider the impact of limited or paused access to research space, equipment, and university facilities
- Consider study team and staff availability a
- Consideration of social distancing when moving between locations
- Ability to conduct research interventions in current locations per TRU advisory and REB policies
- Project team and staff availability
- Orderly withdrawal of subjects if indicated or necessary
- Substantive delays in the ability of the team or participant to complete study procedures
- Maintaining communication with sponsors
- Restrictions or accommodations associated with community recruitment of participants (in the event the study remains open for recruitment)
- Contact the Director of Partnership Development, Engagement, and Enterprise Creation; the Research Office Grants Development Officer; and Manager of Research Services for cost/charge/effort considerations on sponsored projects
The template for a more detailed Research Continuity Plan required by Community Safety and Emergency Management will be distributed during the week of March 23, 2020, with completion requested by Monday, April 27.
For any other questions, please connect with the Research Office, Deans, and other internal departments. The above is intended to help support research interruptions and provide general guidelines.
Please continue to prepare and submit grant applications and any necessary Research Ethics Board applications via Romeo, including amendments, continuing reviews.
Guidelines for research teams
- Identify emergency contacts within the research team
- Develop a communication plan with the research team and participants (i.e., assure participants are kept informed if site visits or administration of research interventions are cancelled or delayed)
- In the case of student research develop a communication plan between the faculty supervisor and the student researcher or student research team
- Prioritize work
- Do not start new research projects if there is no possibility for participant enrollment at this time
- Where necessary, student research projects (including internally funded projects) may be revised and made feasible in consultation with the faculty supervisor
Research Support Staff
- Research staff, including students, need to be advised of any changes to work (where appropriate, HR should be contacted)
- Reduce physical interaction between students, postdocs, research associates, and research technicians in labs, and work to ensure a minimum spacing between researchers of no less than two meters
- Assess whether work can be done remotely: this should be communicated as early as possible to all parties
- If there are any potential financial implications for changes in research activities or protocols, please advise the Research Office
Tri-Agency Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF)
On May 15, the Prime Minister announced $450 million in funding to help Canada's academic research community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment is designed to:
- Provide wage supports to universities and health research institutes so they can retain research staff who are funded from industry or philanthropic sources and are unable to access some of the government's existing COVID-19 support measures. The government will provide up to 75 per cent of the eligible portion of eligible research personnel's wages, with a maximum of $847 per week for up to 12 weeks per individual, within the eligibility period of March 15 to Aug. 29, 2020.
- Support universities and health research institutes to maintain essential research-related activities during the crisis, and to ramp back up to full research operations once physical distancing measures are eased. This will cover up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs and will support activities, such as the safe storage of dangerous substances and restarting data sets that were interrupted during the pandemic.
Methods of Distribution
Stages 1 and 2
TRU's Stage 1 allocation of $25,756 to the CRCEF was based on:
- the CAUBO research income report;
- the annual average over three years (2015-16 to 2017-18) of the total of research income from all non-government sources;
- scaled to a period of 12 weeks (12/52); and
- will assume that 60 per cent of funding is allocated on average to personnel costs (60 per cent of total).
Stage 2 Allocation was based on the same above point, and on the research income data provided and a demonstration of needs.
TRU has been allocated notional funding of $50,000. Please submit your request by Nov. 30. TRU encourages applications from:
- Early-career researchers; and
- Researchers belonging to equity-seeking groups
Stage 3 funding supports direct costs of research that have been incurred to:
- maintain essential research-related commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic; and/or
- support ramping-up to full research activities as physical distancing measures are eased and research activities can resume.
Only direct costs of research that are extraordinary and incremental to those already covered by existing sources of funds and have been incurred between March 15 and Nov. 15 will be reimbursed, at up to 75%.
Extraordinary incremental costs incurred for research projects funded by either governmental or non-governmental sources are eligible for Stage 3 support. Extraordinary incremental costs are defined as unanticipated additional costs that would not normally have been incurred in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic and cannot be funded by existing sources of funds.
Salaries of research personnel: The salaries of research personnel can be eligible for partial reimbursement up to 75% for the period of Aug. 30 to Nov. 15 provided that they meet the Stage 3 eligibility criteria.
Eligible expenses include costs associated with the following categories. Applicants must justify the need for the funds based on actual costs incurred in the eligible period.
a) Maintenance costs:
- Costs incurred within the eligible period and associated with maintaining essential research-related activities during the pandemic that are exceptional and incremental to those already covered by existing sources of funds. This includes:
- animal and specimen care through the crisis period;
- maintenance of equipment, software, cohorts, datasets, including warranties, licenses and service contracts;
- technological equipment for remote access to maintain assets; and
- safety equipment for personnel dedicated to maintenance.
b) Ramp-up costs:
- Costs incurred within the eligible period and associated with full ramp-up of research activities, as physical distancing measures are eased and research activities can resume. Only costs that are exceptional and incremental to those already covered by existing sources of funds will be supported. Eligible expenses include those incurred at the project level and associated with:
- re-organizing the research environment and activities;
- additional costs to bring the research back to its pre-pandemic level, including experiments or related to the restart of collections and datasets (e.g., population-based, environmental);
- user fees charged by shared platforms to researchers to restart research activities (e.g., animal- care facilities, digital labs);
- re-scheduling and restarting human and clinical trials;
- exceptional costs to access special facilities, shared platforms and resources, knowledge transfer meetings and workshops;
- restarting, reassembling and safety checks of equipment and facilities;
- reacquiring lost and donated laboratory and field supplies and equipment, reagents, perishable materials, laboratory animal and other living specimens; and
- personal protective equipment and related items for research-related personnel.
- Complete a CRCEF Application Form, and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Submission of an application by a principal investigator is an attestation that the application meets the eligibility criteria for Stage 3 funding.
- As part of TRU’s commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, an adjudication committee will provide Stage 3 application recommendations to the AVP, Research and Graduate Studies.
- TRU will submit a consolidated application to the Tri-Agency on December 15. This consolidated application will include costs for maintenance and ramp-up costs within the allocated funding envelope, and any costs beyond the allocation amount.
In the event that funding requests for Stage 3 are higher than the allocated funding, special consideration will be given to researchers known to be most impacted by COVID-19. This includes:
- early-career researchers:
- researchers belonging to equity-seeking groups and researchers who were personally impacted by COVID-19 and/or have special needs in regard to child/family care.
Provided the research has been materially compromised by the pandemic, the following criteria could be used as part of the eligibility criteria for determining which research projects should receive CRCEF funding.
- Minimum incremental cost for a project to be considered for funding that promotes fair access to the largest number of projects.
Affiliated research institutions/hospitals: Not applicable
The CRCEF Governance and Review Committee of no less than five working members will be established to administer the program and review applications in cases where requests for funding exceed the institutional allocation. The Committee will review applications to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion are part of the decision-making process for the use of the funds.
The intent will be to limit the negative impact of unconscious bias and systemic barriers for both wage support and maintenance/ramp-up costs, including cases where the need exceeds the funds provided.
Each member of the group will receive unconscious bias training that will be provided by TRU trained staff and asked to complete an online training module: https://www.chairs-chaires.gc.ca/program-programme/equity-equite/bias/module-eng.aspx
The Committee will be Chaired by the Associate Vice-President Research and consist of the following:
- Associate Vice-President Research and Graduate Studies, Chair
- Director of Research and Graduate Studies
- Three Faculty Members (appointed by the AVP) who are leaders in the field and who were instrumental in the development of the University’s EDI Action Plan
The Committee structure ensures representation from individuals from equity-seeking groups, such as women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons from LGBTQ2+ communities. In addition, committee members will represent a range of interdisciplinary knowledge. The diverse composition of the committee will help to ensure that funding decisions value research that is non-traditional and unconventional, based on Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status.
Support to the Committee will consist of Thompson Rivers University HR staff with expertise in Unconscious Bias Training. The Director of Research and Graduate Studies will provide additional logistical support for meeting organization and committee coordination.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in decision-making on CRCEF funding
TRU is strongly committed to increased equity, diversity and inclusion through the removal of systemic barriers and biases. Towards this goal, TRU has signed the Dimension’s Charter and developed an EDI Action Plan for the CRC program in alignment with our institutional Equity Policy.
In Stage 1 and 2, all eligible PI’s were individually contacted to determine if they had expenses that qualified for funding under the CRCEF program. Given the relatively small portfolio of research personnel paid from non-governmental sources at TRU, only two eligible claims were identified and TRU’s $25,756 CRCEF funding envelope was sufficient to fully address these requests.
For Stage 3, TRU has again posted an open call for applications for CRCEF funding. In addition, the opportunity was featured in an internal research newsletter and sent to faculty via listservs to ensure all faculty have an opportunity to apply. The open call for proposals specifically invites applications from early career researchers, researchers disproportionally impacted, and researchers belonging to equity seeking groups. As part of the application for funding, researchers are encouraged to identify any of the following criteria:
o I or members of my research personnel identify as an individual from one or more of the following under-represented groups, including but not limited to women; racialized persons; First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples; persons with disabilities; and LGBTQ2S+.
o I and/or my research personnel have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic (e.g. child/family care responsibilities, personnel with increased risk of exposure in the workplace).
o I and/or my research personnel am/are conducting non-traditional or unconventional research, based in Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status.
o I am considered an Early Career Researcher- an individual within the first five (5) years of an academic appointment.
This process of self-declaration provides a safeguard to ensure that the decisions of the CRCEF Governance and Review Committee:
- limit the negative impact of unconscious bias and systemic barriers for both wage support and maintenance/ramp-up costs, including in cases where the need exceeds the funds provided;
- are not negatively affected by a researcher’s inability to work during the pandemic due to child/family care or increased risk related to exposure to COVID-19; and
- values research that is non-traditional or unconventional, based in Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status.
- All international travel for research purposes has been suspended until further notice
- Any Internal Grant or travel support awarded for an interrupted conference can be held if the event is rescheduled
- Use of research funding for travel cancelled within this fiscal year can be deferred if the event is being rescheduled
The award period for TRU internal grants, funded by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, held with an end date from Feb. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 will be extended by six months to accommodate research interruptions. These extensions are automatic and the emails confirming extensions will be sent out through Romeo to all relevant faculty members with in the next week. Please contact Megan Prins for more information.
The following programs are included: Internal Research Fund, Health Research Clusters, ongoing Research Apprenticeship, Interdisciplinary Knowledge Synthesis, ongoing Research Accelerate.
- Where ongoing tests, procedures, etc., can be interrupted, this should be considered
- Faculty and students are asked to not start new lab experiments or artistic projects requiring lab/studio space until they have submitted a Research Plan
- Faculty working on current projects are asked to determine what aspects can be slowed or paused, what needs to be monitored (and by whom), and to communicate with the Chair and Dean regarding their plans, with a copy to the Research Office
- Faculty should consider the use of virtual meetings for research and project teams
- Faculty and Facilities should work with Chairs and Deans to review protocols for disinfecting surfaces to reduce the risk of surface transmission. This would include, but is not limited to lab benches, fume hoods, instrumentation panels, taps, art supplies, art equipment, etc.
- For remote fieldwork or attending to work at off-site research facilities, special considerations may be needed. Please connect with your Chair, Dean and the Research Office to assist with any arrangements for off-site activities
- You will also need to work with host institutions and any procedures they may have in place
- The object in all of the above is to limit access and reduce unnecessary activities
- For any work that cannot be delayed, please talk with your Chair and Dean, and consult with Troy Fuller in the Research Office to develop a plan for any ongoing access to labs and research space
Research Involving Human Subjects
- In-person interviews, focus groups or gatherings must be postponed
- Interviews to be conducted online or over the phone can proceed
- Faculty should connect with the Research Office if they expect delays, especially for non-Tri-Agency research
- Faculty should also consult the Tri-Agency websites listed at the top of this page for ongoing updates to grants and funding
Research Involving Animals
- Shipping and receiving functions will remain open. Please ensure you connect with suppliers or others if you anticipate interruptions
- Please also notify shipping/receiving if there are any special circumstances with respect to shipments and delivery locations
- All efforts should be made to limit deliveries
Funding Sources, Deadlines and Deliverables
Many major funders have evolving updates on application deadlines. For more information on these changes, please contact the Research Office.
If you are undertaking contract-based work and have deadlines or pending deliverables that may be interrupted, please connect first with Lincoln Smith or Troy Fuller in the Research Office. It is important to note that some changes may require Contract Amendments, so notify the Research Office as soon as possible. For any support regarding all other sponsors (Tri-Agency, CFI, CRC, MSFHR, etc.), please continue to contact Megan Prins and/or Anita Sharma. Based on type of funding, what is outstanding, and what needs to be done or moved forward, faculty are encouraged to develop revised work plans for external funders.
Research Space, Equipment and Facilities
Consider the impact that limited or paused access to research space, equipment and facilities may have on your project, and plan where possible for appropriate mitigation.
Undergraduate Research Implications
During this time, the goal is to allow for students to continue their research projects. Comprehensive information on the impacts of COVID-19 on student research projects can be found here.