Research FAQs for COVID-19

The Vice-President, Research and Innovation, with assistance from the Office of Research Services, is continually assessing the COVID-19 situation and will provide updates to the research community regarding potential impacts on the University’s research operations. 

These FAQs have been created by the Office of Research Services and will be reviewed and updated daily, as necessary.  If you have additional questions after reviewing these FAQs, please email Anne Klymenko, Director, Research Services at anne.klymenko@lakeheadu.ca.

 

Research with Human Participants

The Research Ethics Board (REB) will continue as usual and will review new protocols as well as renewals, modifications, and final reports via the Romeo Researcher Portal. 

All REB meetings will be held via Zoom technology. 

 

1. My research involves human participants.  How should I proceed with my approved REB protocol?

Social distancing requires us to adopt new approaches to research with human participants in order to stop the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the spaces where research is conducted.  Therefore, researchers may need to postpone their research or change their methodology (i.e., changing focus group meetings to online Zoom meetings or moving to phone interviews, etc.) in order to avoid direct contact. 

In the interests of public safety and minimizing personal contact, ongoing research conducted face-to-face that cannot be moved online must cease for the time being.

If you believe these restrictions may cause harm to participants, or are otherwise inadvisable because of the particular nature of the study, please contact Sue Wright swright@lakeheadu.ca to discuss. However, owing to the extreme seriousness and global nature of this pandemic, any exceptions will likely will be rare.

If changes to your protocol are necessary, please submit your amendment request to the REB for review through the Romeo Researcher Portal (TCPS2, Chapter 6, Article 6.15 and 6.16).

Please contact Sue Wright swright@lakeheadu.ca for more information about moving your research to a non-contact method, i.e., change from written to oral consent (TCPS2 3.12 and 10.2). 

Changes to REB protocols may also be necessary in order to ensure that students’ research work is able to be completed to meet graduation requirements. 

 

2.  My research is taking place off-campus in a hospital/clinical setting.  How should I proceed?

If your research is taking place in a clinical setting, please consult with the hospital/clinic for specific instructions imposed in those settings.  You are required to follow all hospital mandated procedures with regard to COVID-19. 

Since Lakehead University has a reciprocity agreement with TBRHSC for REB approvals, you do not need to notify the Lakehead University REB for amendment requests if your protocol has been reviewed and approved by the TBRHSC REB. 

 

3. I have slowed down or halted my research until it is safe to resume.  What information do I need to provide the Research Ethics Board? 
If your protocol will not be changing other than longer timelines, you do not need to notify the REB. 

When your protocol is due for renewal (after one-year approval), the Office of Research Services (ORS) will send you an email message to either renew your protocol or provide a final report. 

At this time, if you need to extend your timelines and continue your protocol, please renew.  If you have completed your research with human participants, please provide a final report.

 

4.  In order to continue to collect data, I need to change my protocol to incorporate social distancing measures (i.e., telephone interviews instead of face-to-face interviews).  What information do I need to provide the Research Ethics Board?

Please submit a request for amendment to REB through the Romeo Researcher Portal. 

All revised documentation must be attached including revised information letters, consent forms, scripts, recruitment tools, etc.

The REB Chair will review your amendment request and provide a response via email of either approval, or a request for additional information. 

The timeline for response from the REB is approximately three business days. 

 

5. I am now working from home (or another location) other than campus.  How do I handle data which I am now taking off-campus?

If you have specified in your Research Ethics Board application that you will only handle data on campus, please submit an amendment to the REB to include specific details on your research data management and storage plan.  You must specify to the REB how the data will remain secure at all times, i.e., password protected laptop computer, password encrypted USB stick, locked filing cabinet/drawer etc.   All research data is subject to the TCPS2 which states “identifiable data obtained through research that is kept on a computer and connected to the Internet should be encrypted.”  TSC recommends users working from home utilize full data encryption on the hard drive (bitlocker as an example). Researchers should also have up to date Antivirus software. Also, a best practice is to separate Personally identifiable Information, (PII) and only work with the non-private data whenever possible.

Public cloud services (Google Drive, DropBox, iCloud, Onedrive etc.) for data storage or transfer are strictly prohibited. Institutional cloud services might be suitable if specified in the REB protocol. Privacy and security are the reasons for preferring internal services over external.   Please ensure central, departmental and lab file shares that meet data protection requirements and have been identified in the REB protocol and any amendments.

We strongly recommend you seek the advice of Mason Holroyd, Manager, Helpdesk, Technology Services Centre for assistance in establishing a secure data storage plan that can be secured off-site.  Mason can be reached by email at managersdc.tsc@lakeheadu.ca or by phone at Ext. 8102.

 

6.  I am interested in undertaking research arising from the COVID-19 pandemic?  Will my ethical review be expedited?

New research related to or arising from the COVID-19 pandemic that is submitted for ethical review will be given priority for review depending on the impact of the pandemic on our review process. 

Please refer to the Standard Operating Procedure “REB Review During Publicly Declared Emergencies, Section 5.5” . 

At this time, Lakehead University has determined that the level of impact on the REB review process is MODERATE.

 

Research Involving Animal Care

7.  Is the Animal Care Committee continuing to support research protocols with animals?

The Animal Care Committee (ACC) will continue as usual and will review new protocols as well as renewals, modifications, and final reports via the Romeo Researcher Portal. 

All ACC meetings will be held via Zoom technology. 

Please continue to monitor the CCAC website for updates:  https://www.ccac.ca/en/news-and-events/news/2020headlines/crisis-management-and-covid-19.html

 

8.  How is Lakehead University ensuring the continued welfare of animals used in research?

Both the Lakehead University Animal Care Facility (LUACF) and Biology Aquatics Facility (BAF) have emergency contingency plans in place to ensure animal welfare is a priority. 

Since COVID-19 may impact the level of staffing in the facility, the ACC will not be approving new animal orders or undertaking new work that requires additional animal care and Veterinary support.

 

External Grants/Contracts, Deadlines and Deliverables

9.  How do I handle a delay in my research milestones and deliverables as a result of COVID-19?

Faculty should contact the ORS if they expect delays in completing research project milestones or needing an extension to project end dates as a result of the COVID-19 situation. 

If you are undertaking contract-based work and have deadlines or pending deliverables that may be interrupted, please connect with the ORS; we will assist you in contacting the relevant funding agency to request an extension. 

It is important to note that some changes may require Contract Amendments.  Based on the type of funding, amount outstanding, and what needs to be done or moved forward, faculty are encouraged to develop revised work plans for external funders.

If you are experiencing a delay as a result of COVID-19, notify the ORS as soon as possible. 

Faculty members should also systematically consult the following tri-council COVID-19 webpage for any updates to specific programs: https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/news_room-salle_de_presse/latest_news-nouvelles_recentes/2020/covid-19_tri-agency-trois-organismes-eng.aspx.

NSERC Program Specific COVID-19 Update: 

https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Media-Media/NewsRelease-CommuniqueDePresse_eng.asp?ID=1139

SSHRC Program Specific COVID-19 Update:

COVID-19: Impacts on SSHRC's policies and programs

 

Internal Grants

10.  I received an internal research grant from the Senate Research Committee (or Regional Research Fund).  Will I be given additional time to complete the research as a result of delays associated with COVID-19?

All internal research grants (except conference travel grants) are eligible for an automatic one-year extension.  If additional time is needed beyond the one-year automatic extension, please contact the Office of Research Services for further direction.

Given the unusual circumstances around limited travel for research due to COVID-19, the Senate Research Committee will consider applications for Conference Travel Grants on a rolling basis between now and May 31, 2021. Applications may be submitted to the Senate Research Committee through the Romeo Research Portal.

Researchers who have had to cancel conference travel as a result of COVID-19 will be allowed to charge any unfunded fees to their grants.

If the conference is postponed you will be allowed to retain your grant for a period of up to one year from the initial date of the conference to attend the postponed conference. Please make all requests for amendments through the Romeo Research Portal as soon as you know about the status of your conference.

 In the event a conference is cancelled, researchers must return the funds to the SRC.

Conference travel grants cannot be used for any other conference other than the conference the funds were originally approved for.

If you have received any other internal funds from the Office of Vice-President (Research and Innovation) for travel, please contact the Vice-President for clarity on the use of these funds.

 

Research Travel

11. Are faculty members allowed to travel for research related business? 

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance regarding travel: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

 

12. My student is scheduled to travel abroad as part of a funded research internship?  Who is responsible for approving their request to travel?

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance regarding travel: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

If travel is essential, faculty supervisors must submit a request to travel on behalf of their students to Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. 

 

 

Research Finance

13.  I have incurred un-refundable research expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Can I charge these expenses to my research grants and contracts?

Lakehead University is allowing non-refundable expenses including non-refundable change fees to be charged to external research grants and contracts following the guidelines established by the Tri-Agencies:  https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/news_room-salle_de_presse/latest_news-nouvelles_recentes/2020/covid-19_tri-agency-trois-organismes-eng.aspx

If researchers or research personnel have cancelled travel and received a travel credit from an airline, please inform Margot Ross at mross@lakeheadu.ca so that our records can indicate a cash advance.

Please contact Margot Ross at mross@lakeheadu.ca if you have specific questions regarding the eligibility of such expenses against your research grant or contract.

 

Research Staff and Human Resources Considerations

14.  I have contract and part-time research personnel paid out of research grants or contracts.  Who should I contact if there are questions regarding their employment status?

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

Researchers who have contract employees and part-time employees impacted by COVID-19 are asked to contact HR if they have questions regarding these research employees and employment regulations. 

 

Research Laboratories

15.  Since research laboratories provide access to specialized equipment, can students and staff continue to access research laboratories for required on-site work?

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

If absolutely necessary, research laboratories can remain open to support graduate students’ thesis projects, research projects with contract deliverables, analytical/testing services, and other essential research operations.  All other research that can be undertaken remotely should be encouraged.  However, if not feasible, research supervisors are encouraged to implement social distancing strategies in laboratories to reduce person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus; this includes staggered scheduling of personnel in facilities to minimize the number of people working at any given time. Faculty members should accommodate graduate student researchers and/or research associates/support staff to work remotely if possible.

 

16. How can I access or order supplies from Chemical Stores? 
 
All Chem Stores inquiry emails should be sent to storekeeper.chem@lakeheadu.ca
 
In order to enhance safety while accessing Chem Stores, the following procedures are being implemented.
  1. Access to Chem Stores is now by appointment only.  Please do not stop by for inquiries.  Instead, when you receive a reply to your email, once the details of your order have been confirmed, a mutually agreed upon time will be arranged for you to pick up your items.  Please be on time for your pick up, as the times could only be 15 minutes apart.
  2. Come alone to your pick up time to reduce the number of contacts involved.  Do not bring a friend or lab mate.
  3. There is a table in front of the Chem Stores office.  Do not try to come around the table.  Your items will be placed on the table for pick up, and the sign out sheet will be available for you to fill out on the same table.

 

Centralized Analytical Facilities

17.  Are centralized analytical facilities open to all faculty and students?

Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

At this moment, centralized analytical facilities including the Instrumentation Laboratory, Paleo-DNA Laboratory, Environmental Laboratory, and Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory which require physical access to equipment use will remain open.

All employees and students accessing these facilities are asked to continue to practice strict use of personal protective equipment, including disinfection of surfaces and computer keyboards.

 

Responsibilities for Community Health and Safety

18. What is my responsibility as a Principal Investigator during COVID-19?

Principal Investigators have a responsibility to their staff, students and research participants to ensure that certain precautions are taken:

  • Stay informed of current University-wide and research-specific guidance, ensuring that all relevant information is disseminated to applicable research staff and that the University’s guidance is adhered to.  Please refer to the University’s COVID-19 website for guidance: https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/coronavirus

    • Reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19 by following all applicable public health precautions issued by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit https://www.tbdhu.com/coronavirus and the Simcoe-Muskoka Health Unit https://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/.

    • Ensure that research is conducted safely and in accordance with applicable requirements and best practices. 

 

Some research occurring on campus may need special consideration at this time:

  • Consider alternative procedures for ongoing projects that do not disrupt scientific merit and integrity (e.g. changing in-person interviews to phone interviews)

  • Participants in other interactional research and all individuals that need to be present in our research environments should be asked to self-assess using the screening questions below and notify the Principal Investigator whether they should not come to campus.

 


COVID-19 Screening Questions

 

Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms, including a fever (i.e. temperature > 37.8°C)?

Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, or been in contact with someone who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19?

Have you been told to self-isolate?

If yes to any of the above, research staff, students, participants or visitors should notify the researcher and not come to campus.