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


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

With COVID-19, if your research took place in-person with human participants, your research was halted unless you were provided approval by the REB to change your method of data collection to a remote means, i.e., move from in-person interviews to telephone/zoom interviews.

Lakehead University is now allowing in-person research to resume with approval of the REB.  Justification or demonstration of low risk, and a Human Participant Safety Plan must be provided to the REB for consideration of approval.  Applications are submitted through the Romeo Researcher Portal.  Once approval is in place, researchers can start/re-start in-person research. 

Please contact Sue Wright swright@lakeheadu.ca if you have questions regarding the in-person research re-start process. 

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. 

If your research is approved by the Lakehead University REB, please complete the REB Amendment Form through the Romeo Researcher Portal and provide a letter of support for research to proceed from your partner.

3. I would like to resume in-person data collection.  What information do I need to provide the Research Ethics Board?

Researchers must submit an Amendment Request Form through the Romeo Researcher Portal.  The Form requires researchers to provide a justification for the need to collect data in-person, or demonstration of low risk for COVID-19 transmission, and provide a Human Participant Safety Plan.  If partners are involved with the research, i.e., school board, local community organization etc., a letter of support for research to proceed must be provided.  For those researchers working with Indigenous communities, specific information regarding community rules and regulations around research must be considered along with a letter of support for research to proceed from the community Chief & Council.

4. I am continuing to work from home (or another location) other than campus.  How do I handle data which I will have 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.

5.  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 the REB review process.

6.  Is the Animal Care Committee reviewing 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

For any further questions regarding research involving animal care facilities, please contact the Trista King, RVT (tking5@lakeheadu.ca).  For all other animal care inquiries, please contact Sue Wright, Manager, Research Ethics and Contracts (swright@lakeheadu.ca). 

7.  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.

External Grants/Contracts, Deadlines and Deliverables


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

Faculty should contact the Office of Research Services (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-agency 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


9.  I received an internal research grant/start-up funding.  Will I be given additional time to complete the research as a result of delays associated with COVID-19?

All internal research grants and start-up funding (with the exception of Conference Travel) are granted 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.

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, Research and Innovation for clarity on the use of these funds through ea.vpri@lakeheadu.ca.

Research Travel


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

Faculty members must complete the Phase Three: Travel, Field Work, and Off-Campus Research/Activity - Request for Approval Form and receive approval from their Dean and the Vice-President, Research and Innovation to travel for research related business, including domestic and international travel, field work, attendance at conferences, access to archives, meetings with collaborators, etc. The signed form must be included when submitting travel reimbursement claims to Financial Services. 

When travelling, the Ontario Government’s online self-assessment should be completed on a daily basis. In Phase Three, Lakehead University is not approving requests for international travel. 

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

11. 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 further 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


12.  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.

Responsibilities for Community Health and Safety


13. 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 must self-monitor for symptoms daily. If a researcher is feeling unwell in any way they are to stop work, inform their team and supervisor immediately, and complete the Lakehead University Mandatory Daily COVID-19 Self-Assessment. The results of this tool will determine next steps for that person.

  • Keep detailed records of where and when you have traveled, who you have travelled with, and the locations of the fieldwork such that tracking can be provided to the local public health unit should a researcher become ill with COVID-19.

  • Review restrictions by Canadian and Provincial Governments regarding travel within the Province and across Canada