Research and Innovation Guidance during COVID-19 Outbreak
Updated May 31, 2020
Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the University of Windsor moves to an essential service-only model. Staff in the following essential service areas will continue to provide in-person support:
- Student Health Services
- Campus Community Police
- Energy Conversion Centre
- Central Animal Care Facility
- Facility Services
- Food Services
- Financial Services
- Human Resources
- Information Technology Services
- Residence Services
- Senior Administration
All other staff will continue to provide services remotely.
Please find below pointers and reminders regarding research and innovation during this unprecedented period.
Message from the Vice-President, Research and Innovation
I hope that this message finds you well.
On November 13, 2020, the province of Ontario released an update to its COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. The framework divides Ontario’s COVID-19 restriction levels into five colour-coded categories: Green (Prevent); Yellow (Protect); Orange (Restrict); Red (Control); and Grey (Lockdown).
As you are likely already aware, the rate of COVID-19 infection in Windsor-Essex has increased significantly over the past weeks, leading the province to move our region to the Orange (Restrict) category effective November 20, 2020. Unless this trend is arrested, Windsor-Essex is on track for escalated restriction to category Red (Control) in the near future.
I am writing to you today to urge continued vigilance in adherence to guidance developed by the University and public health authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and to discuss possible strategies that the University may deploy to support the continuation of research in the event of further provincial restrictions in our region.
In order to ensure the continued safety of our campus research community during the pandemic, please ensure that you and your research team follow all health and safety guidelines and procedures established by the University and public health authorities; observe maximum capacities and health and safety plans for common and research spaces; and adhere to protocols approved for your project and/or lab by the Research Safety Committee.
It is also important to remember and share with your students and staff that they must complete the Safe Lancer App Survey and file their approval with you prior to travelling to campus and accessing common and research spaces. As a supervisor, you will be responsible for maintaining a record of these filings that can be accessed readily. Although we hope it will not be necessary, access to this information may be critical in potential contact tracing in the future.
In the event that the province moves Windsor-Essex to restriction category Red (Control) and/or Grey (Lockdown), the University may consider implementation of any of the following strategies:
- Restriction of all in-person, face-to-face research involving human participation;
- Reduction of approved personnel for all Research Phase 3 projects in coordination with principal investigators;
- Moving some critical research facilities and/or spaces (e.g., the Central Animal Care Facility and staffed Engineering labs) back to Research Phase 2 or 1; and/or
- Moving all research back to Research Phase 2 or 1.
These decisions will be undertaken with guidance from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and with consultations.
I would like to thank and recognize all of you for your ongoing commitment to research and the effort you have put into continuing research during these unprecedented times. The pandemic has been extremely challenging for all of us. We are now at a critical juncture in combatting COVID-19 and, with the promise of vaccines on the horizon, there seems to finally be light at the end of the tunnel.
Please share this message with relevant students and staff in your research groups.
Keep well and safe.
Last Spring, the Research Planning Working Group and the Critical Research Committee, comprising representatives from Faculties, departments, and offices across our campus, developed a comprehensive framework and process for the resumption of research activities at the University of Windsor. The resulting UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research was approved by the University’s Executive on May 29, 2020, and came into effect on June 1, 2020. On September 29, 2020, it was updated to include the Framework for the Resumption of Human Research: Research with Human Participants under COVID-19 Restrictions.
The UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research provides a strong, yet flexible, framework that will allow our research activities to resume in a phased and coordinated manner. With an overarching principle of protecting the health and safety of our campus research community and the communities with which we conduct research, this framework and corresponding processes have been designed to function in concert with Ontario’s roadmap for the reopening of the province and to reflect guidance provided by the Province and the Chief Medical Officer on strategies for continued public and workplace health and safety.
The UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research comprises the following phases, and allows for smooth and rapid transition between phases to accommodate changes in the escalation and/or de-escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic challenge:
- Phase 0: Essential Services Only
- Phase 1: Critical Research and Essential Services
- Phase 2: Critical/COVID-19 and Time-Sensitive Research
- Phase 3: Resumption of Field- and Lab-based Research and Re-opening of Facilities
- Phase 4: Resumption of all Research Activities
The University is currently in the process of transitioning between Research Phases 1 and 2, and Phases 2 and 3 (see UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research) depending on the individual Faculty. Demand to resume on-campus research and completion of Zone and Flow Analyses (ZFA), signage, sanitization and safety plans will guide the transition of research phases.
Information on the UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research and the processes established for researchers planning to resume research activities are also available on the COVID-19 Research and Innovation Guidance page of the OVPRI website. Please visit the site regularly for updates.
When the UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research took effect on June 1, 2020, in-person, face-to-face research involving human participants was suspended until Research Phase 4. However, the need to and process for resuming human research before the end of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven both necessary and challenging for researchers and institutions across Canada.
Working under the leadership of the Dr. Suzanne McMurphy, Chair of the Research Ethics Board, and in collaboration with research and other administrative units, including the Research Safety Committee, the Return to Campus Committees, and the Pandemic Planning Committee, the Research Ethics Board has developed a framework that allows researchers to apply to resume or initiate human research prior to Research Phase 4.
The Framework for the Resumption of Human Research: Research with Human Participants under COVID-19 Restrictions, which takes effect on September 28, 2020, outlines the process for resuming or initiating research involving human participants that includes in-person, face-to-face data collection with planned, controlled, and time-limited breach of physical distancing.
Faculties and Departments across campus have been transitioning between UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research Phases. If your Faculty and/or Department is in Research Phase 2, you can apply for an exception to the guidelines to resume research that is COVID-19-related, time-sensitive and essential requiring in-person, face-to-face, and planned, controlled, and time-limited breach of physical distancing. If your Faculty and/or Department is in Research Phase 3, you can apply for an exception to the guidelines for either COVID-19 or Non-COVID-19-related research with human participants that cannot be conduct virtually or online and requires in-person, face-to-face, and planned, controlled, and time-limited breach of physical distancing data collection.
Please note that in-person, face-to-face research involving human participants can only resume or be initiated after it has been conditionally cleared by the Research Ethics Board and formally authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.
All research that can be conducted virtually and online continues unabated.
On June 1, 2020, the University of Windsor implemented the UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research to facilitate the orderly and phased-in reopening of research facilities and on-site access under the evolving conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research provides a process that allows for researchers to apply to resume critical research activities as the University transitions away from the current essential service-only model.
The framework defines “critical” research as research that has been assessed and determined to be critical by the Department Head and Dean, evaluated by the Research Safety Committee, approved by the Dean, and formally authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.
Department Heads and Deans use the Critical Research Assessment Tool to evaluate the criticality of research based on urgency and time-sensitiveness, impact of research on collaborators, funding agency timelines and deliverables, impact on physical and economic health of the community, and the contribution of the research to student training. These factors are balanced against additional risks related to implementing the proposed research, including the number of personnel required to meet project needs; their ability to maintain physical distancing given resource constraints of laboratory space or field work activities; availability of requested space and resources given on-going activities of approved research; the need for internal and external essential services required for delivery of consumables and supplies, maintenance and calibration of equipment, and emergency response; access to public space for off-campus field work; and any other concerns identified Department Head and Dean.
Categories of critical research may include:
- Research related to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 that cannot be undertaken remotely;
- Research in which delay and resumption will have direct impacts on the ability of the community to provide essential services, including health services, to the public;
- Long-running research/field research in which a serious loss of research material, data, or equipment could occur if the work is disrupted, is at a critical stage, or close to an end point;
- Research required to meet a contract deadline with an industrial or government partner that cannot be renegotiated, where failure to complete the research would irrevocably harm the relationship with that partner; and/or
- Research that, if paused, would negatively impact the ability of a graduate student to complete program requirements within the next three months and requires minimal on-site work time to complete.
If you feel that your research project meets the aforementioned criteria and would like to apply to have your research project designated as critical so that you can resume your research activities, complete and submit the following application form to your Department Head for consideration:
All application forms must also be accompanied by the following Risk Acknowledgement forms for the Principal Investigator and all students and research personnel participating in the project:
If you would ike to make changes to a project previously approved and authorized to resume, complete and submit the following form to your Department Head:
If your Faculty has been authorized to move to Phase 3 of the UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research and you would like to apply to have your lab approved and authorized to resume research activities in Phase 3, please complete and submit the following application to your Department Head for consideration:
Please note that you can only use the Phase 3 COVID-19 Research Resumption Plan application if your Faculty has moved to Phase 3; otherwise, please use the application forms for Phases 1 and 2.
Applications for projects determined by the Department Head to meet the criteria for designation as critical research will be forwarded to the Dean for consideration. Once also assessed as critical by the Dean, applications will be forwarded to the Research Safety Committee for evaluation. If the Research Safety Committee recommends your project for resumption, it will then be forwarded for approval by the Dean and then authorization by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (see flow chart).
Please note that in addition to essential research, only critical research that has been fully assessed, approved by the Dean, and authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation will be permitted to resume during Phases 1-3 of the UWindsor Framework for the Resumption of Research.
Dear Members of the UWindsor Research Community,
By now many of you will have watched or read Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s announcement on May 14, 2020 unveiling A Framework for Reopening our Province – Stage 1. The Province’s plan provides a roadmap for the first stage of its phased approach to reopening businesses, services, and public spaces across the province, while maintaining the health and safety strategies established to protect Ontarians and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The What Stage 1 Means for Industry Service and Retail section of the plan indicates that the province will begin easing restrictions on a variety of industry services and retail activities, including “opening non-essential professional services related to conducting research and experimental development in physical, engineering and life sciences, such as biotechnology, agriculture and industrial research and development labs”.
I know many of you have questions about what this means for the resumption of research activities at UWindsor, and I am writing to provide you with an update.
The University is finalizing a framework that will allow our research activities to resume in a phased and coordinated manner. This framework will be in sync with the roadmap provided by the provincial government and will reflect guidance provided by the Province and the Chief Medical Officer of Health on strategies for continued public and workplace health and safety.
Despite the fact that the Province has included research in Stage 1 of its plan for reopening, the University of Windsor continues to operate on an essential services-only model. It must be emphasized that all research activities must conform with established guidelines for physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning, monitoring of sick workers, use of personal protective equipment, and limited gatherings. We must also consider the availability of supplies and access to services, including emergency response.
I hope to share UWindsor’s framework for the resumption of research with you in the near future. I thank faculty and administration colleagues who have been working with me on developing this framework.
Until the University has communicated otherwise, only research that can be conducted virtually, does not require the research to be on campus, and does not require any travel by the research team or the research participants can continue unabatedly. I laud the efforts of all of you in upholding research output, including analyzing data, planning for and writing books, preparing articles, manuscripts and theses, conducting online supervision, investigations and interviews, and writing research proposals during this challenging time.
All research that requires on-campus access, face-to-face interaction, or travel to another site continues to be suspended unless it has been deemed essential in nature and has been preapproved by the Faculty Dean and authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation
More information on the Continuation of Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be found on the COVID-19 Research and Innovation Guidance page of the OVPRI website. Please visit the site regularly for updates.
Please share this message with relevant students and staff in your research group.
Thank you once again for your continued patience during this very challenging time and for your continued dedication to the advancement of research and innovation at the University of Windsor.
Keep safe and all the best,
K. W. Michael Siu, PhD, FCIC, FRSC
Vice-President, Research and Innovation
First and foremost, all our policies and actions must conform to the criteria of safety and physical distancing:
- Research which is conducted on-line, does not require the research to be on campus, and does not require any travel by the research team or the research participants may continue;
- All research which requires travel to campus or another site (even if only one person is travelling) must be suspended unless it meets the following criteria:
- It is considered “Essential” as determined through consultation involving researchers and Departmental Heads or Institute Directors (or Deans where appropriate);
- It has been approved as Essential by the Faculty Dean, and authorized for resumption as such by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI);
- COVID-19 research, in general, can proceed; however, any specific project needs to be approved as such by the Dean and the VPRI;
- For designation as Essential, field research must provide satisfactory plans regarding travelling, field activities, participants, dates and schedules, emergency plans (e.g., regarding sickness), and where appropriate, approval by the hosting authority and/or community;
- For designation as Essential, laboratory research must provide satisfactory plans regarding participants, dates and schedules, safety, physical-distancing, sanitization and disinfection of equipment and the laboratory; and
- The details above must be updated and sent to the Dean when there are changes necessitated by circumstance; this information will be invaluable in the case of an emergency.
- Staff and students are not obligated to participate in any research activities should they deem that by doing so they would be subjecting themselves or their families to risks and have the rights to voice their concerns to the Dean; and
- Resumption of all other research activities can only occur after abatement of the impact of COVID-19 and on authorization of the President.
Please visit the COVID-19 Research and Innovation Guidance page on the Office of the VPRI website regularly for updates and information. In addition to guidance on research and innovation during the pandemic, the site also provides information and updates on changes to funding applications and timelines, funding opportunities for COVID-19 research, and community news.
The COVID-19 challenge is dynamic. Let me emphasize that research activities on-campus are limited only to those deemed essential. Which research projects are “Essential” are established consultatively between researchers and Departmental Heads or Institute Directors, and where appropriate Deans, and are only to proceed after approved by the Dean and authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI) (see Continuation of Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic above).
If your laboratory research has been approved and authorized as Essential, please ensure that you have limited staff to essential personnel, and that every effort is made to ensure that research is continually conducted with adequate supervision, safety, and physical distancing considerations in mind. Please ensure that you and your research activities continually meet compliance and regulatory certifications. Work-from-home options should be discussed with staff and research personnel and implemented wherever possible.
Also ensure that the contact information regarding your group and lab is up-to-date and that data and records are backed up and safe. You should consider developing and/or verifying your list of key personnel who will ensure ongoing sound and safe operation of your lab.
If your equipment or instrumentation needs periodic in-person monitoring, servicing or critical supplies and reagents, please ensure that there remains a viable plan moving forward. Please also verify that the handling of hazardous wastes will continuously remain viable and all requirements coordinated through the Chemical Control Centre.
Please continue to monitor the availability of resources to support research, including necessary supplies, and adjust your research plan accordingly throughout this period.
All researchers using animals in their work are herein advised that the University of Windsor Central Animal Care Facility and other Aquatic Research Facilities will implemented the Pandemic Plan effective March 26, 2020. Researchers with questions or concerns regarding the Plan or the use of research animals during this time are asked to contact the Chair of the Animal Care Committee (ACC), John Hudson, or the Operations Manager of the Central Animal Care Facilities (CACF), Linda Sterling (see contact list below).
The current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented. We would like to ensure you that your research animals are being cared for and that the safety of animal care staff, researchers, and students is prioritized. Social-distancing is of prime importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, as we do not have a timeline as to when the situation will improve, we are trying to maximize our resources so that we can provide acceptable animal husbandry for as long as possible.
With the implementation of the Pandemic Plan, the following guidelines will come into effect March 26, 2020:
- Access to all Animal Care Facilities, including those in CACF, the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), and the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre (FREC), will be restricted to animal-care staff and approved research staff only (see below). This step is being taken to reduce the possibility that staff are accidently exposed to carriers of COVID-19, as well as other transmittable diseases. We want to ensure as much as possible that we have healthy trained staff available to care for your research animals, and that we take all the steps necessary to mitigate the potential of complete closure and the resulting culling of research animals.
Please be advised that we were in the process of hiring additional staff. This process has been expedited and we have a new aquatic animal care technician starting Monday, March 30, 2020. We have also increased the hours of our part-time animal care staff.
Given that we are moving to an essential staff model of care, all additional care fees over and above annual fees incurred during this period will be waived.
Approved research staff will be limited to one person per specific research group once per week with the approval of the Chair of ACC and the Operations Manager of CACF. This will also apply to Aquatic Research Facilities until the aquatic animal care technician is in place and has been trained. CACF staff will care for the animals in all other groups. If you have questions or concerns regarding this, please contact the Chair of ACC or the Operations Manager of CACF.
- No new animals will be ordered into the facilities. This includes animals from commercial suppliers, as well as animals imported from other academic institutions. Field studies involving capture and long-term holding of animals in research facilities must also be suspended.
- Male and female animals will be moved to separate cages to curtail breeding. This separation is best performed by research staff so that they can ensure accurate identification of individuals and updating of breeding records. An exception will be granted with respect to CACF access for this purpose subject to the approval of the Chair of ACC or the Operations Manager of CACF. If research staff are unable to separate their animals in a timely fashion, animal care staff will do so.
Please note, we realize that some researchers have essential animal lines that must be maintained. If this is the case, please coordinate with the Operations Manager of CACF, Linda Sterling, on how to proceed with the care of these research animals.
- All experimental procedures involving research animals will be prohibited until the COVID-19 crisis has abated. This includes recovery surgical procedures, administration of substances likely to cause pain, and distress or illness. The exception to this would be in the case of long-term studies in which animals are aging, no manipulation is required, or animals are being bred to maintain a critical colony.
- Researchers are being consulted to determine the relative value and priorities of individual animals and strains. Irreplaceable animals/strains will be assigned higher priority than other animals. Our hope is that the situation will not come to this but we must plan for the event that we do not have sufficient staff or supplies to provide adequate care. (see 7)
- Some standard operating procedures may be amended as required at the discretion of the Operation Manager of CACF (or designate). For example, cage changing schedules may be altered if animal care staff numbers are significantly reduced.
- If it becomes impossible to maintain all animals in the facility during the pandemic, the Operations Manager of CACF (or designate) may require the humane euthanasia of animals beginning with those of lowest priority. We hope this will not become necessary; however, please inform the CACF your priorities at your earliest convenience.
Throughout this process the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, the Chair of the ACC, the Operations Manager of the CACF, and animal care staff will be working to ensure that the research animals receive daily care.
The following individuals serve on the Central Animal Care Emergency Team Their role encompasses animal care within the CACF, GLIER and FREC facilities:
Dr. John Hudson
Chair-Animal Care Committee
Dr. Kimberley Quinn
Animal Care Technician
As the context for the COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly, the REB has updated its guidelines for all research involving human participants. The important criterion that needs to be borne in mind is physical distancing:
- All research which is conducted on-line, does not require the research to be on campus, and does not require any travel by the research team or the research participants may continue;
- Research which requires travel to campus or another site (even if only one person is travelling) must be suspended unless it meets the following criteria:
a. It is considered “Essential” as determined through consultation involving researchers and Departmental Heads or Institute Directors, and where appropriate, Deans, approved by the Dean, and authorized by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI) (see Continuation of Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic above); and
b. If Essential research requires travel, satisfactory plans regarding travelling, field activities, participants, dates and schedules, emergency plans (e.g., regarding sickness),and where appreciate, approval by the hosting authority and/or community, must be provided in writing to the Dean and updated regularly;
- All research requiring in-person interaction must be suspended. The REB advises revising in-person data collection methods to on-line through phone or on-line platforms, if possible, taking into consideration that these methods do not increase risks to participants;
- The REB is reviewing research related to COVID-19 as rapidly as possible; please keep in touch with the REB Chair through firstname.lastname@example.org;
- For any research ethics related questions, please contact the Research Ethics Board Chair, Dr. Suzanne McMurphy through email@example.com or by home phone: 519-736-8722 or cell: 226-346-1425.
For animal care related inquiries, please contact John Hudson, Chair of the Animal Care Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research Finance will continue to provide support on-line in order to ensure the research activities that you are able to undertake will be supported. Inquiries relating to grant accounts can be directed to email@example.com.
The Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (OVPRI) is continuing the appointment of grant-funded research personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we ask that supervisors carefully consider and use the upmost discretion when appointing new and/or reappointing existing research personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic, and wherever possible and appropriate; supervisors are asked to holdoff on appointing new and/or reappointing existing research personnel until the pandemic has subsided and physical distancing measures have been lifted.
In the event that supervisors need to move forward with appointing new and/or reappointing existing research personnel, they should ensure that the appointee can work remotely, contributing to research that is conducted online, and does not require travel by the appointee or research participants.
Exceptions will be considered for “Essential” research, including COVID-19-related research. Guidelines for Essential research during the pandemic are available on the COVID-19 Research and Innovation Guidance page on the OVPRI website.
In some cases, it may be necessary to delay, cancel appointments that are currently underway, or rescind research appointments that have been issued but have not yet started. If you have questions relating to the delay, cancellation, or rescinding of research appointments, please contact Amy Taylor in the OVPRI at Amy.Taylor@uwindsor.ca.
Please contact Tracy McLeod, Human Resources Manager, in the Department of Human Resources at Tracy.MacLeod@uwindsor.ca with questions relating to student research appointments.
The Office of Research and Innovation Services (ORIS) will continue to maintain its usual suite of services electronically, wherever possible. Most of you are already working with ORIS in this fashion; we, therefore, are hopeful that this will not present a significant challenge. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries and services.
For more information relating to the response of funding agencies to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Funding Agency Information and Updates.
The Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (OVPRI) will continue operations, including the appointment of grant funded research personnel, electronically. Requests for Research or Post-Doc Appointment packages should be circulated for authorization electronically. Email confirmation of sign-off will be accepted. Complete and authorized (by departmental/faculty one-ups and Research Finance) appointment packages and/or inquiries relating to the appointment of research personnel should be submitted electronically to email@example.com.
The COVID-19 challenge is dynamic and the plans for research and innovation may need to be revised as the challenge changes. The University’s Pandemic Planning Committee and the Executive Leadership Group are meeting regularly to monitor the situation.
The University will continue to follow the leads of both the federal and the provincial public health agencies.
We encourage you to continue visiting the University’s COVID-19 Website (uwindsor.ca/coronavirus/) for the latest news and developments.