COVID-19 Response: Guidance for Researchers

This page contains important information about research operations.

Please refer to the University of Calgary’s Emergency Management website for up-to-date information about the university’s COVID-19 Response.

This page is for: faculty, postdocs, students, and staff engaged in research

Updated: May 22, 2020 2:57 p.m.

  • We ask our campus community to continue working from home
  • Buildings are secured and require key card access
  • Only those with Critical Research Designation may continue to operate on campus
  • Applications for Expanded Research Designation are open, but approvals will not be issued until the university has determined it is safe to do so.
  • Submitting your application for Expanded Research Designation will support our planning for a phased return, and will facilitate a quicker return to campus for your team once it is safe to do so.

 

Please review the Action Required section below for information about exemptions for research, scholarly, or creative activities. 

Communications archive

Email communications sent by the Office of the Vice-President (Research) regarding Guidance for Researcher will be listed here.

On this page:

This page addresses key considerations for all researchers, followed by more specific recommendations and information on relevant issues:

  • Research exemptions to work on campus

  • External requests for COVID-19 supplies

  • Summer studentships

  • Wet labs, Dry labs, Clinical settings, Community-based research

  • Animal care

  • Human ethics 

  • Researcher Outreach Sessions

  • Grants and Contracts FAQ


COVID Research Collaboration

Resources for researchers and staff engaged in COVID-19 research and related activities

  • Join the Slack Workspace
  • Find funding opportunities
  • Learn about current projects

Go to Research Collaboration Resources

If you need to:

  • Conduct COVID-19 related research
  • Conduct clinical research where participant health may be at risk
  • Avoid significant data loss
  • Carry out contract work in which deliverables must be met

If you need to:

  • Enable grad students or postdocs to complete work on campus required to advance their program or appointment
  • Conduct time-sensitive research or activities on campus
  • Conduct time-sensitive data collection activities in the field or in the community

Important:

  • You must submit a new or revised form if the details of your work change.
  • Critical or Expanded Research Designation is required if you wish to continue working on campus or in the field/community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The University of Calgary may withdraw either designation if conditions change. Note that a campus shut-down may occur abruptly, particularly if an order comes from government.

Contact avpr@ucalgary.ca with questions about the Critical or Expanded Research Designation processes.

 

Working outside of your home

As of March 21, 2020, all members of the university community have been asked to work from home. No one is obligated to work on campus or in the field, even in cases where there is a Critical or Expanded Research Designation. Be sure that you communicate this point to your team, and support those who do not feel comfortable to work on campus.

 If any individual is feeling inappropriately pressured to conduct research, scholarship, or creative work outside of their home, they should contact one of:

  • Office of the Vice-President (Research) at vpr@ucalgary.ca
  • Dean of Graduate Studies at deangrad@ucalgary.ca,
  • Or, if they prefer to report the concern confidentially, they can do so through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Protected Disclosure:

 

Undergraduate Student Research

Undergraduate students are NOT permitted to participate in research activities on campus unless they have received sufficient training under your supervision prior to March 2020. Please read more about Summer studentships and undergraduate student work.

 

Field and Community Work

Research where data are collected in the field or in the community MUST receive Critical or Expanded Research Designation to continue. This decision aligns with several institutional, provincial, and federal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Suspension of research and teaching activities at the Biogeoscience Institute until June 30, 2020;
  • Suspension of activities and visitors at the Kluane Lake Research Station until June 30, 2020
  • Suspension of vehicle access to Alberta’s provincial parks and recreations areas;
  • Closure of national parks;
  • Various travel restrictions and advisories;
  • Various Indigenous communities taking steps to limit access to their communities.

Additionally, when health care supports are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must carefully consider the risk of injury or illness in remote locations. We must ensure the safety of members of our university and members of our communities.


External requests for COVD-19 Supplies

In the interest of efficiency and to avoid duplicating efforts, the Office of the Vice-President (Research) will be coordinating institutional contributions for requests from external agencies for COVID-19 supplies, including reagents and personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you receive or have received a request of any kind for COVID-19 supplies, please contact Eoin O’Grady, Manager, Laboratory Safety, with details of the request and any timelines associated.

Personal Protective Equipment

We are recording "bulk" stocks of PPE. If you have a stock of PPE items, please contact Eoin O’Grady with a list of the PPE items that you have, and the number of units. 

Reagents

There is now an urgent need for reagents for use in provincial COVID-19 testing. If you have any of the reagents listed below, contact Eoin O’Grady and Benedikt Hallgrimsson specifying the name of the PI, location and quantities available. 

Reagents, Product ID, Supplier

  • Magmax Lysis/Binding solution concentrate, AM8500, LIFE TECHNOLOGIES
  • Magmax Wash Buffer 1, AM8504, LIFE TECHNOLOGIES

  • 5X Magmax RNA beads, AMB18365, LIFE TECHNOLOGIES

  • ABI Magmax mirvana total RNA isolation kit, a27828, ThermoFisher


Summer studentships

The University of Calgary recognizes the value of the student research, scholarship, and training experiences that typically takes place over the summer, including:

  • University of Calgary research programs such as PURE
  • Externally funded programs through agencies such as NSERC, CIHR, and Alberta Innovates
  • Principal Investigators who hire students with grant funds
  • University units who hire students with operating funds

At this time, the University of Calgary is aiming to avoid cancelling summer student opportunities wherever possible. We encourage supervisors and co-ordinators for all such programs to explore opportunities for virtual experiences for students (for example: literature reviews, data analysis, interviews, group work). Unfortunately, new students will not be permitted to do work on campus while restrictions are in place, even in areas that have received Critical or Expanded Research Designation.

Decisions about specific programs are being made. Students, supervisors and co-ordinators are encouraged to explore options available to them.

Supervisors and co-ordinators are welcome to contact either the Office of the Provost or the Office of the Vice-President (Research) for guidance an appropriate course of action for your program.


Guidance for all researchers

Please consider all of the information below in the context of the work-from-home instructions issued on March 21, 2020.

Review the research exemption section above, if you have not done so already.

If you are working on Main or Foothills Campus, you can register a time to pick up disinfectant wipes from Staff Wellness.

  • Be aware of current guidelines from AHS on how to protect others and yourself.
  • Wash your hands regularly according to guidelines including when you enter and leave your research facility, and when returning home at the end of the day.
  • Be prepared for the possibility of core facilities and other fee-for-service resources becoming unavailable. 
  • Be prepared for delays in supply chain, including shortage of Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Be prepared for delays in services provided by vendors.  If you returned from travel abroad after March 12, be aware that a 14-day self-isolation period is required upon your return.
  • Please work from home whenever possible and limit your presence in research facilities and in the work spaces on campus. Specifically, i.e. only go to your research facility on those days when critical work has to occur in your laboratory, or when the visit of a research participant cannot be postponed or conducted virtually.
  • If you are working in your lab/workshop, try to keep a 2-meter separation between active work areas.
  • Any in-person group activities including thesis defenses, mentorship committee meetings, seminars, journal clubs, laboratory meetings and hiring interviews should be canceled or held as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.
  • Although there are currently no plans to close the university, this could change in the future with very little or no notice.  Further, individual COVID-19 cases could lead to closure of University buildings with no notice at all. Therefore, please take measures to ensure that your unit is prepared for the possibility of a closure at the end of each day.
  • Make sure all your data and files are accessible from your home computer systems so that you can work from home. Please ensure that all privacy regulations are respected.
  • If you have a UCalgary laptop, please take the laptop and its power supply home with you at the end of each working day.
  • Consider whether there are specific applications that you would need to install on your personal computer in order to work from home.
  • The University is providing a number of IT options for accessing shared drives from home or even remote log-in to desktop machines.  However, these tools require advance set-up of University devices. Visit the ‘Working and Learning from Home’ website for details, including steps you must take prior to working remotely.
  • Think carefully before initiating new experiments: consider the time required to complete them as well as the cost and inconvenience if they were interrupted before completion.
  • Unit leaders should ensure that they have up-to-date contact information including personal mobile telephone numbers for all staff.
  • Unit leaders should consider communicating with each other about opportunities to mitigate the impact of illness or self-isolation, such as by sharing staff between units.

Graduate students

Graduate students are encouraged to visit the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

Supervisors are encouraged to review guidelines for effective remote supervision, provided by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. 

Guidance for specific types of research during COVID-19 response

  • Principal Investigators must ensure Lab Placard is current and After Hours Contacts are current in Chematix. Refer to Lab Safety Program resources for more information.
  • Identify procedures, processes and equipment that require ongoing personnel attention (e.g. glove boxes, heating/cooling systems, supplies of liquid nitrogen/helium, compressed gases, etc.)
  • Be prepared for building/lab/workshop access to be reduced or removed. 
  • Be prepared for scenarios in which access may only be allowed for key personnel to enable safe shutdown of experiments OR essential maintenance to critical equipment that could otherwise lead to increased risk of an incident.
  • Review/prepare laboratory procedures for long term shutdown of experimental systems that cannot be left unattended. Ensure that these protocols can be initiated and completed quickly should they be required. 
  • Identify and train key personnel to perform safe shutdown or essential equipment maintenance.
  • If you do not have experiments planned, work from home. This will facilitate social distancing in labs.
  • If you are working in your lab/workshop, try to keep a 2-meter separation between active work areas.
  • Lab personnel working with animals are asked to refer to animal care recommendations relating to the current COVID-19 situation.
  • Increase disinfection of lab/workshop areas including benches, chairs, common equipment / areas – especially should you be notified of personnel who become ill due to COVID-19.
  • Prioritize critical activities. 
  • Identify any activities that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed.
  • Consider installing remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment – monitoring which would otherwise be conducted by personnel (e.g. -80⁰C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage Dewars, incubators).
  • Label, secure and store hazardous materials such that hazards are removed/controlled for other personnel who may need to enter at short notice.
  • Avoid initiating long-term (e.g. overnight) unattended experiments. Post signage, if required.
  • Regularly dispose of hazardous wastes using Chematix.
  • Lock labs/workshops when unoccupied.
  • Coordinate personnel to avoid Working Alone situations.
  • Please keep in mind that activities in certain research core facilities such as imaging and mass spectrometry services may be compromised if facility staff are either ill or under self-isolation. If you have staff who may be able to assist, please contact the research core facilities managers.
  • Cross-train personnel or coordinate with colleagues with similar activities to provide support.
  • Biosafety Committee authorization is required prior to performing research with the virus causing COVID-19 (including accepting patient samples). Contact biosafety.officer@ucalgary.ca.   
  • For research involving human ethics, the CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols can be modified or delayed to limit unnecessary personal contacts. Specifically, for some research activities, in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication.
  • While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
  • If your unit administers resources that researchers, including trainees, may need to access in order to complete their studies, please give some thought to how remote access could be arranged (for example, to datasets).
  • The University is providing a number of IT options for accessing shared drives from home or even remote log-in to desktop machines.  However, these tools require advance set-up of University devices.  Visit the Working and Learning from Home website for details, including steps you must take prior to working remotely.
  • Please postpone any in-person study visits, focus groups, interviews etc and where possible conduct these as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.
  • Monitoring visits: Effective March 27th, on-site monitoring visits are no longer permitted for pharma sponsored as well as investigator initiated trials. Monitoring visits can either be deferred or remote monitoring can be arranged. Memo: Clinical Trials Remote Monitoring and Study Status Updates during the COVID-19 Pandemic 
  • When research staff are in AHS space, all AHS policies and procedures must be followed including infection prevention and control practices and workplace health and safety rules. Please see the latest guidance from AHS on research in AHS facilities.
  • If research staff are feeling unwell or have even mild symptoms, we request that the staff do not enter any AHS space. If COVID-19 is known or suspected, call 8-1-1 and please visit the AHS website for the latest developments.
  • Limit personal contacts, laboratory visits or trips into clinics and hospitals. If research activity in an AHS area is unavoidable, please follow all AHS Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidelines and procedures. If there is any uncertainty, the AHS Health System Access team can connect you with the appropriate IPC representative for a consultation.
  • Do not initiate any new non-essential clinical studies.
  • AHS Health System Access will prioritize the processing of administrative approvals for studies related to essential clinical studies or COVID-19 response and/or treatment testing.
  • For non-critical approval requests, please expect a longer than usual processing time, operational approvals involving Emergency Departments and/or inpatient areas will be suspended until further notice.
  • The CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, laboratory visits or trips into clinics and hospitals. Specifically, in some research settings in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication.
  • While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
  • The Heritage Medical Research (HMRC) will remain open but with a reduced capacity. 
  • Operation of the HMRC facility is following AHS guidance.
  • Only patients and study monitors who pass the AHS screening test will be permitted to enter HMRC. Please check the HMRC website for further guidance.
  • HMRC may experience short-term closures due to COVID-19 exposure in its facilities or due to temporary staff shortage (arrangements are being made to train casual staff to cover absences due to illness or self-isolation).
  • The FMC ICU clinical trials unit facility will be unavailable until further notice
  • Consider which, if any, study visits could be canceled, delayed or held virtually as opposed to those which must proceed in-person (for example, administration of medication assessments that are clinically important). UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.
  • If you anticipate the need for ongoing study visits to administer study drug or facilitate study assessments, consider alternating attendance of your study staff at study visits.  This will ensure that trained study staff remain available in case a study patient is found to have been infected with or exposed to COVID-19.
  • If study staff are exposed to a patient, study monitor or employee who is later found to have been infected with or exposed to COVID-19, the study staff member must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Consider checking with Study Sponsors regarding their expectations, including how protocol violations should be handled and any special reporting requirements.
  • Biosafety Committee authorization is required prior to performing research with the virus causing COVID-19 (including accepting patient samples). Contact biosafety.officer@ucalgary.ca.   
  • For research involving human ethics, the CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit non-essential personal contacts in the community setting. Specifically, for some research, in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication.
  • While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
  • Please postpone any in-person contact with study subjects, including study visits, focus groups, interviews etc and advise your collaborators in the community to do the same. Where possible, these in-person meetings should be rescheduled as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.

 

Human Ethics Guidance

Human Ethics Guidance from CFREB and CHREB during COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, laboratory visits or trips into clinics and hospitals. Specifically, in some research settings in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication. Considerations include the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research, and any additional risk that may arise by switching from in-person to virtual communication. Revised participant consents or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with use of different communication channels).

Where research staff are feeling unwell – particularly those who interact with research participants – it is recommended to stay home to prevent transmission of illness. If COVID-19 is known or suspected, AHS protocols should be followed:https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page16944.aspx.

While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide). For industry-sponsored clinical trials, researchers should also be working with the study sponsors to consult where possible to implement any changes.

A reminder that where the research involves physical assessments and use of equipment (e.g., metabolic carts, facemasks, mouthpieces, noseclips, straps, turbines, valves, tubing, cannula, treadmills, etc.) disinfection according to manufacturer’s standards where applicable is paramount and use of single use accessories is advisable. In the absence of manufacturers standards, thorough cleaning between participants is advised.

Memos

Please contact the appropriate Research Ethics Board with any questions:

CFREB (Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board) cfreb@ucalgary.ca

CHREB (Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board) chreb@ucalgary.ca

Ethics FAQ

Q: When do I report revisions to my research protocol that were made to eliminate immediate hazards to human participants?

A: The changes should be reported to the REB as soon as possible, preferably within 5 business days. We will request written justification for a delay of more than 5 business days.

Q: When can I make changes to my protocol without prior notice to or approval from the REB?

A: Should you determine that changes in your procedures are required, you can implement them immediately, without prior notice to or approval from the REB when they are necessary to eliminate increased risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the human participants (TCPS2 Article 6.15). 

Q: How do I report revisions to my research protocol that were made to eliminate immediate hazards to human participants

A: If you are proposing to add a new study component due to COVID-19 or implementing study-wide changes, a modification should be submitted.

If changes were made to eliminate immediate hazards to participants or others please submit a reportable event in IRISS. See the Reportable Event guidance document for more details.

A protocol deviation is defined any action (or inaction) that does not correspond to the approved protocol. With the COVID-19 pandemic, a protocol deviation may include changes made to eliminate an immediate hazard to participants or others. Protocol deviations are typically implemented first and then reported to the REB afterwards. While such "immediate hazards" may have been relevant early in the pandemic, at this time changes to protocols should be identifiable in advance of implementation, should be study-wide and will likely be in place for the next few months. For these reasons, such changes should now be submitted as Modification requests. If your changes meet these criteria, a Modification should be submitted indicating as appropriate that these changes will be implemented for the duration of the pandemic and physical distancing measures only and the protocol will revert back to its original state once these measures are over. If modifications are described this way, requests to revert back to the originally approved protocol will not be necessary.

For clinical trials, please find further information below:

Q: My research is taking place on the University of Calgary campus. What do I need to think about? How should I proceed?

A: For clinical research taking place in the AHS environment and/or accessing AHS resources, the researcher should refer to AHS Research Guidance. Contact research.administration@ahs.ca with questions. 

For all other research, please use the UCalgary Events Risk Management Tool, or contact COVID19@ucalgary.ca 

Q: Will human ethics applications be reviewed and approved by the Research Ethics Board (REB)?

A: The Research Ethics and Compliance team, along with the Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB) and Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB) remain operational. If the situation changes, turn-around times may lengthen, as applications focused on  COVID-19 may be prioritized.

Please contact chreb@ucalgary.ca or cfreb@ucalgary.ca if you have a COVID-19- related expedited review request

Q: How do I request an expedited review of a new REB application or a modification to an existing application during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Please note that the Boards are experiencing a high volume of requests relating to COVID-19. Requests for a priority review of new applications or modifications to expand study objectives during the COVID-19 pandemic must be made in writing to the Chair of your designated Board. 

Applications will be prioritized for review where the study has the potential to contribute to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment or care of COVID-19.  

Other studies (e.g., observational, survey or qualitative research examining the impact of the pandemic on various populations) will be prioritized based on the availability of REB resources. 

Please submit your request for priority with a short description of your study to the appropriate Board:

Researcher Outreach Sessions

The Office of the Vice-President (Research) held three information sessions for early and mid-career researchers in spring 2020. Each session focused on a different area of the academy: Science and Engineering (April 30), Social Sciences and Humanities (May 4) and Health (May 7).  In these sessions, we discussed:

  • Critical Research Designation
  • Collaboration opportunities
  • Tri-agency updates
  • Research Services supports
  • HR updates

Each session also included Q&A, which we have summarized below. If you would like to view recordings of the sessions, please contact vprcomms@ucalgary.ca to request access.

  • Decisions for how and when faculty, staff, and students begin to return to campus will be overseen by the university’s Crisis Management Team, which includes the VPR. All facilities (buildings, libraries, labs, research data centres) will be addressed in this planning.
  • If you have concerns regarding returning to campus that are specific to your lab that you believe should be considered by the VPR in regards to returning to campus, please contact avpr@ucalgary.ca.
  • All labs must adhere to the university’s recommendations for workplace safety upon reopening, which will be created in accordance with the municipal and provincial requirements under a state of emergency.
  • The schedule for opening will be announced when it is possible to do so.
  • As these decisions are made, the campus community will be informed via the COVID-19 Update that is distributed to all faculty and staff. Updates can be found at any time on the Risk Management website.
  • The university recognizes the significant and potentially long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on productivity, and that additional responsibilities at home, such as caregiving for children and family members, will increase that impact.
  • There is awareness of how this interruption is variably challenging, based on many factors. The university will be taking a very understanding view of this situation, and we encourage you to seek support when you need it.
  • The VPR team is here to support you as you navigate issues that may arise in regards to research activities, funding, contracts, or members of your research team including grad students, postdocs, and staff. We encourage you to speak with your ADR first, and then contact avpr@ucalgary.ca when you have determined what assistance is needed.
  • All academic staff currently holding tenure track appointments will receive an automatic one-year deferral of the tenure and promotion application process, resulting in a one-year extension to their tenure track appointment.
  • The decision to take a tenure extension will not be viewed negatively by the University of Calgary. This is being offered to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 interruption and will not be of detriment in the future.
  • However, any academic staff member currently holding a tenure track appointment who does not wish to defer the application process for tenure may apply for tenure in the normal course.
  • There is not an automatic one-year extension to the time period for renewal of tenure, but that there are many ways to receive renewal and if needed it should be requested. If you need an extension on the renewal cycle, you will have to request it.
  • Any academic staff member who has been granted an RSL starting July 1, 2020 and whose RSL will likely be substantially impacted by reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic (such as travel restrictions or public health guidelines) may request a deferral of their RSL. Approved deferrals will be rescheduled for the year following the deferred period, unless otherwise agreed. 
  • Approval of deferral requests is at the discretion of the Dean, and will not be unreasonably withheld. Denials may be appealed to the Provost. Please note that all requests by academic staff members in the Cumming School of Medicine or the Faculty of Nursing who wish to defer their RSL because they have been called on to assist the healthcare system during the pandemic will be granted.
  • Academic staff members in the Cumming School of Medicine or the Faculty of Nursing who are currently on RSL but who have been called on to assist the healthcare system during the pandemic will be permitted to defer their RSL from January 1, 2020 forward to a later date. The scheduling of the credited RSL period will be at the discretion of the Dean.
  • Other academic staff currently on RSL may request a deferral of their remaining RSL period. Approval of these requests is at the discretion of the Dean; however, approval will not be unreasonably withheld where a substantial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic is established.
  • The VPR is not part of reviewing annual performance reviews. We encourage you to reach out to your Department Heads and Deans with questions regarding APRs.
  • There have been no official announcements from the tri-agencies about postdoc funding extensions. We will provide updates to supervisors and postdocs as we receive them.
  • The 5-year limit for postdocs in each lab is under discussion in light of the COVID-19 interruption, but there have been no announcements made.
  • If postdocs need to reduce their working schedule to part-time as a result of increased care-giving or domestic responsibilities, extensions may be requested.
  • Postdoc extensions are managed by the Postdoctoral Office. They can be reached at postdoc@ucalgary.ca.
  • Research Services continues to provide support to the research community while working remotely.
  • Information sessions for tri-agency outreach, Test Your Concept, and SUPPORT will be held virtually.
  • If you have requests or suggestions for these sessions, please provide them to your ADR.
  • Tri-agency outreach session schedule will be announced in June 2020.
  • The Research Management System implementation will continue as planned.
  • Each tri-agency has an FAQ on their website that details the process for renewing or deferring grants:
  • Many researchers have been or will contacted directly by their tri-agency in regards to extensions or deferrals.
  • If your questions are not answered in the agency FAQ, please contact rsogrants@ucalgary.ca.
  • The decision to defer, extend or continue lies with the individual researcher. We encourage you to assess your research program thoroughly and take into consideration all of the relevant factors including staffing, lab access, travel restrictions, study recruitment, etc. before choosing to continue, defer, or extend your grants.
  • If you have applied to a program that has had a deadline extended, you may have the opportunity to rescind your initial application and reapply for the new deadline. This is a strategic decision that we recommend you take into consideration, based on how you may be able to improve your application with the additional time available to you.
  • The deferral and cancellation of major funding programs, such as the CIHR Spring 2020 Project Grants, has led to questions about a potential “wave” of applicants for the next round of the competition.
  • We cannot speculate whether or not future funding opportunities will have a higher number of applications and will therefore be more competitive for applicants.
  • However, we recommend that you continue to look at funding as a long game, plan for rejections, look for institutional grant opportunities and special competitions
  • Each tri-agency has addressed questions about reallocation of funds from cancelled competitions and how they will be managed on their websites:
  • We have not received an update from the tri-council on how or if they will adjust assessment of publications and CVs, early career investigator years of eligibility, or other measures as a result of COVID-19.
  • We have been told that the tri-agencies are taking all of these concerns into consideration and will address them.
  • Tri-council updates will continue to be distributed to academic staff as they arise. Each tri-agency also has FAQs regarding COVID that are updated regularly:
  • Extensions for internal grants will be considered, but we are not currently at the point where we can say how long the extensions will be.
  • We are assessing the length of extensions, and will communicate the decisions as they are made.
  • If you have questions in the interim, please contact the internal granting body.
  • Communication with your staff, postdocs and graduate students at this time is key.
  • As we being to return to campus, guidelines will be issued by the university regarding safe working conditions. Communicating how your lab will adhere to these guidelines will be very important.
  • If issues arise that require HR or union involvement, we encourage you to maintain open lines of communication with your ADRs and HR partners, or the Faculty of Graduate Studies or Postdoctoral Office if appropriate.
  • Communication is ongoing with external private sector funders of clinical research trials, addressing the financial burden and delays that will result from the COVID-19 interruption.
  • As your individual trials are affected, we recommend keeping lines of communication open with your funders and ADR to manage issues as they arise.
  • Access to AHS facilities is a joint conversation between AHS and the university.
  • AHS is looking at the complex steps required to re-open, and they will advise as those decisions are being made.
  • If you are having issues with external funders or contracts who you believe are not being adequately flexible in response to COVID-19, please contact rsolegal@ucalgary.ca.

Grants FAQ

We are still implementing RMS. Please visit research.ucalgary.ca/rms for updates on competitions that will be managed through RMS.

Q: Will agencies be offering extensions to grant application deadlines, and/or grant end dates?

A: Agencies continue to post updates and extensions to grant application deadlines. Research Services will inform the campus community of changes to deadlines through the Research Communications email list as well as by updating the Funding Deadline calendar.

For full details of Tri-Council announcements see the following links:

  • NSERC/SSHRC bulletin update on April 16, 2020
  • CIHR  update on April 2, 2020

Q: Are there still people available to sign off/approve my grant application? If so who, and what are the timelines?

A: Research Services is working remotely and is continuing to process grant applications. This is a priority task in RSO.

Please be aware that we may have reduced capacity depending on staff situation, so please submit with as much time as possible in advance of the agency deadline. Please check with your Department Head and Associate Dean (Research) office for department and faculty levels approvals in advance of submitting to RSO. You can contact rsogrants@ucalgary.ca for questions about external grants and ipd@ucalgary.ca for institutional programs such as CFI and NFRF competitions. 

Physical signatures are currently a challenge due to remote working and so it may be necessary to obtain secure PDF signatures or provide an email to support approval of the faculty member, Department Head, ADR (as applicable). Please consult the university procedure for approvals and signatures during the covid-19 pandemic Signatures for working remotely

Q: Who can I contact about my grant in Research Services?

A: In the first instance, please contact rsogrants@ucalgary.ca and your inquiry will be routed to the appropriate Research Grants Officer for response.

Q: I intend to conduct COVID-19 research and need to start as soon as possible. What do I need to do?

A: After you submit your application, RSO staff will flag these particular projects to the Ethics team and Biosafety Officer (as appropriate). They may need to connect with you to help expedite the process of getting your covid research underway. If your research needs to start imminently, you should also apply for critical research designation

Q: What specific sources of funding are currently available for COVID-19 research?

A: Please visit the university website at covid-19 funding opportunities to see awarded research activity and opportunities for further covid19 funding.

Q: I have a grant from an internal source. How can I get an extension?

A: Written approval must still be obtained in order to extend funds that were granted or provided internally, since it is required to comply with audit standards. For grants from the VP Research portfolio (URGC, MGEAR, or SSHR/NSERC residual balance grants), please contact rsotrainee@ucalgary.ca and the internal grants team will help with this request. For all other grants from university sources, the project holder will need to contact the sponsoring unit (e.g. an institute director, ADR or dean, department head, the contact listed on your original award notice, etc.) and seek approval to extend or amend the grant. This approval can then be forwarded to Research Services. Please be advised that we are responding to a large number of such requests and we appreciate your patience with the process.

Q: Will NSERC (or CIHR or SSHRC) cover non-refundable travel fees if my meeting or conference is cancelled?

A: The three federal granting agencies have confirmed that the reimbursement of non-refundable travel fees from agency funds is acceptable considering the impacts of COVID-19. This applies to the travel of both principal investigators and research personnel, when cancellation occurs as a result of various factors such as cancelled conferences, travel advisories, or personal choice due to health or other concerns.

Contracts FAQ

Q: I have a research contract under way and a key team member is now unable to work and I’m not sure when she’ll be back. The contract has set deadlines for certain deliverables and completion. I don’t think I’ll be able to meet the deadlines. What should I do?

A: As soon as you are certain that the original time frame cannot be met (or any other important element such as budget or deliverables) contact  your sponsor, explain the circumstances, and ask if changes to the project can be made. 

It is likely that the sponsor will understand the problem and work with you to create new deadlines, budgets or deliverables. Once you have reached that point, contact RSO Legal & IP so a formal amendment to the contract can be made.

Don’t forget this last step: if there is no written amendment to the original agreement, the changes to the contract you discussed with the sponsor may not be valid.

Q: I have a research contract under way and the sponsor failed to make a scheduled payment required in the agreement. What should I do?

A: If a sponsor has missed a scheduled payment it is important for you, as PI, to act quickly. Contact the sponsor and ask if they have any concerns with the project. Let them know a payment was missed and ask when it will be made.

If you learn that the sponsor has encountered financial difficulty and cannot make the payment anytime soon ask if the project should be cancelled or the time period re-negotiated. Once you have this information, contact RSO Legal & IP so a Notice of Termination can be issued or a formal amendment to the contract can be made.   

If you are certain that the contract time period will be ended or renegotiated then stop work on the project as soon as possible to avoid incurring additional expenses. Remember, if the sponsor doesn’t pay the project may become an overexpenditure for which you are personally responsible.

If you have other funds to support the continuation of work, you may decide to continue the project but if the sponsor is refusing payment don’t continue to provide reports.

Q: I have tried to contact the sponsor to discuss changes to my project but I am not getting any response to emails or voice messages. What should I do?

A: Contact RSO Legal & IP and explain the situation. A formal communication from the University will be sent to the sponsor asking for a response before a certain deadline. If no response is received to that letter the next step may be to issue a Notice of Termination of the agreement.

Q: The sponsor of my research project sent me an email asking for early termination of the project. What do I do now?

A: Contact RSO Legal & IP and explain the situation. They will contact the sponsor and determine if termination is the only remaining option. If so, then formal documentation to terminate the agreement will be processed. 

We know that determination of urgency vs. non-urgency of your potential research activities may not be straightforward. Furthermore, we recognize that you may have concerns relating to funding agency timelines.

The teams in the VPR Office and Research Services are available to assist you in considering the time-sensitivity of your planned research activities. We consider it likely that there will be funding agency allowances made for COVID-19 extensions and deferrals, and will advocate for this on your behalf when it is appropriate to do so.  

 

Contact

Questions or inquiries should be directed to avpr@ucalgary.ca

Please monitor this website for current information