Stages of reopening are guided by Provincial recommendations and guidelines, but USask may decide to move more conservatively in some areas to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

USask is currently in Stage 3 of reopening.

Introduction

Over the spring and summer, we will increase time-sensitive research activity on campus as outlined in the Framework for a Staged Approach to Increasing Activity in University Spaces. What research activity on campus looks like in the fall will largely build on what we are able to enable in the intervening months, in keeping with provincial public health directives, and respecting the realities and various demands on university supplies and resources.

Goal(s)

For research, we have two primary goals:

  1. Keep everyone involved in research healthy and safe, while increasing research activity in a staged approach as health and safety becomes easier to maintain; and

  2. Continually strive to allow as much research activity as possible to proceed, while respecting the necessary limits required by the evolving situation, and while understanding the potential to return to stricter limits should the situation require.

Resources/Supports

On-campus research:

  • Resources (these have already been prepared for use over the spring and summer, and will be refined as needed going into the fall):
    • CoVID-19 Safety Permit Application for Increased Activity;
    • Short CoVID-19 Health and Safety Online Course;
    • Lab Safety Manual – CoVID-19 Pandemic Supplement;
    • Research Facility Re-Opening Checklist;
    • Symptom Self-Monitoring Checklist;
    • Cleaning Log; and
    • Clear and transparent process[es] for determining which activities can proceed.

  • Ancillary supports and services:
    • Facilities – providing maintenance and custodial operations and other facility services necessary to allow research activity to proceed while meeting enhanced requirements for cleaning and physical distancing;

    • Procurement – optimizing purchasing activities at a time of significant supply-chain disruption to meet the supply needs of approved research projects;

    • Safety Resources – conducting lab inspections, approving biosafety and radiation permits, providing hazardous waste-management services, and assisting researchers in implementing appropriate safety procedures;

    • Animal Care Services and Animal Order Desk – approving and overseeing all animal-based research, coordinating all logistics related to ordering and transporting research animals, delivering animal care services in various university facilities and providing animal-welfare and animal-handling training; and

    • University Library – providing access to physical materials including the creation of procedures for contact-less pick-up of requested material and potentially a “scan-and-send” service for portions of books following fair-dealing guidelines.

Field work:

  • Field-work decision tree and expectations guide – this has been in use since April 2020 and other institutions (e.g., UBC) have asked to copy it. We will update this as the pandemic and associated public health directives evolve over the coming months.

Remote research (i.e., from home):

  • “Researching Remotely” webpage – developed by the OVPR, University Library and ICT, with support from communications, this page lists various resources and links to assist researchers. In the lead-up to the fall, we will be expanding this to create a one-stop shop for researchers to access all programs, services and supports (including documents and forms) relevant to them throughout the research lifecycle.

  • The OVPR, the University Library and ICT will collaborate to deliver virtual workshops and guidance documents to inspire and inform researchers about the kinds of research activities they can undertake remotely (e.g., systematic reviews, meta-analysis, use of new technology).

Other and/or additional resources may also become necessary or be identified as implementation progresses.

Roles and Responsibilities

Decision-making process regarding increased research activity:

  1. Deans/Executive Directors (EDs): Deans and EDs will approve and prioritize requests from their colleges, schools and centres, using whatever process they deem best to make those determinations.

  2. COT: The COT will review the Dean/ED-approved applications, to ensure plans are as safe and effective as possible, and that they can be appropriately supported with university supplies and resources.

  3. PRT Research Advisory Committee: Darcy Marciniuk, Irena Creed, Dion Martens, Christopher Martin and representatives from the Associate Deans of Research will undertake a final review the COT-approved applications to ensure coordination and coherence across campus. This committee will ensure PRT and the VPR are kept informed of decisions and will engage with PRT, the VPR and/or PEC should any disputes or significant questions emerge.

Other key roles/responsibilities:

  • All ancillary services and supports identified (see above - Resources/Supports).

  • The OVPR will undertake and synchronize various other roles/responsibilities including:
    • Supporting pre- and post-award administration, including liaising with funding agencies and industry partners; supporting the Research Ethics Boards in reviewing and adapting to changing research environments and methods, while ensuring adherence to all relevant ethics requirements, and informing and assisting faculty and staff in similarly adapting.

    • Determining how best to assist researchers with community-engaged research in a physical-distancing era.

    • Working with Procurement and Facilities to enable ongoing research-infrastructure development.

    • Re-evaluating the proof-of-concept fund and exploring other measures to help spark increased prototyping and other pre-commercialization activities and mitigating challenges of addressing legal and IP considerations for CoVID-related research which started at an accelerated pace.

    • Outlining implications and potential solutions for maintaining productive international collaborations, while exploring potential new opportunities.

    • Promoting and celebrating USask’s varied contributions to CoVID-19 research.

Key Assumptions

  • Researchers will be increasingly impatient as this situation extends and there will be amplified pressure to allow for more (or even all) research activity to proceed.

  • Tri-Agencies will continue to be quite flexible, but not all other funding partners will be able to be as flexible.

  • Many industry and non-profit partners will see significant negative effects on their revenues, workforce and investment positions, presenting difficulties for sponsored research (already, some private-sector partners are needing to adjust payment schedules for research agreements).

  • Fee-for-service revenues in various units on campus (e.g., SK Structural Sciences Centre) will be affected by both restricted activity on campus and adverse economic effects on industry users.

  • Reduced research activity will result in fewer inventions and disclosures for commercial evaluation.

  • USask may be a significant player in CoVID breakthroughs, especially given VIDO-InterVac’s leading role in developing and testing vaccines and therapeutic treatments.

Plan/Logistics

  • The activity-approval process is outlined (see above - Decision-making process regarding increased research activity).

  • As stated in the introduction, on-campus research activity in the fall will largely build on what we are in a position to allow over the spring and summer, in keeping with public health directives and respecting the various demands on university supplies and resources.

Timelines and Deliverables

  • All documents, forms and the online safety course are already prepared (and will be refined as needed)
  • The approval process is in place and will be carried forward into the fall.
  • We are ready to move forward – with approval we will begin to implement as outlined.

External Relations/Partnerships

  • Provincial government – keeping them appropriately informed of our contributions to COVID-19 research, our actions to increase research activity, and our alignment with the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.

  • Funding agencies – liaising with funding agencies for all pre- and post-award activities, including extension requests.

  • Industry and non-profit partners – liaising with industry and non-profit partners, including for changes to funding arrangements.

  • Additional post-secondary institutions – coordinating activities, learning from the experiences of other institutions, and demonstrating leadership by sharing our own insights, processes, documents, etc.

  • Others as outlined and synchronized by our communications plan, including Indigenous government and organizations.