Effective March 23, all campus buildings are closed and employees, unless explicitly told otherwise, are to work from home. 

Critical operations, maintenance and security will be maintained while supporting the health and well-being of employees through arrangements to ensure proper social distancing and cleaning/disinfecting.

Request for Campus Activity

You can make a request for increased activity on campus related to specific research, teaching and learning, or critical campus services only.

Request for Campus Activity

Ongoing and New Research

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective March 24, 2020, USask suspended most on-campus and field research activity. We expect researchers to continue as much research as possible from home or to secure approval from their Dean or Executive Director and the Vice-President Research for lab and field activities.

The following research is exempt from the suspension of on-campus and field activity and does not require special approval (however researchers need to inform their unit leader and the Director of Research Services and Ethics (see contact info below) of any new on-campus or field activities in these categories):

  • Research related to COVID-19;
  • Research that is part of essential clinical care activities; and
  • Research that was already ongoing (as of March 24) involving animals, plants and living organisms.

In addition, researchers who think they have exceptional circumstances requiring on-campus or field activity on a go-forward basis, but whose research does not already meet the above criteria for an automatic exemption, will need special approval. They must complete the Exceptional Circumstance Request Form and direct their requests to their Dean or Executive Director, who will make a joint determination with the Vice-President Research.

Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, and considerations will include the consequences of suspending, delaying or modifying the work as well as the ability to limit potential exposure of research team members to COVID-19, as per provincial health orders. For specific direction regarding field work, please see the Field Work Decision Tree and Expectations.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Dr. Dion Martens
Director of Research Services and Ethics
dion.martens@usask.ca
(306) 966-1318

In response to the COVID019 pandemic, we advise investigators working with human participants to:

  • Eliminate personal contacts, lab visits or trips into clinics and hospitals; and
  • Where appropriate, consider modifying or delaying your research studies to eliminate in-person participant interactions. For some research, it may be possible to replace in-person interactions with telephone or online communication, depending on the nature of your protocol, the participants, and any additional risk that may arise by switching to different communication channels.

Revised participant consent forms or amendments to the consent process may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with the use of different modes of communication). While the standard practice is for REBs to review and approve amendments prior to the implementation of any changes, exceptions can be made where changes are necessary to eliminate immediate risks to participants (as per TCPS2 Article 6.15).

As such, investigators may implement changes but must report those changes to the REB at the earliest opportunity (preferably within five business days, if possible, as a guideline).

If you have any questions, please contact:

Human Ethics team
  ethics.office@usask.ca
  306-966-2975.

For clinical trials, screening and enrolment of new participants into studies should be discontinued, with the exception of situations (e.g., oncology) in which enrolment in a trial is needed to provide treatment options.

For ongoing clinical trials with human participants, please ensure sponsors, the Research Ethics Board and Clinical Trial Support Unit are kept informed regarding any changes to research protocols, and ensure our previous guidance related to human-participant research is followed.

As well, if your research must involve physical assessments and use of any equipment, and this can contact cannot be absolutely eliminated, it is paramount to employ stringent disinfection protocols (following the manufacturer’s standards, if available) or to use single-use accessories.

If you intend to submit a time-sensitive ethics application directly relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic, please indicate this in your email, so that we can expedite your application appropriately.

 

Please do not start new animal-research projects that are not related to COVID-19 research.

Ongoing animal research projects will continue to be supported by the university’s animal care and facilities staff at this time. However, where possible, researchers may wish to conclude those projects and rely on existing data, given the uncertainty of the pandemic situation.

USask has an unwavering commitment to animal welfare. The OVPR has been working to ensure that appropriate standards for animal care will be maintained throughout any disruption. If research staff responsible for animal care are no longer able to perform those duties, this must be communicated immediately to facility staff or the Acting University Veterinarian (contact information below) that alternative arrangements can be made to maintain animal welfare.

If you have any questions or concerns about your animal research, please speak with your facility managers or contact:

Dr. Kurtis Swekla, 
Acting University Veterinarian
   kurtis.swekla@usask.ca 
  306-966-8081

Safety Resources advises researchers to adopt strategies to mitigate the impact on research and ensure the health and safety of our campus community. This could include:

  • Prioritizing projects evaluate all work with criteria such as the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) (i.e., high-risk projects and projects which cannot be delayed until appropriate PPE is available).
  • Sharing of PPE interdepartmentally and between labs to ensure that the PPE needs of all researchers are met.
  • Implementing the use of appropriate reusable PPE(i.e., consider the use of re-usable style protective gloves rather than disposable)
    • All individuals requiring respirators for their work must be fit-tested for the specific type of respirator that they will be using. To arrange for a fit-test, please call 306-966-1814 or email fittest@usask.ca.
    • The CDC has published a guidance document on how to reuse respirators or wear them for extended periods of time. If you have questions about how to safely reuse respirators or wear them for extended periods of time, please contact the Biosafety Office at biosafety@usask.ca or call Safety Resources at 306-966-4675.
  • Utilize other safety controls appropriate for the work, such as certified biosafety cabinets and fume hoods.

As this situation is evolving quickly, all researchers should prepare for research delays and/or potential shut downs of certain work. Contact Safety Resources for support. As well, if you have any questions or concerns related to research safety, do not hesitate to contact Safety Resources at 306-966-4675 or email covid19@usask.ca.

COVID-19-related research

Contact the Biosafety Group at biosafety@usask.ca as soon as possible to get a Biosafety Permit Amendment so that this research can be prioritized and potentially expedited.

Human specimen handling

Please see the University’s Research Using Human Specimens During the COVID-19 Pandemic guideline on how human samples should be handled.

What if I need to shut down my lab?

USask has guidelines in place in the event that labs need to be shut down on campus.

Funding agencies

The granting councils, other funding agencies and our industry partners continue to develop responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and I want to assure you that my team is not only monitoring announcements but also working closely with our contacts in those organizations to determine and help shape the impacts for our researchers and students. As we learn about changes to funding programs and as we adjust our own programs in response to the pandemic, we will always do our best to keep you informedAs well, our office will continue to work with faculty and staff to prepare for submissions and manage questions about new timelines and expectations. Below are the latest updates.

  • CFI JELF - All October 2020 CFI JELF applicants are encouraged to attend the next Proposal Development Meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm Via WebEx.
    • For more information or to RSVP contact sandra.stone@usask.ca. Material and WebEx directions will be sent in advance of the presentation to all those have RSVP’d.
    • CFI JELF proposal submission deadlines remain unchanged.
  • Award finalization and financial deadlines are extended by 3 months, including for CFI-JELF projects. SRI has been in touch with all grant holders (and their ADR or Centre Director) to develop a plan of action.
  • Annual Project Progress Reports are now due September 30, 2020. SRI has extended the internal deadline to September 15, 2020, to meet this new CFI deadline. Reporting forms will be available April 1, 2020.
  • SRI will continue to provide updates on CFI JELFs.
  • Innovation Fund 2020 is proceeding according to original timelines. Decisions are anticipated in November 2020.  

Updates and responses to common questions can be found at on the CFI JELF webpage. We will continue to update you as new information and directions arise.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time: 

The Secretariat has indicated that they will consider on a case-by-case basis requests to extend the two-year timeline for CRC searches and nominations. SRI has been in contact (and made arrangements) with two current CRC searches that may need to request accommodations. We are also monitoring the progress of all active searches and will address extension needs for these recruitments if needed. 

Questions and concerns may be directed to doreen.canillas@usask.ca.

  • The LOI deadline is extended to July 15, 2020.
  • SRI is working with PIs on their strategy and timelines for completion.

NSERC USRAs

NSERC has indicated that the program is still going forward. NSERC will honour the full value of the award ($4500) and encourages universities to do the same. Working remotely, working a shortened term, deferring to fall, or other flexible options may be considered. There will be communication from the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to finalize modified summer plans with faculty and students.

Office of the Vice-President Research USRAs

These are awarded to faculty members via a college process. SRI is working directly with colleges and faculty to enable opportunities for students to work in a safe and fully-mentored environment. Faculty are asked to provide details on the arrangements prior to award approval. Please contact merle.massie@usask.ca with any questions.

SCPOR USRAs

SRI is working directly with SCPOR and faculty on options for safe and mentored assistantships.  Given that these are patient-oriented projects, individual assistantships will only proceed if they meet new of standards of social distancing and/or for care of vulnerable populations

IMII Indigenous Research assistantships

RI is working with host organizations to enable safe and mentored assistantships. We are encouraging flexible solutions.

SURE

SRI is leading a new initiative Student Undergraduate Research Experience to connect undergraduate research assistants across the university.  This initiative will move on-line with technology-enabled environments for 2020.

Summer Entrepreneurs (Innovation Enterprise)

IE is working with the industry partners and innovation ecosystem mentors involved in the program to design a modified program for summer 2020, focusing on the use of technology to facilitate program delivery. Please contact alix.hayden@usask.ca, 306-966-5638 with questions.

The deadline for the Research Junction Development Grant has been moved to October 2, 2020. 

This change recognizes that efforts to match city employees and university researchers around research interests has been delayed by recent events.  Partnership development will again be available next week and ongoing for faculty and City staff.

Contact research.junction@usask.ca for assistance finding a research partner.

Contact research.awards@usask.ca for more information.

  • The release of results from the 2020 Discovery Grants competition is proceeding as planned. Results are still expected to be posted on the Research Portal by mid-April.
  • The deadline to submit an appeal has been extended to June 30, 2020.
  • For NSERC and SSHRC, academic institutions can immediately approve extension requests up to 12 months for Agency grants with an end date between February 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 inclusively. This applies to all grants, even if they have received a previous extension of any length for any reason. This will have no impact for applications awarded in the fall 2020 competitions. The intent behind this is to allow grant holders to continue spending grant funds, and institutions to delay the processing of residual grants.
  • CIHR is consulting on how best to meet the needs of researchers at this time and has not yet announced its intentions.
  • Please regularly check the COVID-19 updates on the CIHRNSERC and SSHRC websites.
  • Genome Canada has provided an update with regards to current research project expectations and current competition deadlines.
  • CIHR SPOR Units Phase II (SCPOR 2.0) application deadline has been extended to July 21, 2020.
  • The NSERC CREATE LOI application deadline has been extended to June 1, 2020.
  • AIMday Plant Proteins has been postponed to late fall 2020. Further updates will be provided over the coming months. Please contact alix.hayden@usask.ca, 306-966-5638 with questions.

COVID-19 Research Stories

Stories on How We Are Serving Canada in the COVID-19 Crisis

Universities Canada, government agencies, and media are seeking stories on ways that university colleges and research centres are helping their communities combat COVID-19. If you or your research team have examples of the above to share, please forward a couple of sentences to research.communications@usask.ca

Questions

While many staff members will be working remotely, all units of the OVPR continue to operate and are here to provide support to our research community. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of your OVPR contacts for assistance.

Should you have any urgent research-related questions on which you are uncertain whom to contact, please do not hesitate to reach out to:

Dr. Dion Martens
Director of Research Services and Ethics
dion.martens@usask.ca
(306) 966-1318

Laura Zink
Director of Strategic Research Initiatives
laura.zink@usask.ca
(306) 966-1778