General

Approach for Research Recovery & Adaptation

Last updated Friday, November 5, 2021 at 1:00 PM EDT

I. Overview

The University of Toronto (U of T) Principles for Research Recovery and Adaptation (the Principles) articulate the overarching implementation principles for a phased resumption of university research activities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This document (the Approach) outlines the process for gradual and controlled recovery and adaptation of on- and off-campus research. The Approach is a companion document to the Principles, and the COVID-19 General Workplace Guidelines (GWG) and these should be considered together.

All research conducted at or under the auspices of the university must follow all applicable policies, including the university’s policy on the Ethical Conduct of Research and Health & Safety Policy. Research recovery relies on many institutional resources and these have their own recovery plans. Institutional resources include such divisions as University Operations, which provides cleaning and waste management and Environmental Health & Safety, which provides lab permits and advice on lab safety and occupational health.

The university is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of all community members. We appreciate how our academic community continues to adapt to new circumstances in these unprecedented times.

This document provides an institutional perspective for research recovery while also offering flexibility and adaptability for divisions and units to determine their research activities based on their capacity and needs. Research recovery is based on the Ontario Government’s Roadmap to Reopen and the capacity and readiness assessments at the divisional level. The university may revise or update this document as necessary in response to public health or institutional directions.

II. Research Recovery & Adaptation Plan Assessments

On-Campus Research

The Ontario Government’s Roadmap to Reopen outlines three phases of return, and the University of Toronto is following the stages set out in this roadmap, implemented to our institutional circumstances. As of October 15, 2021 the Province remains at Step 3 in response to evolving data around the Delta variant.

For those that need or prefer/want to return to on-campus research, a research restart request must be submitted following the process in Section III, below. All other research should continue remotely where possible and researchers are encouraged to consider alternative procedures for projects that do not disrupt scholarly merit and integrity.

The university is committed to ensuring a safe work and study environment, and to implementing measures that take into account public health advice and operational considerations. Academic divisions will approve on-campus recovery plans based on the capacity of buildings and research spaces to accommodate increased occupancy based on public health guidance.

Capacity assessment: at this time physical distancing in instructional spaces has been lifted (with appropriate PPE being used) where divisional contexts allow; some areas in buildings will maintain restrictions on the number of people allowed in accordance with public health directives and university guidance. Instructional spaces are defined in the General Workplace Guideline as “Classrooms, teaching laboratories and in-person for-credit experiential learning refer to spaces/activities where 1) the activity in the space is directly related to an academic program of study; and 2) there are dedicated resources, equipment and/or teaching staff supporting a specific academic course/program of study that is not available elsewhere.

Divisional research recovery plans must ensure the ability to maintain physical distancing where applicable and more generally in the building based on overall building occupancy. In this consideration, buildings include individual office space, research space, graduate rooms, classrooms, leased space and common areas. University Operations will oversee building readiness, including caretaking, reminders and postings on physical distancing and entrance signage.

Divisions need to be mindful of the number of people allowed in research spaces to ensure that physical distancing measures are followed outside instructional spaces.

  • Those who need to come to campus for research and are given divisional permission to do so, are expected to return home upon completion of their research task or activity (e.g., come to the lab to run an experiment and then return home to continue with other aspects of the research that can be performed remotely).
     

Research Readiness

Any restart of research will also depend on the readiness of divisions, units and researchers to ramp up their research activities. Divisions are responsible for considering, in their own research recovery plans, issues such as the availability of research supplies and equipment, related supply chain considerations (e.g. computing equipment, personal protective equipment) and availability of qualified trainees and staff.
 

Face-to-Face (F2F) Human Participant Research

For details on F2F human participant research, please see U of T Guidance for the Recovery of Human Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic. All F2F research requires approval by both the REB and the Face-to-Face COVID-19 Review Committee.
 

Off-Campus Field & Third-Party Site Research

Academic divisions will approve off-campus recovery plans based on the ability of a UofT field site (e.g. Koffler Reserve, Gull Lake) to accommodate the research within public health requirements. It is the researcher’s responsibility to follow all local public health and third-party location requirements. Local public health requirements may differ from Toronto/Peel/Ontario requirements. As always, the university is committed to the safety, health, and wellbeing of all members of our community, to the provision of a safe and healthy work and study environment, and to the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses. This commitment includes current COVID-19 measures. Institutional third-party and field sites are similarly dedicated to their communities.
 

Field Site Capacity Assessment

  • The public health directives of these sites or facilities must be followed and if permission from the site is required, it must be granted before proceeding with research.
  • For University of Toronto research field sites that are used by multiple academic divisions, there will need to be coordination and discussion among the relevant academic divisions.
  • In cases where multiple researchers or teams are going to the same research field site, there will need to be coordination and prioritization to ensure that we can meet the public health requirement of physical distancing. It may be possible to schedule visits to the field site to avoid issues with physical distancing.
     

Note:

  • Please review the Guidance on Research and Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic .
  • As of October 15, 2021, off-campus research will no longer be reviewed through the Face-to-Face COVID-19 Review Committee. There is no longer a requirement to complete the Face-to-Face and Off-Campus (F2FOC) form. It is the researcher’s responsibility to familiarize themselves with local public health and third-party location requirements and adjust their procedures accordingly.
  • Research at university-owned sites requires adherence to the university’s vaccination policies. For research at third-party locations, applicable local vaccination requirements and other measures required by third parties must be followed.
  • The above is predicated upon adherence to public health requirements and applicable guidance
     

Third-party Capacity Assessment

The public health directives of these sites or institutions must be followed and if permission from the site is required, it must be granted before proceeding with research (e.g., Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network).

III. Process for Approving Research Restart Plans

Each Division has established their own research recovery approval process.

Whilst physical distancing is not required within instructional spaces, individual research spaces in the recovery period may have restricted numbers of people allowed at one time and must follow public health directives. Approvals may be revoked at any time should public health, university or divisional requirements change.

Academic divisions have divisional research recovery committees; for multi-department academic divisions, Chairs and Director input is sought via divisional committees. The divisional committees will consider local processes within their divisions guided by the Research Recovery and Adaptation Principles and other guidance developed by the Research Restart Steering Committee.