General

Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund: Public Accountability & Transparency

1. Overview

On May 15, 2020, the Prime Minister announced $450 million in funding to help Canada’s academic research community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment is designed to do the following.

  • Provide wage supports to universities and health research institutes, so they can retain research staff who are funded from industry or philanthropic sources and are unable to access some of the government’s existing COVID-19 support measures. Initially, the government committed to provide up to 75 per cent of the eligible portion of eligible research personnel’s wages, with a maximum of $847 per week for up to 12 weeks per individual, within the eligibility period of March 15, 2020 to August 29, 2020. The maximum period of support was later extended to a maximum of 24 weeks.
  • Support universities and health research institutes to maintain essential research-related activities during the crisis, and to ramp back up to full research operations once physical distancing measures are eased. This will cover up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs, and will support activities such as the safe storage of dangerous substances, and restarting data sets that were interrupted during the pandemic.
     

The Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF) was launched by the Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) a few weeks later on June 23, with details on Stages 1 and 2 (wage subsidy). Stages 3 and 4 were rolled out in September and October.

2. The University of Toronto & Affiliated Health Care Institutions Benefiting from CRCEF

Collectively, the University of Toronto and its affiliated hospitals/research institutes undertake a significant proportion of Canada’s academic research activity.  The research enterprise at each of our institutions has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and we are deeply appreciative that the Government of Canada has recognized this negative impact in the creation of the Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund.  This funding will help us to maintain staff and essential activities during pandemic-related slowdown of, or interruption to, research and as we resume full research operations in new circumstances.

In addition to academic divisions of the University of Toronto, the following affiliated health care institutions are benefitting from CRCEF:

Our affiliated hospitals are each responsible for developing, documenting and disseminating their respective institutional CRCEF processes and for attesting to the University that their processes meet program requirements.

3. Method of Distribution of CRCEF Funds Across Our Institutions

Stages 1, 2 & 4 - Wage Subsidy

Wage support for research personnel whose salaries were adversely affected by COVID-19 and who are paid in part or in whole by non-governmental sources.

Upon confirmation by TIPS of program specifications for the CRCEF program, the University of Toronto and its Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) affiliated institutions moved quickly to establish discussion tables to ensure coordination and consistency in responding to this important opportunity. Together, we established a CRCEF Steering Committee, comprising representatives of the hospital research institutes and the University, complemented by a TAHSN CRCEF Data Working Group, comprising financial/research operations representatives of each of the twelve institutions. Each group is diverse in its make-up and all members of each group have undertaken unconscious bias training.

The University undertook analysis to determine “notional allocations” across the 12 institutions, using to the full extent possible the CAUBO-informed formula/data applied by TIPS in determining our Stage 1 allocation of $41.6M. The allocations and supporting data were shared with affiliates. Open and transparent exchange of information has been a cornerstone of engagement throughout the process, consistent with our approach to all matters of shared interest over many years. Together, and in consultation with TIPS, the 12 institutions confirmed a common approach to determining CRCEF-eligible funding sources and FTE.

Given the timing of the receipt of the Stage 1 payment by TIPS to the University of Toronto, all twelve institutions were able to complete their Stage 1 and 2 eligible wage subsidy analyses, rendering data regarding the eligible head count and wage subsidy expense for both Stages 1 and 2. This enabled the University to clarify the exact amounts required at each Stage for each institution. In a few cases, institutions required less than the CAUBO-informed Stage 1 amount, which was reallocated on a pro-rata basis to those institutions that required additional funds beyond the CAUBO-informed allocations. These actuals (and projections to 29 August 2020) were entered on the Convergence Portal confirming our shared need for the full $41.6M allocated to the TAHSN system in Stage 1, and an additional $9M sought through Stage 2. The University entered into an inter-institutional agreement with each of the affiliated hospitals/research institutes to enable transfer of funds upon receipt from TIPS.

Stage 4 was launched by TIPS on September 30 with a national budget of $84M derived from unspent Stage 2 funds. Stage 4 provides additional wage support for eligible research-related personnel by increasing the maximum duration of support from 12 to 24 weeks. Given that there are no institutional allocations in Stage 4, all 12 TAHSN institutions engaged in data collection within their institutions on all eligible claims for a consolidated submission to TIPS by November 30. Awarded funds will be shared across the 12 institutions, prorated consistent with the national funding rate. At the University of Toronto, given the expectation that Stage 4 would be the first CRCEF stage where demand exceeded funds available, the data collection table developed for our academic divisions included the ability to flag any equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations associated with each claim, should a selection/prioritization process become necessary (see section 4 below).
 

Stage 3

To support direct costs of research that have been incurred to: 1) maintain essential research-related commitments during the COVID-19 pandemic; and 2) support ramping-up to full research activities as physical distancing measures are eased and research activities can resume.

Stage 3 was launched by TIPS at the beginning of September with a national budget of $125M. Full details for this stage were confirmed at the beginning of October. Although there are notional allocations in Stage 3 ($18.6M for TAHSN, of which $7.5M is attributable to the U of T), institutions are permitted to submit claims exceeding their allocation against the possibility of a supplemental allocation from the Program, should other institutions not require their full allocations. Again, TAHSN institutions, coordinating at the Vice-President Research and the Working Group tables, are undertaking their respective data collection for aggregate data consolidation and submission of an application by December 15th.

Again, the University’s data collection exercise, involving divisional identification of eligible expenses as well as an open call to the research community, includes the ability to flag (EDI) considerations, on the assumption that demand will outstrip funds available and selection/prioritization for funding will be required (see section 4 below).

4. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Decision-making on CRCEF Funding

It is important to understand that the University of Toronto and each of its affiliated health care institutions is a separately incorporated, independent employer with its own governance and management structures. Therefore, each institution is responsible for management of CRCEF funding allocated to it, and for complying with the program requirements. Information on each affiliated health care institution’s approach to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) can be found via the hyperlinks in section 2, above.

At the University of Toronto, a deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion imbues all institutional processes and decision-making. In relation to decision-making on CRCEF, a senior advisory committee to the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives – the Institutional Research Leadership Group (IRLG) – is overseeing the institutional approach to allocation of CRCEF funding to eligible claims. The IRLG comprises a diverse and representative cross-section of the University’s 19 academic divisions and 3 campuses, and all members have completed unconscious bias training. The University’s Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, Strategic Initiatives, who chairs the U of T’s Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research and Innovation (EDIRI), is also a member of the IRLG, and ensures that best practices are brought to bear in the management of CRCEF funding.  Issues and questions related to EDI can be taken to the EDIRI Committee as required.

The University’s strategy for equity, diversity and inclusion in decision-making for the use of CRCEF funds fits within its broader EDI framework that is incorporated into the numerous selection/allocation opportunities that are undertaken on a daily basis. For CRCEF, we ensure the following.

  • Internal communications regarding the opportunity include language highlighting the commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in managing CRCEF funds;
  • Anyone involved in determining what claims may be brought forward is required to have undertaken unconscious bias training, particularly where the need exceeds the funds provided;
  • Attestations are on file confirming that decisions are not negatively affected by a researcher’s inability to work during the pandemic due to child/family care or increased risk related to exposure to COVID-19; and
  • Decision-making processes recognize and value research that is non-traditional or unconventional, based in Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status. This will be achieved through measures including the following.
    • Unconscious bias training/resources that  include discussion of disciplinary bias;
    • The multi-disciplinary IRLG membership includes knowledge of research in a range of fields that focus on questions of gender, race, and sexuality, as well as community-engaged research; and
    • For Indigenous research, IRLG members will be follow SSHRC’s Principles for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research, and will seek out additional expertise if required.
       

In terms of University process, and as noted above, the University adapted the Stage 3 and 4 data collection templates for academic divisions to include the capacity to flag claims that involve EDI considerations (without disclosure of personal information). In the open call to the research community, and in our instructions to academic divisions, identification of EDI considerations to and by the academic division was encouraged. When the Stage 3 and 4 institutional award amounts are communicated by TIPS, the University will work with academic divisions to finalize the allocation of funds awarded across eligible claims, taking EDI ‘flagged’ instances into consideration.

The IRLG reviews the final submission to CRCEF program, and supporting documentation, to ensure that processes have been robust and transparent and that all potential beneficiaries have been treated equitably.

5. U of T Contact for CRCEF Program Compliance

At the University of Toronto, ultimate responsibility for the CRCEF program rests with the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives (vp.research@utoronto.ca).  The Assistant Vice-President, Research Services (j.chadwick@utoronto.ca) is accountable to the Vice-President on implementation.

 

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