Implication of the Ontario State of Emergency on Research Involving Human Participants

A message from Professor Lori Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research (Oversight and Compliance) January 14, 2021

The Government of Ontario has announced a provincial emergency and a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday, January 14. This order requires that “everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work”.

This message is an update to our December 21 message that addressed the implications of the provincial shutdown on human research activities. Please note that the only research-related change arising from the January 12 provincial emergency declaration is that the institution is responsible for ensuring that any person who performs work conducts their work remotely, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace. Therefore:

  • All research work that can be conducted remotely must be done remotely, and researchers may only work on campus if the nature of the work requires them to be on-site.

We are also requiring the following:

  • Please limit travel on campus; perform work during approved, designated shifts in designated work areas unless individuals are absolutely required to travel to other areas

Given the increased levels of community transmission and the risk for human participants, all face-to-face (in-person) research involving human participants that was approved by the University (e.g. U of T REB is the Board of Record) within Ontario continues to be paused until further notice apart from the exceptions below. This includes all in-person recruitment of human participants; in-person data collection involving human participants for on-going research; as well as studies involving human participants that have recently received REB approval. Online and virtual research may continue as usual.


  • COVID-19 research;
  • Where the U of T REB is the Board of Record and the study involves in-person research where the participant is receiving a service that would be delivered/received regardless of the research. Please contact the Human Research Ethics Unit at for confirmation that your research falls into this category;
  • Where the U of T REB is not the Board of Record (e.g. a TAHSN REB is the Board of Record), researchers should follow the applicable direction of that institution (assuming the in-person research is not on our campus);
  • Researchers currently in other regions or countries conducting U of T REB-approved in-person research may continue, as long as they follow all applicable public health directives and safety measures, including all regional directives. If you have any questions/concerns regarding safety while conducting in-person research, please contact

The REBs will no longer approve new protocols or amendments that involve face-to-face (in-person) human-participant research that is non-COVID-19 research until further notice. Amendments to pivot to online or virtual methodologies will be reviewed. Renewals and protocol completion reports will continue to be reviewed to ensure that protocols remain in good standing.

You will be notified on this webpage once face-to-face (in-person) research involving human participants can be resumed. Please direct questions to

Continue to stay safe and healthy.