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Updated Amendments to Phase 2 – On-Campus Research
Effective July 20, 2021

Overview

With the Province entering Step 3 and with guidance from infectious disease experts, we are continuing to reduce restrictions to Phase 2 of our Phased Return to Increased Research Activity. The amended directives are effective July 20, 2021. Information regarding a broader return to campus will be forthcoming as described in the July 19th Campus Update.

Please note, with the exception of what is described below, we still encourage meetings to be held remotely, as outlined in the Campus Update. As with previous phases, and in all cases, research conducted at a hospital site or McMaster Innovation Park must also adhere to site-specific SOPs and protocols.

Training of Research Personnel

Note: The addition of any research personnel, previously trained or new trainees, requires a simple amendment to your already approved Research Activity Plan. If you do not already have an approved Research Activity Plan, you must submit one before any training can begin.

Training of McMaster researchers (undergraduates, graduate students, PDFs, staff), non-McMaster volunteer researchers and visiting scientists working on McMaster-based research projects should be done remotely. When not possible, training is allowed under certain conditions; precautions required will depend on the category of the training.

Category 1: Training which maintains physical distancing greater than 2m. 

Training that can be done from a distance of at least 2m is allowed provided the instructor and trainee(s) follow existing COVID-specific work processes and shared space protocols.

Category 2: Training from a distance of less than 2m that may include limited direct contact.

Training that requires the instructor and trainee to be within 2m of each other is allowed only under these conditions:

Involvement of Human Participants

Note: Research personnel or researchers (those conducting the research) are distinguished from human participants (those who are the subject of the research). Due to the complexities and potential for increased risk, all Research Activity Plans involving human participants will be submitted separately through this portal.

For research activities where participants require materials or instruments but do not need to attend campus, items should be delivered by mail or courier. Where this is not possible, in-person delivery of materials by research personnel does not require additional approval, but does require strict adherence to social/physical distancing policies, and procedures should be clearly outlined in any relevant ethics applications.

Research is permitted under the following conditions:

  • Prior to coming to campus for the first time, all research personnel must complete the Employee/Research ChecklistFor subsequent visits, the provincial self-assessment must be completed one hour before coming to campus.
  • All research participants must complete the provincial self-assessment one hour before coming to campus. If determined safe to participate, once on campus, participants must adhere to McMaster-specific COVID policies and directions.
  • All studies must occur in rooms specifically designated by the respective ADR and Department Chair.
  • Records – including names, times and dates – must be kept to for tracking and participants should be advised of this in their Letter of Information. If this differs from previously approved confidentiality protocol, new documents must be filed with the appropriate research ethics board. Similar records will be kept of all research personnel involved.
  • All participants and researchers must wear a face covering in indoor public spaces at all McMaster locations.
  • All research personnel must be trained on standard (pre-COVID) SOPs for research involving human participants and COVID-specific work processes and shared space protocols.
  • Aerosol generating research activities are permitted if performed in a hospital clinic or clinical research laboratory under the oversight of hospital guidelines or in research facilities where aerosols are safely and properly captured and vented.

Category 1: Observation of participants under controlled conditions

Observational studies, where observer(s) and all participants wear surgical masks during face-to-face interactions and abide by all University masks and face covering guidelines and physical distancing protocols. If face coverings hamper the nature of the observation, they can be removed if participants are alone in the observation room. Face coverings are not required for children under five-years old.

Category 2: One-on-one interviews maintaining a social distance greater than 2m.

Research personnel may interview participants on campus in only those rooms designated by their V/ADR in consultation with their Chair. Such interviews are permitted if researchers and participants are separated by a distance of at least 2m, wear surgical masks.

Category 3: Group interviews, focus groups and multiple participants in the same room while maintaining a social distance at least 2m.

Research personnel may interact with participants provided all wear surgical masks and the total number of participants is limited to 50 percent capacity of the space.

Category 4: Non-invasive and invasive techniques and participant use of equipment where social distancing of at least 2m cannot be maintained.

Research that requires participants to use props or equipment such as objects, keyboards, tablets, joysticks, exercise equipment or involves non-invasive techniques such as eye-tracking devices, EEG, blood pressure monitoring, etc. or invasive techniques such as drawing blood, tissue biopsies, etc. is permitted only if all the following criteria are met:

  • All researchers and human participants wear surgical masks and follow all COVID and non-COVID health and safety protocols.
  • Only one participant at a time will be in direct contact with a researcher, i.e., during fittings for devices
  • Multiple participants using equipment may occupy a single room or space in accordance with Category 3.
  • Research involving active exercise and/or use of exercise equipment is restricted to the minimum number of research personnel required to adequately ensure participant safety. Participants may remove their mask during and, for a reasonably short period of time, after the exercise; researchers will wear a surgical mask at all times..
  • Researchers must contact equipment manufacturers to ensure COVID-specific cleaning products and procedures do not pose risk of damage to the equipment. If there is a potential risk, the equipment should not be used.
  • In cases where participants must remove a mask and are not able to remain socially distanced, or where participants and researchers must be in close proximity for an extended period of time (i.e., less than 2m for more than 15 minutes), a separate risk assessment and approval from your V/ADR  is required.

Procedures for Approval for Human Participant Research

First, read the Summary of McMaster University COVID-19 Requirements for In-Person, On-Campus Human Participant Research to ensure you are familiar with all the steps to obtain approval and the McMaster COVID-19 safety protocols and vaccination policies that you will need to follow for in-person human participant research.

All work involving human participants must be approved by MREB or HiREB, in addition to your V/ADR. These approvals may take some time. Where COVID-19 precautions and guidelines require modifications to previously approved protocols, Letters of Information and other documentation, the standard REB protocol amendment processes should be used. For a full workflow on resuming on-campus human participant research, please click here.

Procedures for Approval

Approvals are required for all activities described above. In all cases, as you are developing your plans, experts from McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB), Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (HiREB), Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) and the  Biosafety Office are available to provide guidance. Please contact directly for assistance.

If you are submitting your Research Activity Plan for the first time, please visit the Phased Return to Research Application Form Decision Tree.

If you are making an amendment to a previously approved Research Activity Plan, please use this portal.

If you are submitting your Research Activity Plan for the first time, and it does not involve human participant research please use this portal.

If your research involves human participants, please submit your Research Activity Plan to this portal.

Consultation with External Research Partners

Meetings with external research partners and stakeholders (collaborators, industry, community, and government representatives) are encouraged to take place remotely. In cases where that’s not feasible, all distancing and face-mask guidelines must be followed and an attendance record must be kept.