Dear Members of the Research Community,
I am following up on our institutional plans for a phased increase of on-campus and fieldwork research activity.
The University recognizes that research has continued in earnest since the restrictions were imposed, and applauds the research community for continuing to advance their work. Working from home remains the preference but, as some research can only be done in the field or in facilities on campus, the University has planned for a gradual, phased return of on-campus and fieldwork research.
Two committees with pan-university representation – whose work is ongoing – have been developed to provide guidance and create a framework for increasing research activity 1) on-campus and 2) in fieldwork. In both cases, the increase must be achieved using a phased approach while maintaining the health and safety of all personnel, in compliance with all government, public health and university guidelines. Fieldwork, for this purpose, refers to all research conducted outside the physical boundaries of the McMaster campuses; it does not refer to research done “remotely” through virtual means.
As the health and safety our research community remains our top priority, at this time we will ensure that:
- No researcher feels compelled to engage in on-campus or fieldwork.
- PIs retain responsibility for their research teams (PDFs, graduate students, undergraduates, technical and administrative staff).
- Researchers who feel uncomfortable about their work situation, for whatever reasons, need to know that they can confidentially report their concerns to their Dean, ADR or the (acting) Vice-President, Research.
Four Phases (Phase 0 – 3) will been implemented. Until further announcements, the University will remain in Phase 0 – the phase we are currently in – which includes only “essential” research being completed on campus as defined by the acting VPR in March 20th correspondence.
Phase 1 has been developed to respect the sentiments of Ontario’s “A Framework for Reopening our Province.” Specific dates for the implementation of Phase 1 (and all subsequent Phases) will be set by PVP and communicated by the (acting) VPR.
NOTE: Phase 1 does not signal a return of researchers for any reason other than to perform research that is impossible to perform in a remote manner. It is expected that all other important research activities such as literature review, paper writing, grant preparation, group meetings, etc., will continue to be done remotely. To ensure maintenance of a suitable density on campus and within each building, researchers will have to prioritize which projects are to be rolled out in Phase 1, with the expectation that not all projects are initiated in this Phase. Only fully trained individuals will be permitted back during this Phase. Written approval for on-campus or fieldwork must be approved by the PI’s Chair and ADR before any research commences.
An on-line platform is being created for PIs to complete their plans for approval. Along with an explanation of why research must be conducted on-campus or in the field, required information will address public health measures and inform the University of how many individuals are expected to be on campus/in the field and in what locations. More detailed instructions on Phases 2 and 3 will be made available before the specific dates are announced. In each phase, Public Health, EOHSS and Facility Services’ directions on physical/social distancing, hygiene practices and redefined maximum occupancies/personnel density must be strictly followed. The on-line forms – for on-campus and fieldwork – will be live shortly on the research website; and we will advise when they are available. While you are encouraged to complete this planning document and share with your Chair and ADR for approval, no on-campus or fieldwork activities will commence until you receive specific instructions that the move to Phase 1 has been granted.
Phase 2 is dependent on the success of Phase 1. Remote working still remains the preferred method but managed, staggered lab/office access will be allowed for faculty, postdocs, and trained graduate and undergraduate students; adhering to all public health policies and university guidance.
Phase 3 will be dependent on the success of Phase 2 and will continue with a relaxation of staggered occupancy or space and increased opportunity for training of undergraduate and graduate students; adhering to all public policies and university guidance.
I appreciate your patience as we work through this process. There are many things to consider as we reinstate on-campus and fieldwork research across the Faculties, but your – and your research teams’ – health and safety remains our top priority. Because of this, we are taking every measure to ensure our approach is well considered and measured.