Directives: Principles and Procedures for Research on campus

Updated: October 30, 2020

Following government directives, until further notice, research that can be conducted remotely should be done so. Research that cannot be carried out remotely and that is currently approved to happen on campus or in person off campus can continue. Some limited research with in-person human participants will be allowed to continue. Learn more here.

This document outlines the specific directives for partial resumption of on-campus research as of July 24, 2020. It must be seen as complementary to the health guidelines, which set out mandatory conditions for on-campus work.


Resumption of on-campus research activities is progressive in order to be compatible with principles outlined in the health guidelines.

  • Any research carried out on campus will require prior approval of the corresponding Dean.
  • Research activities can be approved in High-Traffic or Limited Traffic buildings. However, if FMAS intervention is required (i.e. installation of physical barriers, enhanced environmental cleaning in Limited Traffic Buildings, or other) these requests will need to be submitted to EOC for review.
  • Building Directors must be informed of the resumption of approved research activities in their buildings, especially in Limited Traffic Buildings, and building access coordinated through them.
  • All permissions can be revoked at any time.
  • PIs who decides to apply to ramp up their research must be prepared for a sudden shut down following University or government directives or should other circumstances arise that would limit activities (e.g., a reported case of a COVID infection in a lab group).
  • All individuals involved in research activities must be aware of the McGill Internal Responsibility System. Every PI must take responsibility for not only adhering to safety protocols but must ensure that such protocols are adhered to by personnel and students under their supervision or guidance.
  • All PIs and personnel who are granted permission to pursue research have a duty of care for themselves and others to protect all from the transmission or exposure to the virus.
  • PIs must keep track of the schedule of presence of their research personnel and students onsite
  • Any situation that changes the conditions or circumstances based on which permission to resume activities was granted must be reported in a timely manner by the PI for review by the Dean.
  • All research involving human participants must comply with the Directives: Resumption of research with human participants.***Faculties must pay particular attention to review/approval of on-campus research involving human participants due to the higher risk posed by bringing external individuals into campus buildings, and potential higher risk of contamination to the participants themselves.
  • It must be noted that the same principles will apply to research that is carried out off campus (such as field research). If the research is carried out in a third party host organization, any additional constraints imposed by this host organization must be adhered to . Such research may not allow for as much coordination as on-campus research, so that an abundance of caution must apply to these projects, including proper consideration of travel limitations and shared equipment use. As usual, before any field research can be undertaken, it is also mandatory to ensure insurance coverage for all participants.
  • Given the varied nature of research activities taking place in the University, individual Faculties may add additional conditions for specific types of research situations.
  • A PI may not restart on-campus research activities before obtaining the authorization of the Dean or Dean’s delegate. Such authorization may be accompanied by conditions to ensure compliance with the rules for on-campus work.
  • Prioritization of research requests is left to the Deans, and may be based on:
    • Field (COVID-related research being a priority)
    • Whether it is new or continuing research
    • An assessment, at a higher-level, of the impact of the proposed protocol on the overall level of activity and number of individuals in a given building and across campus. This includes assessing the ability for the researchers to conduct their clinical trials and/or in-person subject participation.
    • Facilities Management and Ancillary Services’ (FMAS) ability to serve buildings and ensure health and safety
    • Availability of a robust and viable pipeline for procuring required equipment and PPE for the research
    • Contribution to graduate student project completion, and in particular the research of those students who are close to graduation
    • Urgency of carrying out the research project because of timing issues (seasonal requirements, specific timelines for testing) or funding issues

Suggested procedures

  • A PI wishing to restart on-campus research activities will submit a detailed research resumption protocol to their Dean or to the Dean’s delegate, outlining how the proposed protocol abides by all the rules for on-campus work, including additional rules set by each Faculty. Each Faculty may decide to request a first stage of approval at the Department or School level. This short protocol must include, at a minimum:
    • The field and nature of the research being conducted; PIs should prioritize which portions of their research program to restart.
    • Reasons why it is vital to restart on-campus research activities without delay
    • Details about locations of activities, research trainees and personnel
    • Schedule and description of operations
    • A description of common/shared spaces and equipment necessary to conduct the research
    • A description of the cleaning procedure to be used between shifts and after the use of equipment
    • Measures taken to abide by rules for on-campus work; should it be impossible to respect the normal physical distancing directives, a detailed description of additional measures to be taken for the operation is required,
    • Provisions for personnel absences due to health-related circumstances or care responsibilities, and
    • Availability of appropriate PPE.
    • Any involvement of human participants must be explicitly mentioned in the resumption plan, as per the relevant directives
  • Approval will include an approved start date for each research proposal

APPENDIX 1: Procedure for reporting non-compliance

It is of paramount importance that all community members involved in on-campus research activities comply with established safety protocols.

It is important to note that some circumstances can lead to perception of non-compliance, when there is none; an example would be the case of individuals working in close contact, but who happen to live in the same apartment. In many cases, a quick discussion with the individuals involved will help resolve such perceptions.

It is also important to establish clear reporting procedures.

  1. Non-compliance with safety protocol within a lab/research space is reported to the relevant Dean (e.g., via email to the Dean from a lab member). Any other member of the McGill community who is in receipt of a report of non-compliance should forward it promptly to the Dean.
  2. The Dean must investigate the situation without delay, beginning by contacting the PI, then any other lab members, if applicable. The Dean may request advice from Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).
  3. As part of the investigation, the Dean or delegate may do a visual inspection of the lab/research space.
  4. If a claim about safety protocol violation is substantiated, the Dean will consult with Legal Services, the Associate Provost (Equity and Academic Policies), and/or Human Resources as required to determine appropriate measures, which may include:
    • Indefinite suspension of on-campus lab/research space activities; or
    • Other measures such as sending some of the staff home until additional measures can be put in place (e.g. PPE). This is preferable to an indefinite suspension of lab/research space activities in cases where that measure would unduly penalize researchers in the lab/research space (especially graduate students and postdoctoral fellows)
  5. The lab/research space can resume activities only when the Dean is assured that safety protocols can and will be followed.
  6. Disciplinary process can be initiated if warranted within a reasonable delay once the lab/research space logistics are settled.
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