The COVID-19 pandemic and the present need to limit on-campus research has created unprecedented uncertainty for McGill Principal Investigators and the members of your teams. Specifically, many of you have shared your questions and concerns about renewing grant-based employment contracts for your research and laboratory staff – including postdocs, technicians, research assistants, and research associates – if their ability to work remains limited in the weeks and months ahead.
I am therefore writing to reassure you that I have been in very frequent contact with the four federal funding agencies. On Tuesday of this week, the U15 Research Committee met with the Presidents of the four primary federal funding agencies: Michael Strong of CIHR, Alejandro Adem of NSERC, Ted Hewitt of SSHRC, and Roseann Runte of CFI. On Wednesday, the Principal and other Executive Heads of Quebec Universities met with Rémi Quirion of the FRQ.
Each organization is developing its own plan for ensuring continuity of research funding for its current grant holders. While the details of the plans will vary from one agency to the next, they all share an emphasis on protecting personnel as much as possible. Unfortunately, both the provincial and federal agencies continue to await ministerial approval before full details of their plans can be made public. I have been told the process could take up to two more weeks, depending on the funding body. Please note that CIHR announced some grant extensions on April 2.
In the meantime, I would like to remind you that, following government directives, McGill has confirmed all staff with a valid contract of employment, regardless of funding source, must be paid during the extended suspension period lasting until May 1. As such, I am asking you to apply your usual review and renewal processes for employees whose contracts are set to expire before the end of the month.
Simply put, stay the course. If you intended to renew an employee before COVID-related measures restricted their work, please do so. If you did not intend to renew an employee at the end of their contract, do not feel compelled to do so now. However, we ask that you ensure all obligations provided in collective agreements, or University regulations and policies, are respected. Please contact your local HR Advisor to review specific files.
You can read answers to other research-related questions on Research and Innovation’s Frequently Asked Questions webpage. If you cannot find what you are looking for there, please email research [at] mcgill.ca, and my staff will be happy to help you in whatever way we can.
I will continue to share new information from the funding agencies as soon as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience. Keep well.
Martha Crago, PhD, C.M.
Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation)