Western Research COVID-19 Updates

July 30: Updates to Research Recovery Plan

Dear Colleagues,

Further to Western’s July 29 Return to Campus Update, we have recognized an inconsistency between the percentages of people permitted to return to campus in the Research Recovery Plan and in the overall Return to Campus plan.

We apologize for the confusion and for any challenges this causes your efforts to plan for the weeks ahead. The safety of our community remains paramount.

As a result of these discrepancies, we have realigned our Phase 3 and Phase 4 parameters to 30 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

Please feel welcome to reach out with any questions,

Kevin Shoemaker

Acting Associate Vice-President (Research)

July 27: (Updated) Addendum to Research Recovery Plan: Resumption of Research with Human Participants

(Updates from July 9 in bold.)

Western will move to Phase 3 of its research recovery plan as of August 4.

During this phase, we continue to expand research and scholarly activities at the direction of the Deans, restricting capacity to approximately 40 per cent at a given time. Each week, we will re-assess the continued expansion of research that can advance during Phase 3. Under specific conditions, face-to-face studies with no more than minimally invasive data collection methods may be permitted.

In Phase 3 of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic we can begin resumption of research involving human participants using a phased-in approach as well as the following principles and timing:

Overarching principles

  • All studies must be approved by your respective academic unit process. As needed, these units may consult with Acting Associate Vice-President (Research), Kevin Shoemaker or Occupational Health and Safety.
  • Studies with participants or researchers with known susceptibilities for COVID-19 will require specific discussions between the respective academic unit, Western Research and/or Occupational Health and Safety as per the links above.
  • A phased-in approach will be used to provide time for researchers to develop good safety practices in advance of higher-risk studies.
    • First, studies of people already on campus (students, staff or faculty participants).
    • Later in Phase 3, studies will begin using non-Western participants who travel onto campus, following Western-approved COVID-19 screening mechanisms.
    • Also later in Phase 3, face-to-face studies conducted off-campus can commence and will require adherence to both Western risk mitigation strategies (physical distance, masks, hand hygiene, gloves) and those outlined by the organization or community where the research will be conducted. Please note: in the case of off-campus face-to-face meetings, you must provide additional documentation about safety guidelines for the organization where the study will be conducted, along with the adherence plan.
  • Please refer to overarching Research Recovery Plan guidelines for further information.

Studies allowed in Phase 3

  1. All study models approved in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
  2. Studies with no more than minimally invasive* data collection methods where physical contact is required to attach data collection instruments, under the following conditions: 
    1. Limited to low-risk populations in the early portions of Phase 3.
    2. Acute studies that can be reversed or stopped in the event of a viral rebound.
    3. Researchers and participants will wear surgical masks and practice good hand hygiene while in the research area, even if physical distancing can be achieved.
    4. When physical contact is required, researchers will don surgical masks, face shields and gloves.
    5. Interventions or study procedures are restricted to research manoeuvres/interventions that retain low levels of breathing volumes that can be achieved while wearing a surgical mask or a filtered respiratory gas collection setup that prevents the spread of exhaled droplets (viral and bacteria capture filters are available).
  3. Studies conducted within hospital clinics under the oversight of hospital guidelines and personnel.
  4. Each week, we will re-assess the continued expansion of research that can advance during Phase 3.

Studies delayed until late Phase 3 at least

  1. On-campus face-to-face studies of persons who express higher risks for COVID-19 susceptibility or morbidity.
  2. Studies involving data collection at ventilation volumes above levels sufficiently supported while wearing a surgical mask (e.g., exercise, altered inhaled levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide).

Keep in mind: The safety of our community is paramount: we must remain flexible and prepared to return to an essential services model should external or internal circumstances change.

*Minimally invasive refers to studies of alert participants asked to do simple tasks with or without instrument monitoring in accordance with approved Human Research Ethics documentation.

July 9: Addendum to Research Recovery Plan: Resumption of Research with Human Participants

In Phase 3 of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic we can begin resumption of research involving human participants using a phased-in approach as well as the following principles and timing:

Overarching principles

  • All studies must be approved by your respective academic unit process. As needed, these units may consult with Acting Associate Vice-President (Research), Kevin Shoemaker or Occupational Health and Safety.
  • Studies with participants or researchers with known susceptibilities for COVID-19 will require specific discussions between the respective academic unit, Western Research and/or Occupational Health and Safety as per the links above.
  • A phased-in approach will be used to provide time for researchers to develop good safety practices in advance of higher-risk studies.
    • First, studies of people already on campus (students, staff or faculty participants).
    • Later in Phase 3, studies will begin using non-Western participants who travel onto campus, following Western-approved COVID-19 screening mechanisms.
    • Also later in Phase 3, face-to-face studies conducted off-campus can commence and will require adherence to both Western risk mitigation strategies (physical distance, masks, hand hygiene, gloves) and those outlined by the organization or community where the research will be conducted. Please note: in the case of off-campus face-to-face meetings, you must provide additional documentation about safety guidelines for the organization where the study will be conducted, along with the adherence plan.
  • Please refer to overarching Research Recovery Plan guidelines for further information.

Studies allowed in Phase 3

  1. All study models approved in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
  2. Studies with no more than minimally invasive* data collection methods where physical contact is required to attach data collection instruments, under the following conditions: 
    1. Limited to low-risk populations in the early portions of Phase 3.
    2. Acute studies that can be reversed or stopped in the event of a viral rebound.
    3. Researchers and participants will wear surgical masks and practice good hand hygiene while in the research area, even if physical distancing can be achieved.
    4. When physical contact is required, researchers will don surgical masks, face shields and gloves.
    5. Interventions or study procedures are restricted to research manoeuvres/interventions that retain low levels of breathing volumes that can be achieved while wearing a surgical mask or a filtered respiratory gas collection setup that prevents the spread of exhaled droplets (viral and bacteria capture filters are available).
  3. Studies conducted within hospital clinics under the oversight of hospital guidelines and personnel.

Studies delayed until late Phase 3 at least

  1. On-campus face-to-face studies of persons who express higher risks for COVID-19 susceptibility or morbidity.
  2. Studies involving data collection at ventilation volumes above levels sufficiently supported while wearing a surgical mask (e.g., exercise, altered inhaled levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide).

Keep in mind: The safety of our community is paramount: we must remain flexible and prepared to return to an essential services model should external or internal circumstances change.

*Minimally invasive refers to studies of alert participants asked to do simple tasks with or without instrument monitoring in accordance with approved Human Research Ethics documentation.

June 12: (Updated) Early return of research graduate students and postdoctoral scholars

We understand the message disseminated on June 10 regarding the early return of research graduate students and postdoctoral scholars may have inadvertently caused some confusion around the timing of research recovery.

Please note: The early return of research graduate students and postdoctoral scholars starting June 15 has not changed the timing of the phases of research recovery or return to campus. The University remains in Phase 1 and our capacity to support research remains at Phase 1 levels until at least July 2.

Research grad students and postdocs can return to campus on June 15 at the invitation of their Dean or designate, but the research being performed must also have Dean or designate approval, in accordance with Phase 1 criteria that sustains safety and is prioritized to COVID-19-related or other critical conditions.

As a reminder, Phase 1 of research recovery is as follows:

  • Some buildings reopen
  • Ongoing prioritized research continues
  • No research areas closed in response to COVID-19 will open during this period
  • Develop plans for research space operations with department/Dean
  • Decisions made by Human Resources and Facilities Management as part of global re-entry plan
  • Determine critical supplies for next 2-3 months and prioritize early activities, considering potential return to essential services model
  • Refresh or obtain online training in safe use of PPE, cleaning and safety of research space

The amount of research conducted within each Faculty will vary, but must be determined by the capacity to ensure it is done safely and in a manner that can be interrupted immediately should public health guidelines and/or government directives change in response to the pandemic.

We ask for your assistance in sharing this information with your Chairs and researchers as soon as possible. Please also know Kevin Shoemaker, (Acting) Associate Vice-President (Research), is available for those who have questions or require clarification: kshoemak@uwo.ca.

The health and safety of our campus community remains our top priority and we appreciate your patience, understanding and support.

Best,

Andy

June 10: Early return of research graduate students and postdoctoral scholars

Research graduate students and postdoctoral scholars currently scheduled in Phase 2 of our return to campus plan will by Dean’s permission (or a designate) be allowed access to campus facilities to support research recovery effective June 15, 2020. Anyone who can work from home will continue to do so.

Access to campus will be controlled through a phased approach – allowing graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to have a gradual, rotational, and periodic presence on campus. Physical distancing provisions may mean some activities/access will not be permitted. Those permitted access must have an identified supervisor for their area/ time on campus (i.e. faculty supervisor, department chair, designated staff person).

Important to note that the “Return to Campus Questionnaire” must be completed before each return to campus. Please also review the recommended health and safety measures.

Sincerely,

Andy

May 28: Research Recovery Plan

Dear colleagues,

I hope you are keeping safe and well.

I am pleased to share our COVID-19 Research Recovery Plan.

As excited as we are to return to campus, I must emphasize that the safety of our community is paramount and that we must remain flexible and prepared to return to an essential services model should situations with COVID-19 continue to change.

If you do not need to be on campus, please continue to work off-site.

This message has been sent to Deans, Associate Deans (Research), Chairs and Research Officers, and I would ask you to please help us distribute it accordingly.

Many thanks to Acting Associate Vice-President (Research) Kevin Shoemaker, who spearheaded this process with the assistance of many colleagues across campus.

Many thanks and stay safe,

Sarah

May 21: COVID-19 changes to BrainsCAN’s Accelerator Internal Granting Program

Over the last two months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused on-campus research to be put on hold, resulting in delays for BrainsCAN Accelerator Program projects.

Ensuring the viability of Accelerator projects during this time of physical distancing is essential. Therefore, the BrainsCAN Executive Committee has approved supplementary funding to support active grants and assist grant holders, resulting in the following interim changes to the BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program:

  • All active grants are immediately provided a one-year, no-cost extension. This is an automatic extension; no further action is required.
  • All salary lines and animal care costs for Accelerator projects will be fully funded for the period of the essential services model (starting March 25th and ending once the essential services model is lifted). Once the university announces that on-campus research can resume, grant holders will be asked to outline the additional costing that was needed for this period.

When the essential services model has ended and the extent of the disruption to research projects is known, additional funding mechanisms for Accelerator project holders may be considered. Details will be communicated at that time.

Questions about the interim changes to the BrainsCAN Accelerator Internal Granting Program can be directed to brainscan@uwo.ca.

May 16: Clarity for Faculty re: Offices and Labs

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to provide you with some clarity regarding return to campus, as it relates to faculty offices and research labs.

Since May 12, our caretaking staff have been working hard to start deep cleaning campus buildings. The timing of their work is guided by the phased return to campus that is intended to start June 3, in anticipation of the province lifting its Declaration of Emergency on June 2.

You may have heard news from Premier Ford’s office yesterday regarding a list of additional businesses and service providers that will be permitted to open or expand services on May 19.

Included on this list was ‘professional services related to research and development’. This news was unexpected and we are seeking clarity on how, or even if, this might apply to university research.

In line with the phased return to campus plan, we anticipate research labs across campus will begin to open gradually and in priority sequencing starting June 3. Researchers will be notified by their Dean or department Chair on plans specific to their lab. We ask that in turn, researchers inform their graduate students and research staff and trainees.

As you know, current access to labs has been limited to those conducting COVID-19 specific research as well other critical longitudinal studies.

As noted in President Shepard’s May 13 update, faculty members can access their offices (and perimeter doors to their buildings) starting June 3, unless the University receives new direction from government or health authorities. Those needing to access their offices on or after this date should first contact their Dean or Chair, who are developing localized staged recovery plans to ensure buildings are properly cleaned and remain secure.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. You may also wish to refer to these online faculty and research resources.

We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through the challenges of planning in the midst of the evolving pandemic.

Best,

Andy Hrymak, Provost & Vice-President (Academic)

Sarah Prichard, Acting Vice-President (Research)

May 5: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Ivey

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Ivey Business School.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Ivey Business School Associate Dean (Faculty Development & Research) Mark Zbaracki hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Ivey Business School session:

  • May 12, 2020 | 2 p.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

May 5: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Health Sciences

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Faculty of Health Sciences.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Faculty of Health Sciences Associate Dean (Research) Janis Cardy hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Faculty of Helath Sciences session:

  • May 11, 2020 | 4 p.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

May 5: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Education

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Faculty of Education.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Faculty of Engineering Associate Dean (Research) Perry Klein hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Faculty of Education session:

  • May 11, 2020 | 11 a.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

May 1: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Engineering

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Faculty of Engineering.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Faculty of Engineering Associate Dean (Research) Miriam Capretz hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Faculty of Engineering session:

  • May 8, 2020 | 11 a.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

April 30: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Science

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Faculty of Science.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Faculty of Science Associate Dean (Research) Bryan Neff hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Faculty of Science session:

  • May 4, 2020 | 3 p.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

April 28: BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Update

Over the last two months, BrainsCAN has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 shutdown. It is clear that the current environment has caused research disruptions and difficulties that are affecting outputs from BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Scholars.

In response, BrainsCAN’s Executive Committee has worked with the BrainsCAN HQP Committee to provide an extension to all Tier I and Tier II BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Scholars for the length of the university’s closure. The official length of the extension will be communicated once the essential services model is lifted by Western. This is an automatic extension – BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Scholars do not need to apply for this extension.

Some postdoctoral researchers may also experience longer research disruptions due to the pandemic. BrainsCAN is developing a process to provide additional funding on a case-by-case basis. Details will be communicated once the extent of the shutdown is known.

On top of the automatic COVID-19 extension, BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Scholars can still apply for the two-year (Tier I) or one-year (Tier II) program extension. It requires filling out the PDF Extension Form located in the menu on the BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Fellowship Program page. This extension form can be completed up until three months before a fellowship term is set to end.

Questions about the COVID-19 BrainsCAN Postdoctoral Scholar extension can be directed to brainscan@uwo.ca.

Details about the impact of COVID-19 on BrainsCAN's Accelerator Internal Granting Program are coming soon.

April 21: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Social Science

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. This session is for the Faculty of Social Science.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Faculty of Social Science Associate Dean (Research) Ken McRae hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for the Faculty of Social Science session:

  • April 28, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

April 17: Virtual Q&A: Research at Western in the Time of COVID-19 | Schulich

Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard will begin hosting a series of faculty-specific virtual Q&A sessions for the research community. The first sessions have been scheduled for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

For many, COVID-19 has introduced new levels of uncertainty and anxiety to the research enterprise. News comes in great volumes and changes quickly.

Western’s Acting Vice-President (Research) Sarah Prichard and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Vice Dean (Research and Innovation) David Litchfield hope to address questions and concerns you may have.

You are invited to participate by Zoom in a virtual Q&A that provides updates about the current status of research and preparations for relaunching programs across campus. Register today for one of two one-hour sessions dedicated to the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry:

  • April 22, 2020 | 1 p.m.
  • April 24, 2020 | 11 a.m.

Attendance is capped at 100 participants per session, so registration is required. You will receive a ZOOM invite link upon registration.

April 8: Launch of Western Undergraduate Summer Research Internships

Western Undergraduate Summer Research Internships (USRIs) provide undergraduate students with an engaged research experience where students are given the opportunity to learn new research methods and techniques, along with gaining critical skills needed to excel within a dynamic and evolving career sector. This program also supports faculty members to further their research programs.

Summer Internships are valued at a minimum of $5,625 for a 16-week term, May-August (specific dates to be determined by the faculty member and student). Western will contribute $4,500 toward each Summer Internship, with a required minimum match of $1,125 from researcher, departmental or Faculty resources. Student interns will be paid by monthly stipend in four equal payments (May, June, July, August) unless they do not complete the agreed upon research activities, in which case they will receive payment only for each completed month of the internship.

Draft proposal forms and a student intern information form are available from each faculty's Associate Dean (Research).

April 7: Update from the Vice-President (Research) | Restrictions to Fieldwork

Dear Colleagues,

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

I am writing to provide updated guidance related to fieldwork.

Given ongoing concerns related to social distancing and the impact of travel on communities, non-essential fieldwork should remain on hold for the immediate future. To continue, this work must first be declared essential by your department chair or Dean, as relevant, and fulfill requirements set by your faculty.

Final sign-off must also be provided by the Vice-President (Research), using the linked form. [PDF]

We appreciate the impact these decisions have on your research projects and programs, particularly for graduate students. Our first priority is to protect Western’s students, trainees, staff, faculty and our surrounding communities.

Proposed fieldwork must consider the following:

  • Limit field work to essential, time-sensitive tasks
  • Follow directives of all governments, municipalities, communities and public health boards, including by respecting wishes to limit visitors to and from the area
  • Adhere to public health guidance related to social distancing
  • Minimize the number of participants at a given time and location
  • Limit interaction with the general public
  • Where possible, travel directly from home to the field site
  • Where impossible to travel in separate vehicles, maximize seating distance and use separate entrances in multi-row vehicles
  • Disinfect and avoid sharing equipment
  • Use hand sanitizer regularly
  • Do not participate in field research if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19

Thank you for your continued patience in these uncertain times.

Sarah

April 2: Launch of $1M Western Research Catalyst Grant | Surviving Pandemics

Western Research is pleased to announce the call for applications is now open for the Western Research Catalyst grant, "Surviving Pandemics: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Resilience and Recovery." This is a rapid response internal research funding opportunity offered by Western University in partnership with Lawson Research Health Institute.

Program Overview

Amidst this remarkable time of uncertainty and anxiety, Western Research and Lawson Health Research Institute are coordinating activities to support rapid response research that explores and seeks solutions with respect to the general theme of “Surviving Pandemics: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Resilience and Recovery.” Projects may address any aspect of the problem. This funding opportunity is particularly interested in proposals that employ a multi-disciplinary approach. In this regard, we wish to engage our entire research community in a city-wide program of research development that will have meaningful and lasting impact. We aim to contribute a broad range of knowledge regarding how we as a society, including our Indigenous communities, are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by providing evidence, tools, theories, and guidelines that will positively impact how we and future generations will face subsequent pandemics. To support this initiative, Western Research is providing up to $1 Million for two funding cycles that will advance the following objectives:

  • Nurture the development of multidisciplinary team-based grant models that address complex issues related to the broad theme of surviving pandemics;
  • Explore sustainable and resilient social, economic, technological, and health-related approaches that foster recovery from pandemics;
  • Develop preliminary results for larger research initiatives under this theme;
  • Increase research productivity and external funding activity;
  • Assist researchers with applying their strengths to pandemic-related issues;
  • Provide a mentoring mechanism for early career researchers; and
  • Support the mentoring of trainees.

Program Information

  • This is a two-phased funding opportunity, with the first call for applications occurring in April 2020, and the second opportunity anticipated to be held by summer 2020.
  • Funds will support a broad range of research encompassing biomedical sciences, natural sciences and engineering, social sciences, and humanities. Multidisciplinary teams and projects are encouraged.
  • This opportunity is open to researchers in all disciplines and Faculties.
  • Projects require a lead Principal Investigator and at least one Co-Investigator. Both the lead PI and the Co-Investigator must hold an academic appointment and be eligible to hold grants at Western University. This collaborative approach supports the need to develop interdisciplinary programs and provides a contingency in the event that the lead investigator becomes unable to lead the proposed work.
  • Please consult the Western Research Catalyst funding program page for detailed guidelines and additional information

Award Details

Each grant will have a maximum award value of $50,000. The funds must be spent within one year.

Program Timelines

  • Application deadline: April 22, 2020
  • Announcement of successful proposals: May 6, 2020
  • Funding start date: April 30, 2020

Applications must be submitted to Western Research Internal Grants intgrant@uwo.ca by April 22, 2020 (3:00 PM). A ROLA proposal is required for this opportunity and must be completed prior to submitting your application.

Contact Information

This competition is administered by Western Research. For more information about this opportunity please email intgrant@uwo.ca or contact Elizabeth Russell-Minda, Research Development Officer, 519-661-2111, ext. 88701.

March 30: Update from the Vice-President (Research) | Ontario Together: Helping Fight Coronavirus

Dear colleagues,

The Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities has allocated approximately $20 million for research studies related to COVID-19.

These opportunities are for:

  • Projects with rapid and valuable outcomes that tackle immediate problems. They are expected to have meaningful data generated in 6-7 months.
  • Longer-term projects that could help deal with a second wave of the virus, should it occur, or planning for subsequent pandemics.

While the province has indicated it will make a formal call for proposals, I would encourage you to consider preparing a letter of intent and rough budget if you are interested in applying. We are currently developing internal review processes for this initiative and would ask that you submit LOIs to your Associate Dean (Research) for the time being.

The team responsible for administering the Ontario Research Fund will manage this opportunity and will send application forms to principal investigators and their institutions once applications are triaged. Institutional sign-off will be required.

We anticipate project descriptions will be three pages in length, including appendices for budgets, etc. There is no requirement for matching funds, although partnered funding can be mentioned and worked into the budget.

We are being asked to keep proposed budgets realistic given limited funds and the short timeline for this initiative.

There is no formal submission deadline, although we expect applications will be reviewed by a single panel over the next 2-3 weeks. As a result, full proposals will need to be submitted within the next 10 days.

Successful applicants should hear results within two weeks of the panel’s review, and fund will flow quickly.

Many thanks and stay safe,

Sarah

March 26: Update from the Vice-President (Research) | COVID-19 Update

At the direction of the province, Western has moved to an essential services model, which affects many researchers on campus.

Appropriate access to buildings has now been provided to members of our community who have been identified as essential for maintaining critical research programs. Work related to COVID-19 also continues in several labs.

All others are to work from home.

If you have encountered issues related to access, please communicate directly with your Chair or Dean, as appropriate.

We will, as agencies announce them, continue to communicate new funding opportunities for research related to COVID-19 by email and on the Western Research website.

I would also like to acknowledge, and thank, the many members of our community who have continued to support front-line health-care workers by providing PPE from their labs and by working on other innovative ways of supporting them. Please contact me if you have any additional suggestions or donations.

We thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this new terrain. I acknowledge the anxiety and unknowns our fellow faculty, staff, students, trainees and community members must be feeling.

By continuing to work together, we will come through this stronger. Stay safe.

March 26: Just Launched: Online COVID-19 "Match-making" Platform for Collaboration

Another potential tool Canada can use to collaborate faster with EU researchers.

Earlier today, UK-based open innovation network, Crowdhelix, in partnership with Brussels-based media company Science|Business, has launched a free online match-making service to help COVID-19 researchers find one another across the globe, check out funding opportunities, and get to work tackling the virus faster.

The service is a simple online tool to help COVID-19 researchers connect, whatever their country or specialty. This new network is advised by Dr. Björn Kull, Head of Grants Office at Karolinska Institutet, the Stockholm medical university. It is also supported by leading Belgian university KU Leuven.

How it works: With the Crowdhelix service, researchers can click through to a special COVID-19 section of its custom-built Open Innovation platform. There, they can profile themselves, their teams, and their organisations, and post opportunities to collaborate. An intelligent recommender system then matches these opportunities with the most suitable prospective collaborators, using natural language processing and machine-learning.

March 24: Western Internal Grants - Approval of Extensions to Awarded Projects

Due to the recent events related to COVID-19 and potential delays to research projects, Western will allow extensions on the following internal grants should an awardee require one:

  • Western Strategic Support for Tri-Council Success grants (all programs)
  • New International Research Networks Award
  • Faculty Research Development Fund awards (Faculties provide extension approvals)

This allowance applies to current awarded grants. Should awardees require an extension on their award, we ask that they follow the usual procedure for requesting an extension, and submit a request to intgrant@uwo.ca one month prior to the end date of the award. The duration of the extension will be reviewed as per project needs and remaining balances; however, extensions of up to one year will be approved. Research reporting requirements are still in place for these programs; deadlines for reporting will be adjusted to follow the completion of project activities.

Regarding reimbursement of expenses due to the cancellation of research-related travel and/or events (refundable or non-refundable): Western internal grants will follow the same updated expenditure policies as outlined by the Tri-Agencies:

Please communicate this information to researchers in your Faculties, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

March 23: Update from the Vice-President (Research) | Essential-Services Model for On-Campus Activities

Based on a directive coming from the provincial government, Western will be moving to an essential services model beginning on Wednesday, March 25, at 12:01a.m. that will continue for at least 14 days.

In order to be as prepared as possible, I am communicating with you now with a request for information in order to continue our planning processes. It is important to note that some of the planning outlined below may change once we have more clear direction from the Province tomorrow. Western has essential services roles within the following units:

  • Campus Community Police Service
  • Power Plant
  • Research
  • Facilities Management
  • Housing and Hospitality Services
  • Student Support/ Student Experience
  • Human Resources
  • Financial Services
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • Western Technology Services (including any IT staff deemed essential within the Faculties)
  • Office of the Registrar

Leaders have been asked to identify employees required to carry out their roles on campus, who are essential to our business process. All other Western employees who can work from home should continue to do so

Course work for students will continue in the online learning model that began on March 18.

While Western has consolidated its residences as much as possible, we will continue to support students who cannot return home due to travel restrictions, health, personal circumstances, or various obligations.

As Western moves to this essential services model, please note the following important changes:

  • All on-campus eateries will be closed
  • All university research labs will be closed, with the exception of those deemed essential by the Vice-President (Research)
These include:

  • Labs conducting COVID-19 research
  • Labs that must maintain essential biological specimens
  • Labs with equipment that must continue to be calibrated and cannot be turned off
  • Animal care

The people who are needed to maintain these essential Research functions must be identified

  • All buildings will be closed, with the exception of student residences
  • Restricted card access will be granted to only essential employees, approved by Deans or Vice-Presidents

If you have questions about how this might impact your unit, please let me know.

I really appreciate your patience as we work together to move into this essential services model.

March 19: Suggested Actions for Currently Approved Research Involving Humans

Given the evolving circumstances with COVID19 Western’s Research Ethics Boards (REB) encourage all researchers with active protocols to evaluate the necessity of ongoing study activities at this time, and if needed, to make appropriate (and applicable) revisions to their study in response to Public Health Ontario recommendations until further notice – maintaining compliance to all institutional, provincial and federal guidelines.

The PI on the application is responsible for exercising sound judgment in determining when ongoing study activities are appropriate, taking into consideration: (a) the objective of the research; (b) the mandate to protect all participants, research staff and the community at large; and (c) the resources available (e.g., access to study sites, personnel, technologies, etc.) to carry out ongoing activities.

  1. Are ongoing study activities essential at this time?
  2. If ‘yes’, what study activities must continue?
  3. Are any modifications to approved study procedures needed to responsibly carry out these
    activities?
  4. If ‘yes’, will these modifications increase any risk to participants, researchers, the community at
    large or the institution?
  5. If ‘yes’, what steps will be implemented to minimize risk to all involved?
    Western’s REBs recognize the with a wide range of research across campus will necessitate diverse
    modifications to facilitate research activities during this time.

Below are some technologies Western makes available which may help facilitate social distancing and minimize travel to campus and face-to-face interactions, while still allowing research teams to communicate with each other and with participants as needed.

Consent modifications: verbal consent via telephone (required: verbal script and evidence of documented consent such as via audio-recording); written consent received via email attachment; online consent via Qualtrics (mysurveys.uwo.ca).

  • Videoconferencing options: Western Zoom. For hospital options, please use these services
  • Office 365 Suite: deemed secure for collection, transfer, storage of sensitive information (e.g.,
    de-identified research data)
As per the Memo sent on March 13, 2020, researchers must report these modifications to the REB within 5 days of implementing the change *if not possible to do so before*. These reports must be submitted as a Reportable Event in WREM (see Actions: “Create Sub-Form”), selecting “For Your Information (FYI)” in Q1.8 of the application form.

You must go into WREM and use the correspondence feature to message the specific ethics officer assigned to your file to efficiently communicate with the REB about your own individual studies. It will be much faster and the most efficient way to ensure your message gets to the most appropriate person.

The messages go right to the email for the ethics officer assigned to the file.

March 18: Update from the Vice-President (Research) | Maintenance of Lab Duties

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to safely preserve and transition research activities as we navigate changes to our campus environment in light of COVID-19.

Our first priority is to protect Western's students, trainees, staff and faculty.

We have previously offered guidance that critical lab activities can continue so long as they follow public health guidelines related to social distancing. This is a critical step in our ability to reduce transmission of the virus.

If it is impossible to maintain appropriate social distance within your facilities, you must prepare to close down your labs. This move is essential to ensuring the safety of our colleagues, and is consistent with our peer institutions.

Several teams have recently received external funding to advance research specific to COVID-19. Western and Lawson have similarly invested in these projects, which we will continue to advance while respecting social distancing guidelines.

Also, please continue to pay students on grants.

March 13: Impact of COVID-19 on Research Ethics Board (REB)-Approved Studies

Given rapidly evolving circumstances presented by COVID-19, Western’s Health Sciences and Non-Medical Research Ethics Boards (HSREB/NMREB) are monitoring the situation carefully in conjunction with hospital and university programs and units. Our primary concern is the health and wellbeing of our patients, staff, faculty and students. This is particularly important for ongoing research taking place within our hospitals/university and affiliated sites. This is a fluid situation we are monitoring closely.

The Office of Human Research Ethics does not have the resources necessary to provide their usual levels of ethical oversight. As such, investigators will temporarily need to bear an increased burden for oversight of their projects to ensure research participant/patient safety. This is particularly critical for research participants/patients whose care involves investigational drug or medical device interventions and whose safety depends on regular evaluations.

Effective immediately, enrollment of new research participants into Lawson-affiliated studies not providing a potentially essential treatment option with a time limited enrollment window should be suspended until April 30, 2020. Please note this date may be extended as the situation evolves. In contrast, enrollment of new research participants for non-Lawson affiliated studies is NOT suspended at this time.

We are advising investigators to consider whether their active research protocols could be modified or delayed to limit personal contact, laboratory visits or trips to clinics and hospitals. These modifications must be completed in collaboration with the study sponsor where applicable.

Specifically, in-person interactions should be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication wherever it is possible to maintain the protocol’s scientific validity. Considerations include the nature of the protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research and any additional risks that may arise by switching from in-person to virtual communication (e.g., Cisco Webex at the hospitals, Zoom at Western).

Revised participant consent or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with use of different communication channels), but these communication changes do not need to be approved by the HSREB/NMREB prior to implementation. Please note this is not a blanket approval for protocol changes. This correspondence applies only to changes made in response to COVID-19 precautions.

Where research staff are feeling unwell, care should be taken to stay home to prevent transmission of any illness. Institutional protocols must be followed, as determined by Western/LHSC/SJHC/Lawson, if COVID-19 is known or suspected.

While regulations (e.g., TCPS2, FDA) typically require review and approval of research protocol modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (TCPS2 Article 6.15 and 21 CFR 56.108(a)(4)). Such changes may be implemented immediately; however, where possible, the notification to the REB should be performed prior to implementing the changes, and when notification to the REB is not possible before implementation, they must be reported to the
HSREB/NMREB within five business days (via WREM-Reportable Event-FYI). Please specifically
reference “COVID-19”.

Ethical oversight is the responsibility of PIs if they are introducing additional risks and making urgent changes prior to formal HSREB/NMREB approval. Investigators must also submit a document that describes the changes and explains how participants will be protected. Copies of any new or revised participant-facing materials must also be submitted. Sign-off on the submission by WREM must be provided by the PI or a PI-delegated person.

This change to the REB process will be in place until further communicated

If you have any questions/concerns please contact the office at ethics@uwo.ca or 519-661-3036.

March 13: Update from Vice-President (Research) to Associate Deans (Research)

Thank you for your continued collegiality and efforts to ensure timely communication with our research community as we respond to rapidly evolving circumstances presented by COVID-19.

At this time, research continues as usual.

I am writing to provide a few updates.

First, we will mirror guidelines issued by the Tri-Agencies and recognize claims for non-refundable travel as eligible expenses for all internal research funding programs. These claims must include relevant cancellation documentation.

There are currently no provisions for increasing grant values to compensate for these expenses.

Second, I ask that you continue to consider contingency plans – particularly with respect to animal care, equipment, etc. – in the event we are asked to close the university.

Third, we have drafted a set of frequently asked questions, which I have attached here and would recommend you please share with researchers. These will be posted on Western’s COVID-19 information page and I anticipate we will update them as we progress.

March 13: Update from Vice-President (Research)

Western continues to closely monitor rapidly evolving circumstances presented by COVID-19. We are also developing contingency plans to address unique challenges that could potentially affect the research community.

Our first priority is to protect Western’s students, trainees, staff and faculty.

At the current time, research continues as usual, except in instances where it would contravene public health directives or where researchers believe their work would pose undue risk.

Please continue to pay special attention to social distance and hand-washing recommendations, and to follow updates on Western’s COVID-19 information page.