Directives: Principles and Procedures for Research on campus

This document outlines the specific directives for partial resumption of on-campus research starting in May 2020. It must be seen as complementary to the directives on Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 at McGill, which set out mandatory conditions for on-campus work.


Resumption of on-campus research activities will need to be progressive in order to be compatible with principles outlined in the directives on Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 at McGill. Not all buildings will be reopened at the same time.

  • Any research carried out on campus will require prior approval of the corresponding Dean.
  • All permissions will be granted for a limited time period (with possibility for renewal) and can be revoked at any time.
  • Every PI 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).
  • Every PI must take responsibility for not only adhering to safety protocols but must ensure that such protocols are adhered to by personnel 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.
  • Any situation that changes the circumstances surrounding the granting of permission must be reported in a timely manner by the PI for subsequent review by the Faculty.
  • It must be noted that the same principles will apply to research that cannot be carried out from home but is carried out off campus (such as field research) although (i) if the research is carried out in a third party host organization, any additional constraints imposed by this host organization will also apply and (ii) 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.
  • Research that includes in-person participants faces specific challenges; the same principles as above should be applied to deciding whether or not it can be restarted. The first priority should be to move to an online participation; if that is not possible, participation respecting the two-metre physical distancing could be considered; finally, if the latter is not possible, the implementation of physical barriers would have to be considered, including for instance Plexiglas dividers and wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs). Note that the latter restrictions may be very strict, as per current advice from the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST).
  • No research activity that can be carried out from home will be approved for on-campus operation. If the research involves a combination of activities that must be conducted on campus and activities that can be conducted remotely (e.g. data analysis and other computer work), research personnel must not carry out the portion of research activities that can be performed remotely while they are on campus. Exceptionally, some limited on-campus data analysis work could be approved for cases when the experimental work process includes idle/waiting periods that are significantly shorter than a work shift.
  • Prioritization of research requests will be based on:
    • Field (COVID-related research being a priority, in addition to research in the fields of health, natural sciences, agriculture, forestry, engineering, and seasonal exterior activities, as per directives from the Government of Quebec)
    • 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. It is important to note that not all buildings will become accessible at the same time
    • 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


  • 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.
  • Approval will include an approved start date for each research proposal
  • Deans will deposit approved protocols in a central location with the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), to enable tracking of individual traffic on campus, locations where activities are occurring and schedules of activity on campus
  • 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.

Please see appendices below, for template information for applications for research protocols and the procedure for reporting non-compliance.

APPENDIX 1: Template information for research protocol application

Note: A web form will be made available shortly through the faculties.

  1. Name of the PI
  2. McGill ID of PI
  3. Primary academic department
  4. Field and nature of the research being conducted
  5. Reasons why it is vital to restart part or all of on-campus research activities without delay
  6. Description of the activities that are requested to be performed on-campus and the ones that will continue to be performed remotely
  7. Research buildings for which access is requested
  8. Schedule and description of operations
  9. All laboratory room numbers for which access by trainees/personnel is requested
  10. For each person for whom access is requested:
    1. Name
    2. McGill ID
    3. Time during which access is requested (day of week; in and out times)
    4. Room number(s) to be accessed
  11. Maximum number of people working at the same time
  12. Additional common rooms that need to be accessed by trainees/personnel during this period
  13. Capacity to maintain the two-metre distance for all work areas (Y, N)
    1. Description of plan to ensure distance is maintained
  14. For research for which two-metre rule cannot be respected, which room does it involve
    1. Detailed safety plan for the case when the two-metre distance cannot be respected
  15. The specific PPE required for safe utilization of all rooms for which access is requested
  16. Estimate of monthly need for PPE for safe utilization of all rooms for which access is requested
  17. Considerations for quick ramp-down if this is required – steps? how long would this take? Consequences?
  18. List of frequently touched surfaces and strategy to clean them.
  19. List of projects already allowed under research exemption and impact on the additional activities requested in the present application.

APPENDIX 2: 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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