This update is provided for archival purposes only. Public Health guidance and University of Waterloo operations may have changed. Please review detailed information about academicsresearch and our safe and staged return to campus.

Implications of provincial shutdown measures on research

Monday, April 5, 2021

This message was originally sent to faculty by Charmaine Dean, vice-president, research and international.


  • Province-wide shutdown measures came into effect April 3
  • Face-to-face research with human participants to be suspended (with some exceptions)
  • New travel for off-campus research and field work outside Waterloo Region, including out-of-province travel, will be suspended
  • All other on-campus research, under approved safety plans, may continue.

The Government of Ontario announced a province-wide shutdown effective Saturday, April 3, 2021. This impacts Waterloo Region, and is expected to be in place for a minimum of 28 days. This critical measure, to limit the transmission of COVID-19 in our region and across the province, directly impacts the University of Waterloo campus.

Lab research

On campus lab research (except human participant research – see below) is not affected by these measures at this time. Faculty members, postdocs, graduate students and research staff may continue ongoing lab research that is compliant with the approved safety plans.

In the event that further direction on scaling back lab activities is given in the future, all departments are expected to have a plan in place for such scaling back of lab research activities.

Off campus field research

Field research within Waterloo Region may continue under approved safety plans. 

Researchers may NOT travel into or out of other public health regions to conduct research during the shutdown. 

If researchers are already in the field (outside Waterloo Region) they may remain and continue their research under approved safety plans. 

Out-of-province field work that has already commenced (i.e. researchers have already left Ontario) may proceed as planned following approved safety plans. Travel that has been given approval but has not begun (i.e. researchers have not departed) must be postponed until further notice.

New and pending requests for field work outside of Waterloo Region are immediately suspended.

Human participant research

All in-person (face-to-face) research involving human participants that is being conducted on the University of Waterloo campus or an off-campus location in Ontario is to be suspended until further notice, including ongoing research and studies that have recently received REB clearance. This includes research with approved safety plans, as well as studies that recently received approval of a safety plan. Exceptions are noted below.

Under the shutdown, University of Waterloo researchers may not travel to conduct research (including human participant research). Scheduled visits with participants must be postponed.

The Office of Research Ethics will continue to review applications, but the REBs will not issue clearance to new protocols or amendments that involve in-person human participant research until further notice. If additional study visits are needed to preserve the safety and well-being of the participants, or a few additional visits are needed to complete a study, contact researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca. Amendments to shift to online or virtual methods will be prioritized for review. Renewals will continue to be reviewed and approved to ensure studies remain in good standing.

Exceptions for some human participant research/human participant contact

The following activities may continue:

  • Research specifically focused on COVID-19
  • Treatments or services being delivered to clients (e.g. clients receiving optometry or mental health treatment, or assessments)
  • Activities involving participants who need to continue to be monitored 
  • Activities that must be maintained for the health and safety of participants
  • Research without any in-person contact (e.g., online, virtual, phone-based studies).

If you are unsure whether your research falls into one of these categories, or if you have further queries, please contact researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca for confirmation.

Research using animals

Animal care is an essential service; the highest level of care and husbandry within our current staffing levels will be maintained. This research may continue. 

We are available to help you. If you are unsure whether your research may continue, contact researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca for confirmation. A team of staff in the Office of Research respond to this address. Your messages may also be copied to muirhead@uwaterloo.ca or vpri@uwaterloo.ca.

The health and wellbeing of our University community, and successful reopening of our campus, depends on each of us taking safety precautions not only in the lab but in our day-to-day activities. The University of Waterloo expects our students and staff to follow all public health and safety guidelines when off campus.