Next phase of Return to Research update

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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


  • Details on next phase of return to research  
  • Updates to the return to on-campus research process 
  • New Personnel in Labs 
  • Safety Plan Compliance and Monitoring 

Next Phase of Return to Research Update 

The next phase of the return to research plan includes restarting on-campus research with face-to-face human participants that was interrupted because of Covid-19. This will be done in stages.  

Stage 1 - On-campus research requiring immediate restart – now open: Face-to-face human participant studies with healthy/less-vulnerable individuals that were interrupted/halted because of Covid-19. 

Stage 2 – New on-campus research – expected September 8: Face-to-face human participant studies with healthy/less-vulnerable individuals that were given ethics clearance but unable to begin because Covid-19. 

Human participant studies that need to be conducted off-campus or with vulnerable individuals (those who are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19) will restart in later stages. Further information and guidance will be shared in the coming weeks.  

The request form, safety plan template and detailed instructions for this stage of restarting research with face-to-face human participants are available at  uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus/research-information

Updates to the Return to Research Process 

Although most researchers are now operational in on-campus laboratories, all researchers planning to resume laboratory research activities during Fall 2020 are encouraged to seek a Return to Research approval so that we can complete the process of restarting on-campus research. All requests for Return to Research must include a detailed Safety Plan. The requirement to have an approved Safety Plan in place to access research laboratories is expected to continue at least through December 2020.  

If you were granted campus access for critical or COVID-19 related research, you also need to have a Safety Plan in place for your lab (based on the Laboratory Research Safety Plan Template). Contact researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca for additional information or to answer any questions or receive support on handling this requirement. 

Faculty-specific reviewers are continuing to be employed in the process for review and approval of Safety Plans. Applicants should please download the most recent templates available at uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus/research-information. There are thorough and helpful instructions included to support researchers. 

Departments and Faculties are tracking researchers and graduate students granted approval to Return to Research (via the research queries process) within their units.  

New Personnel in Labs 

Many Principal Investigators will have new personnel who would begin working in your laboratories this Fall. The addition of individuals to existing safety plans no longer requires going through the research queries process. Requests for approval of additional individuals to be on campus will continue to be made to your respective Dean’s offices. 

New personnel are to sign the acknowledgement on your Safety Plan prior to accessing the laboratory. Then an up-to-date version with new personnel is to be posted in the lab.  

Safety Plan Compliance and Monitoring 

All laboratories with an approved Safety Plan are required to post the final signed Safety Plan in the laboratory. Compliance monitoring is ongoing and will continue to take place to ensure safety for our whole community. 

As a supervisor, you are requested to meet virtually with your research personnel every 2 weeks, to check-in on safety matters with lab members, to ensure all protocols stated in your laboratory safety plan are being followed and to discuss with your team any issues arising and assist in correcting such issues.  Please feel free to reach out to researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca  or your safety officer if you need assistance in solving problems that arise. 

Next steps and feedback 

We will continue to provide regular updates as we implement the phased approach and adapt according to guidelines from the federal and provincial public health authorities. 

As always, we welcome your feedback on any of these processes and encourage you to ask questions or share concerns. You may send comments or questions to  researchqueries@uwaterloo.ca  or directly to my office through  vpri@uwaterloo.ca.  

Thank you for your efforts in supporting a safe and efficient return to on-campus research. 


Public Health and safety 

Prevent the spread of COVID-19 

To ensure the health and safety of yourself and your colleagues, the University of Waterloo requires that employees and students monitor themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. See https://uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus/return-campus/workplace-health-and-safety-guidance/health-protocols for information.  

Practice physical distancing and proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and carefully with soap and water, especially before eating, preparing or handling food, and avoid touching your face. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to hand washing, but they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.    

The health and wellbeing of our University community, and continued 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 guideline when off campus. 

What to do if you are feeling ill 

If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, take measures to prevent further transmission of the virus. This includes staying home and contacting your health care provider. Please report any illnesses to Occupational Health through email, occupationalhealth@uwaterloo.ca  or extension 30338/36264.