Return to Research

Dr. Danika van Proosdij conducting research on a marsh.

A protocol and process guide for a phased approach to returning to on-campus and field research activities

This Protocol and Process Guide provides direction on how on-campus and field research activity can resume in phases, to be implemented when circumstances related to COVID-19 in Nova Scotia will allow the gradual lifting of activity restrictions. The processes outlined here are sufficiently general that they can be followed throughout the coming months, within the evolving stages of lifting activity restrictions by the Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH).

This content is also available as a PDF: Return to Research Protocol [PDF].

Fifth Phase of SMU Return to Research process (July 2021):

In keeping with both the Nova Scotia phased approach to re-opening (which entered Phase 3 at the end of June - and with the SMU’s own Return to Campus planning for Fall 2021, the following update to our Return to Research process is effective as of July 6, 2021:

  • Research activities taking place entirely on-campus, at Saint Mary’s University, will no longer be required to be overseen through the Return to Research process.
    • no new applications for on-campus research activities need be submitted, and the ongoing updates of activities/personnel back to the AVP Research Office regarding previously approved on-campus research are no longer required.
    • all researchers (faculty/staff/students) will be expected to follow the same precautions and protocols as all others returning to campus – e.g. using the check-in/out portal, wearing masks at all times except when alone in an office as outlined at, and being award of the indoor gathering limits per the Provincial mandate of the given re-opening phase and/or any room-capacity restrictions provided by the university.
    • For shared-office users (graduate students / PT faculty):  occupants will be responsible for respecting the designated occupancy-limit for any shared office space; continued use of a central room-booking person for each space (as had been previously established) is no longer mandatory, but may remain helpful for coordinating your activities (and avoiding disappointment of arriving to an already-full work space).  If anyone in such a shared office space is unsure of their room capacity, please email the AVP Research Office Assistant (Vanisa Omicevic
  • Given that all university travel remains suspended unless an exemption has been obtained through a Return to Research approval:  the current Return to Research application/review/approval process for any/all research activities that do not occur on SMU campus remains in effect for any/all off-campus research.
    • This includes any research activities involving travel, and includes – but is not limited to – the following activities: field research, community-based research involving human participants, research conferences or workshops. (previously approved researchers/projects remain approved)
    • Applications involving travel within Canada will now be entertained, given the current state of cross-provincial restrictions in place.   Applications should outline plans for all researchers to follow any provincially-mandated requirements associated with cross-border travel, and willingness of all researchers to participate.
    • We are not yet normally reviewing applications involving international travel, and are first awaiting a further easing of government guidelines in this area.
Prior FOURTH PHASE of Return to Research process (which was in effect until July 5, 2021)

In addition to the now well-established allowance for full-time faculty members to access their offices on a regular basis utilizing the check-in/out website provided to faculty (since August 2020), the recent approval of a protocol to allow shared-office access for graduate-students/postdocs/part-time faculty (March 2021) allows the initiation of the Fourth (and hopefully-Final!) Phase of the Return to Research process.

Note that the general protocol for shared-office access is outlined in this document which was distributed to full-time faculty members in March 2021:

With this guiding general protocol, Return to Research applications will be accepted (via email to, in the usual manner) to provide such research-specific shared-office/space access for research students and other team members based on this research-specific shared-office access document:

In addition, since October 2020, applications have been accepted following the process outlined here for research activities falling into this category:

  • research that involves face-to-face interactions with either research participants or research collaborators (or stakeholders)

Further, applications continue to be accepted for research activities falling into one of the two categories previously announced for the First Phase on May 25, 2020:

  • research related directly to COVID-19 issues
  • field research

Finally, applications for research activities associated our Second Phase which was announced on June 19, 2020, continue to accepted:

  • research that requires specialized facilities available only on the Saint Mary’s University campus

Applications for research activities falling into any of these identified categories will continue to be reviewed when applications are received.

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