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].

Temporary “scale-back” of Research Activities for “3rd wave” restrictions, following the Nova Scotia CMOH announcements of enhanced restrictions in Halifax region and Nova Scotia (April 28 – May 20):
  • For off-campus field research activities
    • only essential off-campus field research should be undertaken, to only the level required to keep the research activity functioning and avoid loss of data; the number of people undertaking any activity should kept at a minimum; and, travel to any field site should only be undertaken if absolutely necessary (since travel in/out of HRM is currently restricted to “essential travel” only).
    • please use “minimal community contact” protocols.
    • Field research that is flexible must be deferred until restrictions are relaxed.
    • Please email FGSR’s Research Office Assistant (Vanisa Omicevic with the subject line “Planned Field Research Needs” to inform us of any planned ongoing field-research needs to keep your research functioning.
      • If you do not require travel outside of HRM: then you do not need to wait for approval or response, but we will ensure to save and monitor these Plans.
      • If you DO require travel outside of HRM:   your plan will need review and approval by AVP Research and the VPAR; you should not proceed with such travel until you have received a response from the AVP Research.
  • For all on-campus research activities
    • given the tightened public health protocols now in place, the number of people accessing campus should be at an absolute minimum - to only the level required to keep the research activity functioning (and the safety of any living plants/animals associated with the research); scheduling should also ensure overlap of personnel is done only as absolutely required.
      • Please email FGSR’s Research Office Assistant (Vanisa Omicevic with the subject line “Planned Research Access Needs” to inform us of your planned ongoing campus-access needs to keep your research functioning ... you do not need to wait for approval or response, but we will ensure to save and monitor these Plans.
  • All face-to-face meetings with research participants or collaborators should be suspended at this time, with a return to virtual meetings.
    • During this period of enhanced restrictions, no external research collaborators or participants should be visiting campus.
  • Any research that can be done remotely, must return to being done remotely during this time of enhanced restrictions.

APRIL 2021 Update Notes: This Return to Research process remains in effect and operational.   With many research activities – including all university travel – suspended or restricted since March 2020 when the province moved into a State of Emergency, the Return to Research process is the mechanism to request exemptions to these restrictions, and submitted requests continue to be reviewed weekly.

FOURTH/FINAL PHASE of implementing the Return to Research process

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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