Vice-President, Research announces plan to expand access to Brock laboratories

Brock’s Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon has announced that laboratories across the University are opening for a substantially wider range of approved users beginning Monday, June 15.

Approved users will have access to research labs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday (excluding University holidays) under certain conditions, says the memo.

“Being away from research facilities and sites, ranging from laboratories to library archives, has been extremely challenging for members of the Brock community,” says Kenyon. “There is a strong desire to resume research activities, yet any expansion of research activities must attend to public safety and the necessity of reducing risks of transmission of the coronavirus.”

The stage of expanding access is based on the Plan for Expanded Access to Research Facilities and Sites During Pandemic, drafted by the Research Access Task Force chaired by Associate Vice-President, Research, Michelle McGinn.

“This Plan is drawn from input and proposals contributed by more than 400 researchers and graduate students surveyed,” says Kenyon.

In conjunction with safety guidelines drafted by the Office of Health, Safety and Wellness (HSW), the Plan provides a comprehensive outline of safety requirements to protect laboratory users as well as procedures regarding scheduling, faculty use priorities, office access, field research, human participant research and researcher responsibilities.

Contained within the memo’s appendices are detailed instructions on how to properly use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and clean and disinfect research facilities and equipment.

Highlights of safety procedures in labs include:

  • Research procedures involving more than one person should be as short in duration and as infrequent as possible; if there is more than one person, full use of PPE is required.
  • Multiple simultaneous users are permitted in those facilities in the Roy and Lois Cairns Health and Bioscience Research Complex that are large enough to assign no less than 18m2 (roughly 200 sq ft) space per user. Larger laboratory spaces in buildings other than the Cairns Complex are restricted to single user access.
  • Scheduling managers will be assigned for various laboratory facilities. There must be at least one hour of unused time between any two users or user groups.
  • All researchers attending campus and using laboratories and office facilities will abide by the responsibilities outlined in the Plan for Expanded Access to Research Facilities and Sites During Pandemic and the safety protocols outlined in the Health, Safety and Wellness document “Reopening Shared Campus Spaces in COVID-19 Pandemic Conditions: General Guidance” contained within the Plan document.

The Plan also sets out the types of research to receive priority scheduling: “Research requiring immediate on-site activity,” which outlined research activities that have been authorized in April and May, and “Research requiring immediate on-site activity to minimize negative impacts that would occur by the end of the summer.”

Other key points include:

  • Researchers self-identifying as primary caregivers for dependents are authorized to work from their campus office one day each week.
  • Students must not be compelled to conduct research on campus or in the field; they must feel free to voluntarily return to campus labs or field.
  • No student research activity can occur without adequate training and supervision.
  • Research involving human participants should be conducted online where possible. In cases of in-person contact, researchers are expected to use appropriate measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Research Ethics Board clearance must include assessment of the risks to participants based upon the risk-mitigation strategies implemented with respect to current pandemic conditions.

For full explanations, see the Plan for Expanded Access fro Research Facilities and Sites During Pandemic.

“The strategies identified in this document are necessarily tentative and subject to change over time,” says Kenyon. “Both the Task Force plan and the HSW guidance are subject to continuing review and refinement, so there will very likely be updates issued. Nonetheless, the University’s commitments to student, staff, researcher, and partner safety, and to honouring provincial guidelines and public health recommendations, remain unchanged.”

Kenyon says plans to open up non-laboratory research facilities and increase research activity “will be identified and implemented as this becomes possible.” An update regarding access to research facilities in the Marilyn I. Walker complex will be released next week.

Read more stories in: Applied Health Sciences, Business, Education, Faculty & staff, Featured, Graduate Studies, Humanities, Mathematics and Science, News, People, Research, Social Sciences
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,