Research Engagement/Re-Engagement Planning

Guidelines for graduate students engaged in research towards degree completion


*These guidelines do not apply to students employed as research staff members

The University of Toronto is preparing for a gradual and controlled research recovery and adaptation for on-and-off campus research sites. As an institution, we will continue to follow the applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines to inform planning and the timing and sequence of restarting research activities in the face of this complex and evolving situation. Reopening will take time and our plans will need to be flexible. COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of our research enterprise; thus, we appreciate your patience as we implement a phased approach to starting, restarting, recovering, and adapting research activity.  

Graduate students engaged in research towards their degree completion retain the right to decide whether or not to return to the research site. Students are encouraged to work with their research supervisor to develop a plan for research progress appropriate to their degree program, stage of research, personal circumstances, and safety of the research site. It is important to recognize that these new plans may look quite different than what had been expected previously. Flexibility will be needed because research activities, methods, and outputs, as well as individual circumstances may be substantially altered.

Principles


  • The health and safety of community members remains the priority.
  • All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely.
  • The decision to return to on-campus or off-campus research activities must remain the right of the graduate student. Coercion or intimidation of students to return to on-campus or off-campus research activities will not be tolerated. Should you require assistance in this regard, your first point of contact is your graduate chair/coordinator and then your Vice-Dean, Graduate/Academic. If you require further assistance, please contact SGS at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.
  • Decisions about engagement or re-engagement in research activities will be based on applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines. Research recovery may be reversed and/or could be accelerated based on public health directives and/or if external or internal circumstances change at the University and/or academic division/unit.
  • Graduate students should resume on-campus or off-campus research activities only where these activities will support their progress toward their degree.
  • Graduate students will be made aware, in advance of their engagement or re-engagement of on-campus or off-campus activities, of the approved health and safety plan relevant to their research environment so that they understand they are returning to a safe work environment.
  • Supervisors have a responsibility for the health and safety of graduate students as research engagement or re-engagement proceeds. The principal investigator/supervisor will be responsible for planning the research engagement or re-engagement of  graduate students.
  • Further information about implementation principles, approach and guidelines for the recovery and adaptation of research are available at the VPRI website.

Frequently asked questions about research engagement/re-engagement planning

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups need to be on campus to conduct research and which groups are able to work remotely. Evidence of adherence to safety precautions will be necessary for approvals.

Within each approved research group, the supervisor/PI will identify which students need to be onsite to support the research activities, considering the individual academic and personal needs of students. Those who need to come to campus for research are expected to return home upon completion of the research task/activity (e.g., come to the lab to run an experiment and then return home to continue with other aspects of the research that can be performed remotely). This will minimize the number of contacts any individual has, facilitate physical distancing, and allow others to come to campus for similar shorter periods of time.

The supervisor/PI will also ensure that all students and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications/instructions/training on the re-entry procedures.

All graduate students returning to the reserach site are required to complete the COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. Please submit this form to your supervisor/principal investigator.

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups need to be off-campus to conduct research and which groups are able to work remotely. Evidence of strict adherence to safety precautions will be necessary for approvals. For research hosted at third party sites (e.g., community organization, Indigenous community, private sector partner, or affiliated hospital), these host institutions will decide on readiness to open. Graduate students will need to follow any additional restrictions set out by the host organization. For international research, there may be additional travel restrictions and considerations.

Given the additional challenges of coordinating approaches to off-campus research sites, an abundance of caution must apply, including consideration of the off-campus field location, vulnerability of nearby communities, use of local services, travel limitations, and shared equipment use.  

The supervisor/PI, in coordination with the host institution, will also ensure that all students and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications instructions, and/or training on the re-entry procedures.

All graduate students returning to the reserach site are required to complete the COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. Please submit this form to your supervisor/principal investigator.

Work together with your faculty supervisor to develop a mutually agreeable plan that allows for you to start or return gradually to on-campus or off-campus research as circumstances and your ability to return permit. Build your plan using the COVID-19 Guideline to Reopening Research Spaces and the Approach to Research Restart & Recovery. If you and your supervisor cannot reach a mutually agreeable plan, please connect with your graduate chair or coordinator for assistance. If additional assistance is needed, please contact your Vice-Dean, Research/Academic. If they matter has not been resolved within your department, please contact SGS at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

Your graduate chair or coordinator can help by providing specific guidance for the development of work plans during engagement or re-engagement in research activities. In addition, as needed, the graduate chair or coordinator can work with you and your supervisor to develop alternative methods for your academic and research progress, if a work plan for initiation or return to research is not mutually agreed upon.

To address safety and public health directives, each division may sequence the opening of buildings and laboratories/studios or off-campus research. In addition, faculty mentors/PIs may sequence the start or restart of projects within their research programs. The principles of equity and inclusion, the requirement for physical distancing, consideration for restart capacity, graduate student research completion, and the nature of research collaborations and funding, may necessitate the need to prioritize certain research types, groups or locations during the initial gradual phased return to work.

Each of these decisions should recognize that every graduate student has an individual need to make degree progress, and that such degree progress is potentially impacted by the sequencing of the restart. Further, each of these decisions will also be impacted by individual student’s personal circumstances. Departments and faculty mentors should clearly communicate restart plans, so that graduate students can determine how to allocate their time between remote and on-campus or off-campus research activities during the research engagement/re-engagement. It is important to recognize that these new plans may look quite different than what had been expected previously.

At this time, any research that involves face-to-face in-person contact will not restart on- or off-campus (although there may be rare exceptions which will require specific prior approval, a process available through your supervisor). Virtual or remote (e.g., surveys) research with human participants is encouraged where appropriate. Additional institutional directives, based on government directives, will be developed to inform such research. For more information on REB review involving human participants, please visit the REB’s webpage.

PhD students planning to travel abroad for dissertation research during this time should contact safety.abroad@utoronto.ca. Given the current situation, there are significant travel restrictions and it will be difficult for you to make travel arrangements. We encourage you to postpone or shift your travel to a later date if you’re able to do so. If your work abroad can be carried out safely and in consideration of government advisories regarding travel, you may be able to proceed. Safety Abroad will work with you, your supervisor, and your academic unit to minimize disruption to your research.

The University is planning to open some research facilities slowly and gradually but at this time, other buildings on campus remain closed. As soon as we are able to confirm that other on-campus activities can resume (in the current context these will still be with restrictions), we will prioritize students who need access to on-campus material and space to progress in their research. All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely. If a visit to campus is permitted, complete this work as efficiently as possible and then continue to work from home.

Due to the ongoing restrictions on the use of space, supervisors may need to gradually permit research team members to return and to implement the use of shifts in order to adhere to physical distancing requirements. As supervisors have a responsibility to mitigate risk, your supervisor may encourage you to work from home if your physical presence in the research space is not needed for your academic progress.

If you have a pre-existing or new health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should continue to work from home. If you need academic accommodation, please consult with Accessibility Services.

If someone you live with that has a pre-existing or new health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should continue to work from home. If you need academic consideration, please consult with your supervisor or graduate chair.

There are a number of possible options you may discuss with your supervisor to address this situation, for example: working remotely; pivoting your research plans; or travelling to campus in off-hours when transit is less busy. As the local conditions change, please discuss with your supervisor.

If you have caregiving responsibilities that make a return to the research site impossible, please discuss the possibility of working remotely with your supervisor. Pivoting your research plans to enable ongoing remote work may also be an option to discuss with your supervisor. If, after discussion with your supervisor, it is concluded that neither working remotely nor pivoting your research plans is feasible, a leave may be considered at an appropriate time. Please be assured that the decision to take a leave in this case remains the prerogative of the student. If the delay in your progress takes you into the unfunded cohort, another option is to request an extension with a tuition waiver. More information about extending registration with a tuition fee exemption is provided in question #16.

The first step is to try to reach a mutually satisfactory research plan with your supervisor but if these attempts have been unsuccessful, the next step is to contact your graduate coordinator/chair. If a resolution has not been reached at this level, please contact SGS at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

It is important that you notify others of your concerns to protect the health and safety of all involved. Please talk with your supervisor/PI first, and if it is not resolved, please contact ehs.office@utoronto.ca.

The first resource is within your department or Faculty through graduate chairs or coordinators or a designated ombudsperson within the department or program. Outside of the department or program, the School of Graduate Studies is an important resource.

Yes, students in research-based programs who meet the following criteria are eligible to register for up to one semester with a tuition waiver:  

  1. Students were making good progress with their thesis/dissertation prior to COVID-19 and data collection or access to necessary sources has been significantly impeded due to pandemic-related impacts (e.g., labs closed, fieldwork cancelled, access to materials, archives or library sources has been impeded, personal circumstances). It is recommended that this disruption be documented using the COVID-19 mentoring record distributed in 2020.  
  1. Additional work is needed before the thesis/dissertation can be defended (e.g., insufficient data or material) or the major research paper can be completed.  
  1. The revised research plan will require an additional session of registration.
  1. All feasible alternative academic activities (e.g., writing sections of dissertation or publications, coursework, professional development) have been completed. 
  1. The student will be outside the funded cohort and will receive little or no other funding towards tuition charged in the session for which they are applying for an exemption.
  1. Supervisory committee agrees that conditions (1) through (4) have been met.  
  1. Departmental approval.  

Please note that although tuition may be waived, students must still pay incidental, and ancillary fees.  

Students who meet the criteria outlined in #16, are to complete the “SGS Register with Tuition Fee Exemption on Basis of Progress Delays due to COVID-19”form. Completion of the form involves seeking the required approvals from the supervisory committee and the graduate chair or coordinator of the home graduate unit.  

Students must apply in the academic session for which they are seeking tuition fee exemption. Applications must be received by the SGS registration deadline (as published in the SGS sessional dates). In other words, if you are in the early or middle years of your program, you need not request an extension of registration with a tuition fee exemption now; instead, wait until you are nearing the end of your funding period to see if additional registration is indeed needed. If so, you may request extended registration with a tuition fee exemption at that later date.  

Everyone should stay home, not work, and self-isolate if they have flu-like symptoms.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing etc.), please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region.

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.

If you test positive for COVID-19, please notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca

Please visit the UTL Research Support page and the COVID-19 Research Resources page for more information.

Guidelines for faculty supervisors/principal investigators


This section last updated: June 3, 2020

*This page will be updated as needed

As part of the University of Toronto’s gradual and controlled research recovery and adaptation for on-and-off campus research sites, the School of Graduate Studies has provided graduate students with Guidelines for research engagement/re-engagement in research activities. These Guidelines pertain to those students who are engaged in research towards their degree completion and not to students employed as research staff members. Key elements of the Guidelines for students include the following:

  • Recommendations to work with their faculty supervisor/PI to develop plans for engaging or re-engaging in on- and off-campus research facilities and activities. If the student and supervisor/PI are unable to reach a mutually agreeable plan, students have been advised to involve the graduate chair/coordinator first and then, if needed, SGS.  
  • Assurances that faculty supervisors/PIs will consider individual student’s academic and personal needs in prioritizing return to the research facilities and activities.
  • Assurance that students retain the right to decide whether or not to return to the research facilities. Coercion or pressure to return will not be tolerated. To protect their privacy rights, students do not need to reveal the reasons for their choice.
  • Directive that all work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely.
  • Assurance that they will be made aware, in advance of their engagement or re-engagement in research facilities and activities, of the approved health and safety plan relevant to their research environment so that they understand they are returning to a safe work environment.
  • Return to research facilities and activities will be phased and controlled. As a result, not all students will return at the same time and students may return for short periods of time only. They have also been directed to return home as soon as the necessary on-site research work has been completed.
  • PhD students planning to travel abroad for dissertation research during this time should contact safety.abroad@utoronto.ca. Given the current situation, there are significant travel restrictions and where possible, travel should be postponed to a later date. If the research abroad can be carried out safely and in consideration of government advisories regarding travel, students must connect with Safety Abroad.
  • An opportunity to declare their acknowledgment of the conditions of their return to  research facilities and activities: COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. These signed forms should be included in your proposed plan to request access to  research facilities and activities.

Guidelines for non-employee postdoctoral fellows


This section last updated: June 3, 2020

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Toronto scaled back its research activities to only COVID-19 and critical time-sensitive research, with other research activities that could be done remotely continuing. Along with other Ontario workplaces, the University will institute a phased approach to restarting suspended activities while mitigating the threat of resurgence and future waves.  

The University of Toronto is preparing for a gradual and controlled research recovery and adaptation for on-and-off campus research sites. As an institution, we will continue to follow the applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines to inform planning and the timing and sequence of restarting research activities in the face of this complex and evolving situation. Reopening will take time and our plans will need to be flexible. COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of our research enterprise; thus, we appreciate your patience as we implement a phased approach to starting, restarting, recovering and adapting research activity.   

Non-employee Post-Doctoral Fellows retain the right to decide whether or not to return to the research site. You are encouraged to work with your research supervisor to develop a plan for research progress appropriate to the stage of research, personal circumstances, and safety of the research site. It is important to recognize that these new plans may look quite different than what had been expected prior to the pandemic. Flexibility will be needed because research activities, methods, and outputs, as well as individual circumstances may be substantially altered. 

Principles  


  • The health and safety of community members remains the priority. 
  • All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely.  
  • The decision to return to on-campus or off-campus research activities must remain the right of the non-employee. Coercion or intimidation of non-employee trainees to return to on-campus or off-campus research activities will not be tolerated.  
  • Decisions about engagement or re-engagement in research activities will be based on applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines. Research recovery may be reversed and/or could be accelerated based on public health directives and/or if external or internal circumstances change at the University and/or academic division/unit. 
  • PDFs will be made aware, in advance of their engagement or re-engagement of on-campus or off-campus activities, of the approved health and safety plan relevant to their research environment so that they understand they are returning to a safe work environment.  
  • All non-employee PDFs are required to declare their acknowledgment of the conditions of their return to research facilities and activities: COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. These signed forms should be submitted to your supervisor/principal investigator. 
  • Supervisors have a responsibility for the health and safety of PDFs as research engagement or re-engagement proceeds. The principal investigator will be responsible for planning research engagement or re-engagement of the research team members who report directly to them.
  • Further information about implementation principles, approach and guidelines for the recovery and adaptation of research are available at the VPRI website.

Frequently asked questions about research engagement/re-engagement planning 

The Postdoctoral Office continues to offer services but as we are working remotely our on-site location within the School of Graduate Studies is temporarily closed. Please contact us by email  sgs.postdoc@utoronto.ca and we can set up a time to meet by phone or virtually.

Please contact the Postdoctoral Office. We can facilitate the purchase of UHIP during the period you are not covered by OHIP.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines. As a result, your travel plans may be severely disrupted and/or you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected. Please visit the global travel advisory for more information on travel restrictions.

If you are an international Postdoctoral Fellow and are experiencing difficulties returning to Canada, please contact Lisa Haley in the Postdoctoral Office.

If your work environment has plans to re-open, please talk to your PI about either returning to research in person, or continuing to work remotely. Both of these scenarios will depend on the research needs of the PI and the research project, and the personal situation of the individual postdoctoral fellow. If you are unable to reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement with your PI, please contact the Postdoctoral Office.

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups need to be on campus to conduct research and which groups are able to work remotely. Evidence of  adherence to safety precautions will be necessary for approvals. Principles for Research Recovery and AdaptationApproach for Restart Recovery and Adaptation &  COVID-19 Guideline for Reopening Research Spaces are available. 

Within each approved research group, the supervisor/PI will identify which PDFs need to be onsite to support the research activities, considering individual academic and personal needs. Those who need to come to campus for research are expected to return home upon completion of the research task/activity (e.g., come to the lab to run an experiment and then return home to continue with other aspects of the research that can be performed remotely). This will minimize the number of contacts, facilitate physical distancing, and lighten the load on institutional services and allow others to come to campus for similar shorter periods of time. 

The supervisor/PI will also ensure that all students, PDFs, and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications/instructions/training on the re-entry procedures.  

All non-employee PDFs are required to declare their acknowledgment of the conditions of their return to research facilities and activities: COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. These signed forms should be submitted to your supervisor/principal investigator. 

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups need to be off-campus to conduct research and which groups are able to work remotely. Evidence of strict adherence to safety precautions will be necessary for approvals (please consult the Approach for Research Recovery and Adaptation, & COVID-19 Guideline for Re-Opening Research Spaces). For research hosted at third party sites (e.g., community organization, Indigenous community, private sector partner or affiliated hospital), these host institutions will decide on readiness to open. PDFs will need to follow any additional restrictions set out by the host organization. For international research, there may be additional travel restrictions and considerations. 

Given the additional challenges of coordinating approaches to off-campus research, an abundance of caution must apply, including consideration of the off-campus location, vulnerability of nearby communities, use of local services, travel limitations and shared equipment use.   

The supervisor/PI, in coordination with the host institution, will also ensure that all students, PDFs, and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications/instructions/training on the re-entry procedures.  

All non-employee PDFs are required to declare their acknowledgment of the conditions of their return to research facilities and activities: COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site. These signed forms should be submitted to your supervisor/principal investigator. 

Work together with your faculty supervisor/PI to develop a mutually agreeable plan that allows for you to start or return gradually to on-campus or off-campus research as circumstances and your ability to return permit. Build your plan using the COVID-19 Guideline to Reopening Research Spaces  and the Approach to Research Restart & Recovery. If you and your supervisor/PI cannot reach a mutually agreeable plan, please connect with the PDF Office  for assistance.  

To address safety and public health directives, each division may sequence the opening of buildings and laboratories/studios or off-campus research. In addition, faculty supervisors/PIs may sequence the start or restart of projects within their research programmes. The principles of equity and inclusion, the requirement for physical distancing, consideration for restart capacity, research completion, and the nature of research collaborations and funding, maynecessitate the need to prioritize certain research types, groups or locations during the initial gradual phased return to work.  

Faculty supervisors/PIs should clearly communicate restart plans, so that PDFs can determine how to allocate their time between remote and on-campus or off-campus research activities during the ramp-up. It is important to recognize that these new plans may look quite different than what had been expected previously. 

At this time, any research that involves face-to-face in-person contact will not restart on- or off-campus (although there may be rare exceptions which will require specific prior approval, a process available through your supervisor/PI). Virtual or remote (e.g., surveys) research with human participants is encouraged where appropriate. Additional institutional directives, based on government directives, will be developed to inform such research. For more information on REB review involving human participants, please visit the REB’s webpage.  

The University is planning to open some research facilities slowly and gradually. During this time, other buildings on campus remain closed. As soon as we are able to confirm that other on-campus activities can resume (in the current context these will still be with restrictions), we will prioritize those who need access to on-campus material and space to progress in their research. All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely. If a visit to campus is permitted, complete this work as efficiently as possible and then continue to work from home.  

Due to the ongoing restrictions on the use of space, supervisors/PIs may need to gradually permit research team members to return and to implement the use of shifts in order to adhere to physical distancing requirements. As supervisors/PIs have a responsibility to mitigate risk, your supervisor/PI may encourage you to work from home if your physical presence in the research space is not needed for your academic progress.  

If you or someone you live with that has a pre-existing or new health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should continue to work from home. If you need academic consideration, please consult with your supervisor or Chair.

There are a number of possible options you may discuss with your supervisor/PI to address this situation, for example: working remotely; pivoting your research plans; or travelling to campus in off-hours when transit is less busy. As the local conditions change, please discuss your plans with your supervisor/PI. 

If you have caregiving responsibilities that make a return to the research site impossible, please discuss the possibility of working remotely with your supervisor/PI. If, after discussion with your supervisor/PI, it is concluded that neither working remotely nor pivoting your research plans is feasible, a leave may be considered at an appropriate time. Please be assured that the decision to take a leave in this case remains your prerogative.  

The first step is to try to reach a mutually satisfactory research plan with your supervisor /PI but if these attempts have been unsuccessful, the next step is to contact the PDF Office.  

It is important that you notify others of your concerns to protect the health and safety of all involved. Please talk with your supervisor/PI first, and if it is not resolved, please contact ehs.office@utoronto.ca

Everyone should stay home, not work, and self-isolate if they have flu-like symptoms.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing, etc.), please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region.

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.

If you test positive for COVID-19,please notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca  

Beginning June 22, Robarts Library will offer Curbside Pickup Service for print books not available through the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service. Students, faculty and staff are eligible to use this service with online requests for books beginning on June 18. To meet the needs of current University of Toronto students who require computer and Wi-Fi access for academic work, the Libraries will also be providing a Technology Access Service at the Gerstein Science Information Centre starting June 18. Click here to learn more.

Please visit the UTL Research Support page and the COVID-19 Research Resources page for more information.

Guidelines for employee postdoctoral fellows


This section last updated: June 23, 2020

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Toronto scaled back its research activities to include only COVID-19 and critical time-sensitive research. Other research activities that could be done remotely continued. Along with other Ontario workplaces, the University will institute a phased approach to restarting suspended activities while making efforts to mitigate the threat of resurgence and future waves of COVID-19. 

The University of Toronto is currently preparing for a gradual and controlled research recovery and adaptation for on-and-off campus research sites. We will continue to follow the applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines to inform planning and the timing and sequence of restarting research activities as the situation evolves. Reopening will take time and our plans will need to be flexible. COVID-19 has affected nearly every facet of our research enterprise; thus, we appreciate your patience in this process.   

Whether or not you have been able to work offsite during the closure of your lab, we understand that you are anxious to continue your research. Please consult with your supervisor to discuss a plan for restarting research activities that is appropriate for the stage of your research, personal circumstances, and safety of the research site. These new plans may look quite different from what you expected before the pandemic.

Principles 


  • The health and safety of community members remains the priority.
  • All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely.
  • Decisions about re-starting research activities that rely on onsite operations will be based on applicable local, provincial, and federal public health directives and guidelines. Research recovery may be reversed and/or could be accelerated based on public health directives and/or if circumstances change at the University and/or academic division/unit and/or externally to the University.
  • PDFs will be made aware, before any re-engagement in on-campus or remote activities, of the approved health and safety plan relevant to their research environment so they understand the steps  taken to create a safe return to work. 
  • Supervisors have obligations with respect to the health and safety of PDFs who report to them. The supervisors will be responsible for planning research re-starting of the research team members who report directly to them.
  • Further information about restarting and other research related matters are available at the Vice-President, Research & Innovation website.

Frequently asked questions about research engagement/re-engagement planning 

The Postdoctoral Office continues to offer services, but we are working remotely, so our on-site location within the School of Graduate Studies is temporarily closed. Please contact us by email at  sgs.postdoc@utoronto.ca  and we can set up a time to meet virtually or by phone.

Please contact the Postdoctoral Office. We can facilitate the purchase of UHIP during the period you are not covered by OHIP.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many countries have put in place travel or border restrictions and other measures such as movement restrictions and quarantines. As a result, your travel plans may be severely disrupted or you may be forced to remain outside of Canada longer than expected. Please visit the global travel advisory for more information on travel restrictions.

If you are an international Postdoctoral Fellow and are experiencing difficulties returning to Canada, please contact Lisa Haley in the Postdoctoral Office.

If your work environment has plans to re-open, please talk to your supervisor about either returning to research in person, or continuing to work remotely. Both of these scenarios will depend on the research needs of the supervisor and the research project.

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups will be able to conduct research on campus and which groups are able to work remotely. Approval to conduct research on campus will only be considered if a research group is able to provide evidence that it has put in place appropriate safety precautions together with measures to ensure adherence to those precautious. Documents describing the following are available on the VPRI website: Principles for Research Recovery and AdaptationApproach for Restart Recovery and AdaptationCOVID-19 Guideline for Reopening Research Spaces.

Within each approved research group, the supervisor will identify which PDFs will work onsite to support the research activities, considering factors that include individual academic and personal needs. PDFs who are coming to campus for research activities are expected to leave campus immediately after completing the research task/activity (e.g., come to the lab to run an experiment and then return home to continue with other aspects of the research that can be performed remotely). This will minimize the number of contacts, facilitate physical distancing, lighten the load on institutional services and allow others to come to campus for similar short periods of time.

The supervisor will also ensure that all students, PDFs, and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications/instructions/training on re-entry procedures. 

Each academic Dean or Vice-Principal, Research will determine and approve which research groups will be able to conduct research in an off-campus site and which groups are able to work remotely. Approval to conduct research on campus will only be considered if a research group is able to provide evidence that it has put in place appropriate safety precautions, together with measures to ensure adherence to those precautious  (please consult the Approach for Research Recovery and Adaptation, & COVID-19 Guideline for Re-Opening Research Spaces).

For research hosted at third party sites (e.g., community organization, Indigenous community, private sector partner or affiliated hospital), these host institutions will decide on readiness to open. PDFs will need to follow any additional restrictions set out by the host organization. For international research, there may be additional travel restrictions and considerations.

Given the additional challenges of coordinating approaches to off-campus research, an abundance of caution must apply, including consideration of the off-campus location, vulnerability of nearby communities, use of local services, travel limitations and shared equipment use.  

The supervisor, in coordination with the host institution, will also ensure that all students, PDFs, and other personnel in the research space are provided with appropriate communications/instructions/training on re-entry procedures. 

To address safety and public health directives, each division may re-open buildings and laboratories/studios or off-campus research sequentially. Supervisors may also sequentially start or restart the projects within their research programs. The principles of equity and inclusion, the requirement for physical distancing, consideration for restart capacity, research completion, and the nature of research collaborations and funding, may necessitate the need to prioritize certain research types, groups or locations during the initial gradual phased return to work. 

PDFs should expect a communication from the University and their supervisors on restart plans, so that PDFs can determine how to allocate their time between remote and on-campus/off-campus research activities during the re-opening. Research plans may look quite different from what was expected before COVID-19-related closures. If you have been advised to return to research activities but have not received information regarding restart plans please contact your supervisor.

At this time, any research that involves face-to-face in-person contact will not restart on- or off-campus (although there may be rare exceptions that will require specific prior approval, a process available through your supervisor). Virtual or remote research with human participants (e.g., surveys) is encouraged where appropriate. Additional University directives, based on government and public health directives, will be developed to inform such research. For more information on Research Ethics Boards review involving human participants, please visit the REB’s webpage

The University is planning to open some research facilities slowly and gradually. During this time, other buildings on campus remain closed. As soon as we are able to confirm that other on-campus activities can resume (in the current context these will still be with restrictions), we will prioritize those who need access to on-campus material and space to progress in their research. All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely until further notice. If a visit to campus is permitted, complete this work as efficiently as possible and then continue to work remotely.

Due to the ongoing restrictions on the use of space and in particular physical distancing requirements, supervisors may need to limit the extent to which research team members can return and to implement the use of shifts. As supervisors have a responsibility to mitigate risk, they may encourage you to work from home if in their view your physical presence in the research space is not required.

If you or someone you live with that has a health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should contact Health & Well-being Programs & Services for direction.

If you have caregiving responsibilities that make a return to the research site difficult, please discuss available flexible work arrangements with your supervisor, including the possibility of continuing to work remotely.

If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is ill and exhibiting flu-like symptoms or have concerns about safety in your workplace, speak to your supervisor. Supervisors are advised to contact Environmental Health & Safety about any concerns raised.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing, etc.), please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.

Stay home, do not work, and self-isolate if you have flu-like symptoms. PDFs should notify their supervisor as soon as possible if they are sick or need to self-isolate based on guidance provided by public health authorities.

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Area to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region.

If you have any questions or are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately.

If you test positive for COVID-19, please notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca

Please visit the UTL Researcher Support page and the COVID-19 Research Resources page.

COVID-19 graduate students/non-employee postdoctoral fellows acknowledgement: conducting research on-campus or at off-campus research site


Please click COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research Site to download a copy of the acknowledgement form.