Hello everyone, 

I hope this message finds you all safe and healthy.

Reflecting on recent weeks and days, it's clear to me that the COVID-19 Pandemic is creating disruptions that are unprecedented in Canada during my lifetime.  We are in uncharted waters, and this adds to an already stressful situation as fear for our health and that of our loved ones is unavoidable given the events unfolding across the globe. While there is undeniable cause for concern, I am reassured by efforts spanning all levels of government and our university to combat the spread of COVID-19. We are all in this together and there is no doubt that sacrifices, including research productivity, are unavoidable.  On that note, central in my thoughts right now are our graduate students – our research colleagues in training.  Delays in research progress, the closure of schools and daycares, and cancellation of research and conference travel will all disproportionately impact our graduate students who are more economically vulnerable than faculty and staff. Additionally, our international graduate students may lack the family and social supports that others can call on in times of crisis. I would ask that all supervisors and committee members keep these facts in mind in the coming weeks and months. All members of our community, including graduate students, need to be empowered to confidently take the necessary steps to safeguard their health and to care for their families. It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. Our university community has never had a greater need to find innovative solutions to drive forward necessary work where we can.  On the opposite side of the coin there is an equally unprecedented need for compassion and understanding for those things which need to be sacrificed right now. 

To everyone, but especially our students, I want to extend these requests:

If you are unwell, stay home.

If you need help, please ask for it.

If you can safely act to help another, please do so.

Protect yourselves and, in doing so, protect all of us.


Dave Cooper

Assistant Dean Graduate Studies College of Medicine


April 3, 2020

Hello Everyone,
We know it has been an intense and stressful couple of weeks for everyone. We also know our graduate students have many questions. This update is an attempt to address some of the most pressing ones. I would like to extend my profound thanks to the Registrar, CGPS, OVDR, Vice Dean Radomski, Dean Smith and others who have contributed to this document over the past week.

Dave Cooper

Assistant Dean Graduate Studies College of Medicine

March 20, 2020

Good Afternoon Everyone,
Please see the message below from the Assistant Dean Graduate studies in the College of Medicine. This message has also been approved by the Office of the Vice President Research and the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. If you believe there is someone else who would benefit from this message please pass it along.
Subject: Working Remotely Policy Applies to Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows
With Saskatchewan under a state of emergency the University of Saskatchewan has implemented a working remotely policy.   This policy extends to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  It is our expectation that supervisors and students/fellows will work collaboratively to safely wind down and/or minimize research requiring a physical presence on campus and take all possible steps to facilitate remote work immediately.  No student or fellow should face retribution for acting to protect their health and caring for their loved ones during this time of crisis.
Please pay close attention to further updates from the Office of the Vice President Research and the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 

Dr. David Cooper
Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies
College of Medicine

The most up to date information can be found on the USASK COVID-19 Updates page. Graduate students can navigate to the green dropdown at the upper right corner of the page and select "Students and Postdocs". The College of Medicine is adhering to all policy and procedure as it appears on this page.


While we realize that not all USASK resources are functional at this time, we encourage graduate students to utilize the College of Medicine Wellness page as a resource for contact information. Do not hesitate to reach out to one of the College's Mental Health First Aiders if you require assistance.
Additionally, the College of Medicine Graduate Student Society (CMGSS) has developed two resources to support graduate students through this difficult time. Please visit their page for more information.


An update from the Office of the Vice-President Research:


The Office of the Vice-President Research (OVPR) is continually assessing the COVID-19 situation and will provide updates regarding any potential impacts on research operations. At this time, research operations at the University of Saskatchewan continue. However, the Public Health Agency of Canada notes that the COVID-19 situation is one that can change quickly and require equally quick decisions to ensure the health and safety of our campus community and beyond, so researchers need to prepare to delay, scale back or stop research activities if needed.

We encourage everyone to continue to monitor the university’s latest COVID-19 updates.

Human Participant Research
In response to the pandemic, we advise investigators working face to face with human participants to:
  • Limit personal contacts, lab visits or trips into clinics and hospitals to the greatest extent possible; and
  • Where appropriate, consider modifying or delaying your research studies to reduce in-person participant interactions. For some research, it may be possible to replace in-person interactions with telephone or online communication, depending on the nature of your protocol, the participants, and any additional risk that may arise by switching to different communication channels.
Research participants should be asked to self-assess using the screening questions below and, if they say yes to any of these questions, they should notify the researcher, refrain from coming to campus or wherever your in-person interactions are occurring, and refrain from face to face contact with the research team:
  • Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms, including a fever?
  • Have you travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days or been in contact with someone who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19?
  • Have you been asked to self-isolate? 
Revised participant consent forms or amendments to the consent process may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with the use of different modes of communication). While the standard practice is for REBs to review and approve amendments prior to the implementation of any changes, exceptions can be made where changes are necessary to eliminate immediate risks to participants (as per TCPS2 Article 6.15). As such, investigators may implement changes but must report those changes to the REB at the earliest opportunity (preferably within five business days, if possible, as a guideline). If you have any questions, please contact the Human Ethics team at or 306-966-2975.

As well, if your research involves physical assessments and use of any equipment, it is paramount to employ stringent disinfection protocols (following the manufacturer’s standards, if available) or to use single-use accessories.

If you intend to submit a time-sensitive ethics application directly relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic, please indicate this in your email, so that we can expedite your application appropriately.

Animal Research
Animal research activities can continue as usual. However, where appropriate, you may wish to consider delaying new projects as this would minimize the burden on our Animal Ethics and Care staff during this uncertain time.

USask has an unwavering commitment to animal welfare. Animal Ethics and Care staff have been working with university leadership to determine how appropriate standards for animal care will be maintained throughout any disruption. In situations where research staff are responsible for animal care and are no longer able to perform those duties, this must be communicated immediately to facility staff or the Animal Ethics and Care staff so that alternative arrangements can be made to ensure animal welfare. 
If you have any questions or concerns about your animal research, please speak with your facility managers or contact Dr. Kurtis Swekla, Acting University Veterinarian, at or 306.966.8081.

Research Laboratories
Safety Resources advises researchers to adopt strategies to mitigate the impact on research and ensure the health and safety of our campus community. This could include:
  • Prioritizing projects – evaluate all work with criteria such as the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) (i.e., high-risk projects and projects which cannot be delayed until appropriate PPE is available).
  • Sharing of PPE interdepartmentally and between labs to ensure that the PPE needs of all researchers are met.
  • Implementing the use of appropriate reusable PPE (i.e., consider the use of re-usable style protective gloves rather than disposable)
    • All individuals requiring respirators for their work must be fit-tested for the specific type of respirator that they will be using. To arrange for a fit-test, please call 966-1814 or email
  • Utilize other safety controls appropriate for the work, such as certified biosafety cabinets and fume hoods. 
Safety Resources has added new content on Laboratory Shutdown Guidelines to the COVID-19 updates page as a resource for lab users. This information can be accessed by visiting the following website:

As this situation is evolving quickly, all researchers should prepare for research delays and/or potential shut downs of certain work. Contact Safety Resources for support. As well, if you have any questions or concerns related to research safety, do not hesitate to contact Safety Resources at 306-966-4675 or email

Research Funding
The Tri-Agencies and other research sponsors are well aware that the COVID-19 pandemic can affect funded research projects in many ways. In addition to existing mechanisms for addressing exceptional circumstances, the Tri-Agencies are actively assessing the issues and will be sharing further information here. The Research Services and Ethics Office will assist you in working with other research sponsors as needed.

Research plans involving travel or public gatherings should be re-assessed in light of the most recent university guidance available at For projects funded by NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR, the granting agencies have confirmed that the reimbursement of non-refundable travel fees from agency funds is acceptable for meetings or other research-related activities impacted by COVID-19. These reimbursements can apply to both principal investigators and research personnel.

Research Funding Announcements
Funding announcements by Tri-Agency and other research funding agencies may be cancelled or postponed. In some cases, announcements will be made through news releases without events or through virtual events. Please contact Research Profile and Impact ( if you have questions.

Urgent Research-Related Questions
While many staff members will be working remotely, all units of the OVPR continue to operate and are here to provide support to our research community. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of your OVPR contacts for assistance.

Should you have any urgent research-related questions on which you are uncertain whom to contact, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Dion Martens, Director of Research Services and Ethics, at or 306.966.1318. 

Warm regards, 

Karen Chad, Ph.D.

Vice-President Research
University of Saskatchewan