Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Field Research

Please refer to the May 1 update to field researchers for criteria for project approval and guidance on which projects are likely to be approved. You may also consider the information below when you are submitting or thinking to submit your planned field research for approval. 

What is the definition of essential field research?

There is not a universal definition for field research. In this situation, the university defined essential research as:

  • Research related to COVID-19
  • Research involving animal care and maintenance of breeding colonies
  • Research that’s part of essential clinical care activities
  • Research items that have been approved by your dean and registered with EHS
Most of these criteria does not apply to field research. The one difference for field research versus on-campus research is that approval must come from both the Dean and the PHRT.
If I am in one faculty and I use a field station managed by another faculty, which Dean needs to approve a field plan?

The approval in this example would be first with the Dean of your faculty in consultation with the Dean of the faculty that manages the facility. Both faculties need to be involved to ensure the managing faculty can still accommodate the research project as there could be resource constraints at this time.

Will each Dean across campus follow the same decision making process for field approvals, or are these at discretion of each Dean individually?
All field projects need to be approved by both the Dean and the PHRT.
What is the procedure for staying at a research station in another province?

Researchers will be required to follow all guidelines all provincial and federal guidelines of the location they are stationed at.

At this time, interprovincial travel is discouraged.

What is the detailed procedure for seeking approval for field research?
First, seek written approval from your Dean. Once you have received your Dean's approval, send your approval and your FAP to
Territorial closures and research permitting processes are in constant flux. If I have planned field research later in the summer, can I apply for conditional field research approval now (pending permits and relaxation of territorial travel restrictions)?

Approval should only be sought for field research that aligns with current restrictions. It may be difficult to grant conditional approval without knowing the exact nature of future restrictions. Our intent is to loosen the restrictions immediately once the government announces they are relaxing the restrictions.

If I am stationed in an approved field station outside of Edmonton and have to return to Edmonton periodically for necessary reasons (e.g.: to pick up equipment) and follow all distancing protocols both in Edmonton and returning to the field site, is this permitted?
Field research where approval has been obtained can have their researchers return to Edmonton following all of the directives and can return to the field site if they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have not been in contact with others that have COVID-19.
If graduate and undergraduate students are working in the field in collaboration with scientists employed and approved to do so by provincial agencies (e.g., Alberta Environment & Parks, Alberta Agriculture), then would this arrangement satisfy the U of A’s COVID concerns?
This would depend upon whether this is University of Alberta-led research. If the research is university-led, permission would still be required from the Dean and PHRT. If there is a partner agency, research would require written consent.
Normally we would arrange field trips so that personnel would travel and conduct research in pairs (or larger groups), in case of an incident, accident or near miss. Under COVID-19 measures, are we advised to travel to field sites alone if the work is manageable by one person?
Working alone in the field is discouraged. Where possible, work in pairs. If two trucks can be taken and researchers can meet at the field site this would be the best-case scenario. If one researcher is travelling, then a strict check-in procedure is advised.
Will the current restrictions on field research necessarily remain in place for the entire summer? Or will they be periodically reviewed and potentially modified as the COVID pandemic progresses?
They will be modified as directives from both the Public Health authorities and Governments change.
If animal monitoring in the field is required by both provincial and U of A animal care protocols, is this deemed an essential service as with laboratory animals?
This situation would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Researchers should submit their reasons why they wish to continue research to their respective Deans and seek for approval from PHRT.