Field Research Activities during COVID-19: Phase II

Effective June 22, 2020

While provincial and federal authorities continue to impose restrictions that significantly affect field research projects, our U of A research community has been encouraged by the relaunch of some research activities on our campuses and field research within Alberta. As the university-at-large moves towards its next phase, outlined below are the essential characteristics, processes and considerations of phase two for field research -- effective June 22, 2020. 

Key public health restrictions affecting field research:

  • Global Affairs Canada’s global Level 3 avoid all non-essential travel advisory is still in effect. As a result, all university international and interprovincial travel remains suspended until further notice.
  • Physical distancing
  • Personal hygiene and cleaning requirements

Currently permitted field research, with appropriate public health safety measures:

  • Approved field research within Alberta, including off-campus community-engaged or human participant research
  • Approved exceptional field research projects outside of Alberta (see below)

Process for field research requests within Alberta

Step One: Complete and submit the Field Activities Plan (FAP) to your faculties for approval by the dean. Be as comprehensive as you can.

NOTE: All community-engaged and human participant research is required to also contact the Research Ethics Office for re-assessment against current community and public health and safety protocols during COVID-19 stage two.

Step Two: Once your Dean has approved your field research project, your faculty designate will submit an application (including the FAP) to the Public Health Response Team (PHRT). 

The PHRT will approve a project as a whole; approval for each individual trip will not be required as long as the project continues to meet current and future COVID-19-related restrictions. The PHRT will only approve projects that can demonstrate they meet all public health orders from the Government of Alberta and requirements of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Field trips will be required to:

  • Take reasonable measures to minimize interactions within a local community 
  • Unless absolutely necessary, avoid using health care services within the field community 
  • When an interaction (such as at gas stations or hotels) is necessary, implement appropriate COVID-19 control measures
  • Follow all public health restrictions and community safety measures

Field trips taking place without this approval process may not be reimbursed.

For help assessing your research project, see the field research self-assessment COVID-19 tool here; which  has been developed by the Field Research Office. If you have any further questions or concerns not covered here, researchers are asked to contact their Associate/Vice-Dean (Research), or the PHRT at phrtinfo@ualberta.ca.

Process for out-of-province or international research requests

The university has a responsibility to protect and prioritize the health and safety of employees and students. Therefore,  international university-related travel suspensions will remain in place for our community until public health authorities advise that they can safely be lifted.

Notwithstanding the current travel suspensions, researchers and faculties may make requests to their Dean and the PHRT for exemptions on a case-by-case basis using guidelines above under “Process for field research requests within Alberta”. Out-of-province or international research travel approvals will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

If you are granted an exemption to internationally for university-related research at this time, you will be required, by Canadian law, to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon your return to Canada, whether or not you present with symptoms of COVID-19. Additional restrictions and mandates may be in place at your final travel destination or any in-transit travel destinations.

We currently expect to remove travel restrictions when we move into phase three of our resumption plan. When this occurs and is communicated, we will request that field researchers follow a revised process.

When this milestone is reached, the process will likely follow:

Step One: Follow the Field Research Office’s planning process for Travelling out of Canada for Field Research

Step Two: Follow the Office of Insurance and Risk Assessment process for Off-Campus Activities

Step Three: Fill out the Off-Campus Activity and Planning tool

Step Four: A Risk Management Services representative will be in touch with further guidance, if needed


Considerations for out-of-province or international field research during COVID-19

Public health and travel authority restrictions and U of A-related travel implications

During times of public health crises, the University of Alberta closely follows all public health and preventative measures outlined by the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, and/or any local officials for community members working or studying abroad. Both Canada and Alberta have not yet lifted their travel restrictions. Travel is also further complicated by travel and medical insurance limitations during a pandemic. Therefore, for the time being, all travel outside of Alberta not considered vital to the academic mission of the university remains suspended. 


The U of A will lift university travel suspensions as soon as possible, taking into consideration Global Affairs Canada travel advisories. Travel restrictions are currently anticipated to be lifted in our third phase of relaunch but remain in place. 


If you are uncertain if your work is considered vital to our academic mission or require advice about travel, please discuss with your supervisor (i.e. director, chair, and/or dean).


Essential public health travel information during COVID-19 


Travel insurance limitations during a pandemic

As part of your pre-planning activities, please review and understand your insurance coverage requirements in advance of travelling. It is essential that your insurers’ contact information is saved and stored in a place that is easily accessible while abroad. 

Every insurance policy is different and will include limitations and exclusions that will reduce or prevent the insurance policy from responding. Examples of the types of exclusions that may be included but are not limited to: who is travelling, duration of travel, countries/locations you are travelling to, pre-existing conditions, mental illness, lack of underlying primary healthcare, age of traveller (over 65), communicable diseases including epidemics or pandemics (that includes COVID-19), specific types of medical tests, war/hostilities, travel to a country, region or city for which a travel advisory has been issued, illegal or criminal acts as well as specific types of high risk recreational activities that may include but are not limited to scuba driving, bungee jumping, climbing, parachuting. 

It is critical that if you become ill or injured while travelling, that you contact your insurer in advance of seeking treatment to avoid denial and/or reduction of your travel medical claim. 

Your travel medical insurance should be regularly reviewed before and throughout every trip. Although links for information have been provided here, insurers do periodically change the terms of their coverage without notice. While currently there are no exclusions for COVID-19 in SunLife’s Travel Insurance policy for employees, employees and students are strongly encouraged to directly contact their travel insurance providers in advance of travels to confirm coverage during overseas travels are in place.

Travel insurance providers

University of Alberta Insurance providers differ by category of traveller. Travel insurance for students is not provided through the University but rather through the students’ associations. Please follow the links below.

Academic staff  

Graduate students

Post-doctoral fellows  

Support staff  

Undergraduate students 

Health care coverage in Canada

The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) provides coverage for insured physician and hospital services elsewhere in Canada. In most cases, if you present your valid Alberta health card to an out of province medical or hospital service provider and receive insured services, there is no cost to you. Learn what health services are covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) and what services are not covered here. Travellers should always carry their valid Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan card.

Workers Compensation Board insurance

Workers’ compensation coverage protects workers and employers from the impacts of workplace injuries and illnesses. Prior to travelling, academic and support staff should contact their HR representative to confirm coverage and time limitations outside of Alberta.

Students should contact Workers Compensation Board (WCB) directly to determine workers compensation coverage outside of Alberta at 780-498-3999 or 1-866-922-9221.

Every claim will be reviewed and adjudicated on its own merit by the WCB. This coverage plan is not intended for injuries that occur in your personal time including extracurricular activities while travelling.