Advice for researchers and HDR students

Updated 10 August 2021

Message from the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)

With the current Delta COVID outbreak, NSW Health and Medical Research is requiring very strict conditions on research in comparison to last year. The Northern Rivers have been placed in NSW state-imposed restrictions from 6pm 9 August for 7 days, impacting research and research services.

Please note: hard closures at the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour campuses are not currently in place, however researchers at these campuses need to heed advice regarding new research, and note that their subjects may be impacted by the lockdown if they are in effected LGAs. Also note that this is a fast-evolving situation and we will be providing updates regularly. It is possible that the situation at all campuses may be revisited at any time given the dynamic circumstances caused by the Delta outbreak.

The following conditions relate to the conduct of research until the current restrictions are lifted or new conditions are released.  It is strongly advised that you adjust your research and HDR activities to be undertaken from your place of residence if possible. No new or scheduled animal research can commence unless approved as critical by the DVCR.

Working from Home

Staff in the Office of the DVCR will continue to support researchers as normal (except for face-to-face enquiries).

Research involving humans

As per the updates to the Southern Cross University COVID-19 plan and current public health orders, all in-person contact between researchers and human participants in the Lismore region must cease immediately. This is to ensure that the safety and welfare of participants and researchers is maintained. We encourage any research to continue online at all campuses where possible. Current research data collection involving human participants can continue in the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour regions provided COVID-safe protocols are strictly observed.  If restrictions in these LGAs changes you will need to follow the advice and information pertaining to those changes. If you have concerns about your research please discuss with your supervisor in the first instance, and/or your ADR.

If you need to submit a variation to change your project, please follow Change of Protocol processes (Ethics Office). The Ethics Office will process such requests as soon as possible. Please do not begin any online research until your request has been approved.  If your research is delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, please keep a detailed record of the nature and length of issues so we can assist with variations and extension requests going forward.

Higher Degree Candidates and Supervisors

Higher Degree Candidates at the Lismore campus are required to work from home while the stay-at-home directive is in place and are encouraged to discuss their research with their supervisors. Higher Degree Research candidates at both the Coffs and Gold Coast campuses are encouraged to work from home if possible until further notice. Where there are difficulties with working from home arrangements for those Higher Degree Researchers at the Lismore campus, please contact the Graduate School for advice.  The Graduate School can assist with variations to candidature if needed.

Working with organisms

Live organisms – with a primary focus on care, maintenance and continued welfare of existing organisms such as animals, plants, cell lines, can continue subject to animal ethics legislative requirements. Research activities that prevent negative impacts on either animal welfare or the 3R principles (replacement, reduction and refinement) must continue. If changes in protocols are required to deal with this COVID lockdown, staff will need to complete a Change of Protocol and submit it to animal ethics.

Critical Research

Researchers who deem that their research is critical and wish to maintain the course of their research progress on campus and using SCU facilities, or conducted off campus beyond COVID restrictions, must obtain permission from the DVCR.  The DVCR will determine if the research is critical. Requests for continuity must be made through [email protected]. You will need to detail why the research is deemed critical, how you will retain COVID safe practise while undertaking the research and the steps that will be taken to keep the number of staff involved to a minimum compliant with WHS requirements.

Contractual commitments

Where there are contractual commitments to deliver consultancy/research outcomes that cannot be varied with the partner organisation, this research can continue with permission of DVCR and while adhering to NSW Government Public Health directions.

External and Internal Grant Funding

Several funding bodies have advised options for the review of deadlines for applications and awarded projects that are directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with requests considered on a case by case basis.

Please contact Grants (pre-award) or Research Services (post-award) if your proposal or project has been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support Services

All of the University’s services — such as Counselling, Inclusion and Advocacy — remain available to you. Please feel free to use them. Check out the Toolkit and Help function in MySCU Portal or visit Support, Social and UniLife for links to all services.