On May 15, 2020, the Prime Minister announced $450 million in funding to help Canada’s academic research community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment will:
- Provide wage supports to universities and health research institutes, so they can retain research staff who are funded from industry or philanthropic sources and are unable to access some of the government’s existing COVID-19 support measures. This would apply even if their work has been temporarily suspended. The government will provide up to 75 per cent per individual, with a maximum of $847 per week.
- Support universities and health research institutes to maintain essential research-related activities during the crisis, and to ramp back up to full research operations once physical distancing measures are lifted. This will cover up to 75 per cent of total eligible costs, and will support activities such as the safe storage of dangerous substances, and restarting data sets that were interrupted during the pandemic.
The Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund (CRCEF) was launched by the Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) a few weeks later on June 23.
The University of Toronto and Affiliated Health Care Institutions Benefiting from CRCEF
Collectively, the University of Toronto and its affiliated hospitals/research institutes undertake a significant proportion of Canada’s academic research activity. The research enterprise at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and we are deeply appreciative that the Government of Canada has recognized this negative impact in the creation of the Canada Research Continuity Research Fund. This funding will help us to maintain staff and essential activities during pandemic-related slowdown of, or interruption to, research and as we resume full research operations in new circumstances.
Method of distribution of CRCEF funds across our institutions
Upon confirmation by TIPS of program specifications for the CRCEF program, the University of Toronto and its Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) affiliated institutions moved quickly to establish discussion tables to ensure coordination and consistency in responding to this important opportunity. Together, we established a CRCEF Steering Committee, comprising representatives of the hospital research institutes and the University, complemented by a TAHSN CRCEF Data Working Group, comprising financial/research operations representatives of each of the twelve institutions. Each group is diverse in its make-up and all members of each group have undertaken unconscious bias training.
Holland Bloorview senior research operations team members undertook analysis in consultation with our hospital's Chief Financial Officer to determine “notional allocations” for our institution, using to the full extent possible the CAUBO-informed formula/data applied by TIPS in determining our Stage 1 allocation of $388,555.00. The allocations and supporting data were shared with affiliates. Open and transparent exchange of information has been a cornerstone of engagement throughout the process, consistent with our approach to all matters of shared interest over many years. Together, and in consultation with the University, TIPS and the 11 other institutions, Holland Bloorview confirmed a common approach to determining CRCEF-eligible funding sources and FTE.
Given the timing of the receipt of the Stage 1 payment by TIPS to the University of Toronto, Holland Bloorview was able to complete their Stage 1 and 2 eligible wage subsidy analyses, rendering data regarding the eligible head count and wage subsidy expense for both Stages 1 and 2. This enabled the University to clarify the exact amounts required at each Stage for each institution. The University entered these actuals (and projections to 29 August 2020) on the Convergence Portal confirming Holland Bloorview’s need for the full $388, 555.00 allocated to Holland Bloorview in Stage 1, and an additional $68,319.00 sought through Stage 2. Holland Bloorview has entered into an inter-institutional agreement with the University to enable transfer of funds upon receipt from TIPS. The initial plans for distribution of both Stage 1 and 2 funds were brought to the EDI senior working group for revision, finalization and approval as discussed below.
Funding for this stage of CRCEF support will follow the same principles and processes as in Stages 1 and 2, with oversight from the Steering Committee and coordinated implementation by the Working Group.
An open call was launched October 30th inviting all impacted Holland Bloorview scientists to submit a request for eligible project maintenance and ramp-up funding supports for direct research expenses incurred between March 15th and November 15th via a REDCap survey. Requests of all magnitude and from all funding sources will be considered but will be dependent on institutional approval in consultation with the Holland Bloorview’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Executive Lead as well as Holland Bloorview’s Stage 3 allocation.
We will continue to develop common implementation parameters in consultation with the University, and TIPS.
Equity, diversity and inclusion in decision-making on CRCEF funding
It is important to understand that Holland Bloorview is a separately incorporated, independent employer with its own governance and management structures. Therefore, Holland Bloorview is responsible for management of CRCEF funding allocated to it, and for complying with the program requirements.
At Holland Bloorview, a deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion imbues all institutional processes and decision-making. In relation to decision-making on CRCEF, a senior EDI working group oversees the institutional approach to allocation of CRCEF funding to eligible claims. The senior EDI working group comprises a diverse and representative cross-section of Holland Bloorview including the Executive Lead, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of the hospital, and representatives from research grants and operations. All members have had unconscious bias training.
Holland Bloorview’s strategy for equity, diversity and inclusion decision-making for the use of CRCEF funds fits within its broader EDI framework that is incorporated into the numerous selection/allocation opportunities that are undertaken on a daily basis. For CRCEF, we ensure that that:
- all internal communications regarding the opportunity include language highlighting the commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in managing CRCEF funds;
- anyone involved in determining what claims may be brought forward is required to have undertaken unconscious bias training, particularly where the need exceeds the funds provided;
- attestations are on file confirming that decisions are not negatively affected by a researcher’s inability to work during the pandemic due to child/family care or increased risk related to exposure to COVID-19; and
- that the decision-making values research that is non-traditional or unconventional, based in Indigenous ways of knowing, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status.
The senior EDI working group reviews the final submission to CRCEF program, and supporting documentation, to ensure that processes have been robust and transparent and that all potential beneficiaries have been treated equitably and will meet again once each stage of funding has been confirmed and awarded.
Holland Bloorview contact for CRCEF program compliance
At Holland Bloorview, ultimate responsibility for the CRCEF program rests with the Vice-President, Research. The Director, Research Operations and Business Development (firstname.lastname@example.org) is accountable to the Vice-President on implementation.