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 is designed to do the following:
- 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. The government will provide up to 75 per cent of the eligible portion of eligible research personnel’s wages, with a maximum of $847 per week for up to 12 weeks per individual, within the eligibility period of March 15, 2020 to August 29, 2020.
- 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 eased. 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, 2020.
2. CAMH and its benefits from CRCEF
CAMH is Canada’s leading mental health research hospital, and one of the world’s leading research centres in its field, including addiction. We aim to revolutionize the understanding of the brain, use evidence to drive social change and optimize care, and inspire hope for those with mental illness.
Research at CAMH 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 CRCEF. This funding will help us to maintain staff and essential activities during the pandemic-related slowdown of or interruption to research, and as we resume full research operations under new circumstances.
3. Method of distribution of CRCEF funds across CAMH and the Toronto Academic Health Science Network in each stage of the program
Stages 1 and 2
Upon confirmation by the Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) of program specifications for the CRCEF program through CAMH’s affiliation with the University of Toronto (lead institution) and the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN), a CRCEF Steering Committee was established. The committee includes representatives from 12 TAHSN hospital research institutes and the University of Toronto, and is complemented by a TAHSN CRCEF Data Working Group, comprising financial/research operations representatives of each of the 12 institutions. Each group is diverse in its makeup, and all members of each group have undertaken unconscious bias training.
The lead institution, the University of Toronto, undertook an analysis to determine “notional allocations” across the 12 TAHSN institutions, using to the full extent possible the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO)-informed formula/data applied by TIPS in determining the TAHSN Stage 1 allocation of $41.6 million. The allocations and supporting data were shared with CAMH and the other TAHSN 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 TIPS, the 12 institutions confirmed a common approach to determining CRCEF-eligible funding sources and full-time equivalent staff (FTE).
Given the timing of the receipt of the Stage 1 payment by TIPS to the University of Toronto, CAMH and the other TAHSN institutions were 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 of Toronto to clarify the exact amounts required at each stage for each institution. These actuals (and projections to August 29, 2020) were entered on the Convergence Portal, confirming our shared need for the full $41.6 million allocated to the TAHSN system in Stage 1, and an additional $9 million sought through Stage 2. The proportion allocated to CAMH in Stage 1 is $1.86 million and $190,000 sought through Stage 2. The University of Toronto has entered into an inter-institutional agreement with each of the affiliated hospitals/research institutes to enable transfer of funds upon receipt from TIPS.
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. We will continue to develop common implementation parameters, in consultation with TIPS.
4. Equity, diversity and inclusion in decision-making on CRCEF funding
It is important to understand that CAMH is a separately incorporated, independent employer, with its own governance and management structures. Therefore, CAMH is responsible for the management of CRCEF-allocated funding, and for complying with the program requirements.
At CAMH, a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) imbues all institutional processes and decision-making. CAMH’s strategy for equity, diversity and inclusion decision-making for the use of CRCEF funds fits within broader EDI policies and practices that are incorporated into the numerous selection/allocation opportunities that are undertaken on a daily basis.
EDI was discussed at the outset of the process and revisited in every CRCEf related internal decision making meeting. Based on the final funding received in Stages 1 and 2, equity informed decisions were not required. Recognizing that in subsequent stages funding may not be disseminated to all applicants that have put forward expenses for consideration, the following equity practices have been employed:
- Collecting demographic information that enables EDI-informed decisions.
- The CRCEF Funding Committee (CFC) responsible for overseeing the institutional allocation approach is comprised of individuals representing equity seeking groups.
- All members have completed unconscious bias training, and relevant CAMH EDI policies are referenced and discussed at the beginning of all CFC meetings.
- Decision-making processes recognize and value 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. This is achieved through several measures including multidisciplinary CFC membership.
- 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
- The CFC reviews all processes and supporting documentation, to ensure that all potential beneficiaries were treated equitably and that funding recipients have a proportional representation of equity seeking groups.
5. CAMH contact for CRCEF program compliance
At CAMH, ultimate responsibility for the CRCEF program rests with the Vice President, Research at CAMH, Dr. Bruce G. Pollock. The Senior Director, Research Strategy and Operations, Komal Bhasin, is accountable to the Vice President, Research, on implementation. For more information about the implementation of the CRCEF at CAMH, please contact Komal Bhasin (email@example.com).