Information for researchers and research students

Now that the Government's COVID-19 response has moved to Level 4 status, Massey's campuses and facilities are closed. This means most forms of research have been suspended. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has advised that under Level 4 conditions, they will be providing only essential services.

This is a very unsettling time for our research community. It is very important that students and supervisors keep in touch – perhaps through online platforms, email, or via phone meetings – as we work through the changes presented by the current crisis.

What is an 'essential service'?

For the research and science sector, the MBIE defines an 'essential service' as:

  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in the COVID-19 response;
  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in hazard monitoring and resilience;
  • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in diagnostics for essential services like biosecurity, public health;
    Laboratories and Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) facilities that could provide essential services and products that could be used to respond to COVID-19;
  • Other significant research facilities including animal facilities, clinical trials and infrastructure that requires constant attention (eg samples, collections and storage facilities) that are important to New Zealand.

MBIE has advised that they, and we, must therefore operate within these ‘lockdown’ principles:

  • Public health is paramount. We need to minimise risks to public health;
  • We must continue our response to COVID-19;
  • We must ensure the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand;
  • We must also maintain public health, safety and security.

Do I still have access to buildings, facilities, studios and resources?

Only researchers pursuing 'essential services' (as defined above) continue to have access to Massey's facilities during Level 4 conditions. 

Which facilities and equipment continue to be maintained?

  • Facilities and resources necessary for 'essential services' research (as defined above);
  • Animals and rare/protected plant specimens/collections that require constant attention will receive the minimum required support;
  • Labs containing analytical equipment, reagents or sampling resources that could be called on to assist with essential services;
  • Specialist equipment that requires considerable effort and cost to shut down, or mothball, and/or could be damaged by rapid changes to how it is set up. An example is our Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machines. These are being maintained with  a 'minimal maintenance' approach.

Access to and maintenance of all other plants, fungal or other organisms (other than animal) collections has ceased. In exceptional cases - where a collection contains rare or protected plants or organisms essential to the maintenance or diversity of national biota - a minimal maintenance approach may be developed, and approved by the relevant PVC.

Can I continue my fieldwork, research, survey, or longitudinal study?

  • All research requiring face-to-face contact has been suspended;
  • There is to be no harvesting or sampling, unless it contributes to 'essential services' (as defined above). Non-COVID-19 research activities that require physical presence in the field or laboratory have ceased while New Zealand is at Level 4;
  • Longitudinal studies will not continue under lockdown conditions, unless they are deemed to be part of 'essential services'.

Research that can be undertaken from home may continue as conditions permit, provided it complies with the restrictions imposed by the Level 4 conditions.

Can I continue my research if it is being conducted online?

Online interview-based research may continue, though consideration should be given to the circumstances and challenges that research participants may be facing at this time. Research students should discuss this with their supervisors to confirm it is appropriate to continue with their online research at this time.

For new research, consideration should be given as to whether it needs to be designed to actively recognise the circumstances we are in, and care should be taken when approaching participants. The resulting research will of course need to explain the context in which the data was collected and discuss any participant burden. 

Can I continue to analyse existing data?

Analysis of existing data sets, literature reviews, and work on manuscripts may continue. Developing ideas for research proposals or editing manuscripts or resources to publish or circulate to research partners, contributors and so on are all valid and valuable activities to focus on during the lockdown. 

Have external funding agencies been informed?

If your research is sponsored or supported by external funding, please keep the agency informed. Massey is working through Universities New Zealand to develop ways to manage existing research obligations. The major funding agencies are aware that research will be delayed and changed outcomes are inevitable.

Staff employed on fixed-term agreements supported by externally-funded research contracts will continue to be paid as normal through the Level 4 lockdown period. Industry-funded contracts will need to be renegotiated on a university-by-university basis. 

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