Best Practices for Continued Research Productivity during Remote Supervision

For Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

The current COVID-19 pandemic has required the university to find new ways to maintain academic activities and for thesis supervisors, students and postdoctoral fellows find new ways to continue research activities remotely.

Effective supervision of graduate students extends beyond the development of a plan to ensure continuity of research, and should include also mechanisms to promote accountability, ensure well-being, and foster community and connectiveness at a time when this is difficult to achieve.

To help you make the most of working from home as a Graduate Student or Postdoctoral Fellow, consider the following tips:

  1. Designate a home space and establish a daily work schedule. Setting daily goals for productivity is critical to ensuring that you maintain research productivity. Communicate your work schedule to people staying with you at home, and adhere to it.
  2. Ensure that you have remote access to the software, files, and scientific journals (library access) to continue to be productive from home.
  3. Ensure IT supports are in place to access data/resources. This may include access to the VPN, remote desktops, etc as required for your research.
  4. Ensure any data or information related to your research is safely stored and not easily accessed by others. For team projects, set up virtual collaborative spaces (Google Drive, OneDrive) to continue to work as a team.
  5. Ensure that your supervisor and lab mates have up-to-date contact information for every member of the research group.
  6. Make yourself accessible to safe and secure virtual meeting spaces using Zoom, Microsoft Teams (free to uOttawa students) or by telephone.
  7. You and your supervisor should work together to develop a personalized plan that allows you to conduct research remotely to the fullest extent possible (e.g., performing data analysis, literature review, modeling and computation, writing manuscripts and/or animal care protocols, and project planning).
  8. Schedule meetings with your supervisor as needed to ensure that you remain productive and meet your academic milestones.
  9. Take breaks. Get some exercise.
  10. Connect with others. Take care to maintain personal relationships with friends from within the university and outside beyond strict research related work.
  11. International students may be especially vulnerable given their distance from family members. Please keep this in mind and reach out and support your lab mates and colleagues.
  12. If you feel anxious, scared or have any other mental health concerns, please contact the Faculty Wellness Program by phone at 613-562-5800 x 8507 or by email at wellness@uottawa.ca. If you wish to speak to someone and get crisis support, get in touch with Good2talk, the post-secondary student helpline.

Available tools and resources to support remote supervision

  • Microsoft Teams
    It is free with a uOttawa email account. The tool has collaborative features facilitating an easy communication: chat, audio and video teleconferencing, screen sharing and many other functions.
  • Other free teleconferencing technologies:
    • Skype
    • Zoom (unlimited one on one meeting and 40 min limit on group meeting with the free version)
    • Whereby (up to 4 meeting participants with the free version)
  • If you require remote access (VPN) to a research drive to work from home, your supervisor will need to fill the following form from the Central IT in order to create an account for you. Then, you will be able to install VPN and MedMapDrive and access research drives remotely.
    VPN is not needed for common applications (e.g. email, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, Brightspace, Library access, etc).
  • Improve your skills or learn new skills
    Current uOttawa students, faculty and staff now have free, unlimited access to over 7,000 online courses related to science, business, media and technology through LinkedIn Learning, a self-service training site (e.g. learning R, statistics, public speaking, communication, etc).
  • Transfer large files (up to 10GB)
    uOttawa Liquidfiles is an online secure file transfer service to facilitate sending large and/or confidential and sensitive files/folders to any email address securely and quickly.
  • Create a Team Drive
    APUO faculty members may request the creation of a Google Drive File Stream account. The researcher can then create a Team Drive and grant access to team members such as students or other collaborators.
  • Mental health during Covid-19
    If you feel anxious, scared or have any other mental health concerns, please contact the Faculty Wellness Program by phone at 613-562-5800 x 8507 or by email at wellness@uottawa.ca. You can also speak to someone and get crisis support at Good2talk, the postsecondary student helpline.

Original concept for this document, including some phrasing, courtesy of the University of Calgary.

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