Ethics Review at Laurier
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The University Research Ethics Board (REB) reviews and approves research projects of faculty members, graduate students and staff, while the departmental ethics review committees, for the most part, review and approve projects of undergraduate students. However, if the undergraduates’ projects are part of a faculty members own research program or if the participants are at greater than ‘minimal risk’ by participating, the University REB needs to review and approve the project.
Every project that involves collecting information from human subjects needs a consent / information letter. Such documents inform participants about your project, explain what they will be asked to do as participants and set out their rights and responsibilities.
To assist you with this the REB has prepared a sample consent letter. This provides suggestions for dealing with the types of information that generally need to be included in the consent / information letter. You can find this template under ‘Documents’ –‘Informed Consent Statement/Info Letter Template’; a link to this has also been provided within the ROMEO online system.
There are often other documents that need to be attached to your application for ethics review. For example, if you have surveys or questionnaires, they need to be attached (this can be done in the ROMEO online system using the “Attachments” Tab). If you are telephoning your participants, attach the script for your telephone call. If you are recruiting participants with a poster, letter or email, attach a copy of the material used in the recruitment process. If you are using an unstructured interview or focus group, attach a list of topics or questions that will be covered during the interview or focus group.
TCPS2 Certificate Requirement
Beginning March 2013 all Laurier individuals listed on an REB application (PI, co-PI and supervisors) will need to complete the TCPS 2 online ethics tutorial and submit the certificate(s) of completion with their REB application.
The online tutorial can be found at: http://tcps2core.ca/welcome
For further details about this requirement, refer to Policy 11.13, "Ethics Review of Research Involving Humans "
Once your application has been submitted online, either to the REB or to a department level research ethics committee (REC), it will be checked over to ensure that all required documentation has been submitted. If the application is complete, the review process will begin (incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant). Normal processing time is 10 working days.
The Chair of the REB (or REC) will likely send comments and suggestions for changes to the projects. Once these changes have been made and re-submitted for review, you will receive an approval letter from the Chair.
Please note that the University REB or department RECs must review and approve any changes or modifications to the project that relate to the researcher’s dealings with his or her participants before those changes are implemented. Such modifications will be submitted online (if applying to the REB) or sent via email (if applying to an REC.)
WLU Research Ethics Policy
You are encouraged to read the WLU Research Ethics Policy, Policy 11.13, Ethics Review of Research Involving Humans, if you have further questions about the REB review process.
If your project has been approved by another REB, please provide Laurier's REB (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the documentation (approval letter and application) that was reviewed and approved by the other REB. You do not need to fill out the Laurier application (we will work from the other REB’s forms in most cases). The project still needs to be reviewed and approved here by Laurier’s REB.
Most activities conducted within Laurier’s jurisdiction or under Laurier’s auspices by students, faculty and staff that meet the definition of ‘research’ and involve ‘human participants’ will be subject to REB review:
“…research is an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systemic investigation… (TCPS2 pg. 15)
“…human participants are those individuals whose data (including human biological materials), responses to interventions, stimuli or questions by the researcher, are relevant to answering the research question… (TCPS2 pg. 16 - 17)
The activities listed below, when involving the use of human participants (or human biological material), are provided as examples of activities generally accepted by the REB to need review as they meet the definition of ‘research’:
- - Research supported via public funding or the Tri-Councils
- - Research supported via contracts, agreements or industrial funding
- - Graduate research projects
- - Postdoctoral research projects
- - Faculty research projects
- - Staff research projects
- - Projects or assignments that involve the analysis of data resulting in the creation of new knowledge or insights (e.g., term papers, honours level thesis etc.)
- - Projects that use surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and experimental methods to gather data from human subjects
In some cases students, faculty and staff may undertake projects which as a result of their intended purpose or outcome may be exempt from human ethics review - as ‘research’ is most likely not the intended purpose of the project. When clarification is needed as to whether or not a project is exempt from REB review, the REB shall make the final decision. Please contact REB@wlu.ca for assistance.
Activities that are likely to be exempt from REB take place when:
- The main purpose of the project is solely professional skill development. Such projects are used to demonstrate and allow an instructor to assess specific career skills or professional abilities directly related to future employment. The project is not presented outside the course and any data collected will be destroyed. (E.g., a Journalism student is required to set up a series of interviews with small business owners, ask them questions and then write an article so their instructor can assess their interview and writing ability; A graduate student, following professional practices in social work gathers clinical information from patients in a hospital to prepare admittance reports that will be evaluated by their instructor to see if they meet professional standards.) *
- The main purpose of the project is to assess one’s knowledge attainment or understanding of concepts taught in a senior level course with the primary audience being the course instructor. No new knowledge or insights are created (E.g., an Education student enrolled in a curriculum development course writes a report outlining how they modified their lesson plans to better accommodate the learning styles and comprehension levels of the students they were teaching; An SBE student outlines how they applied effective client management skills while working with a small business owner; A psychology student writes a reflective paper to demonstrate their understanding of cognitive development in children after spending two weeks observing a grade 3 class.)*
- Participant data is collected solely for in class training or demonstration purposes and which will be immediately disposed of once the training or demonstration has been completed. (E.g., a professor teaching first year statistics has everyone in the class fill in a survey regarding their fast food buying habits in order to create a data set that will be used to run various statistical tests on.) Note: If the data collection procedures involve the use of invasive procedures on human participants they will need to be reviewed by the Teaching Safety Committee.*
*Note: If the project is deemed to be exempt from REB review please ensure that appropriate procedures are used to collect any data, secure it and ensure its proper disposal. The confidentiality of data must be maintained at all times. Researchers are not exempt from ethical conduct.
Useful websites on privacy, ethics, professional and/or ethical conduct:
- The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans
- Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research
- The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
- Laurier’s Privacy Coordinator Office
- The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) Ethics Guidelines
- The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) Code of Ethics
- The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Code of Ethics for Psychologists
(Prepared in part using guidelines from the REB at the University of Waterloo)
A number of activities are exempt from REB review under the TCPS2 guidelines. These exemptions have been summarized below. When clarification is needed as to whether or not a project is exempt from REB review, the REB shall make the final decision. Please contact REB@wlu.ca for assistance.
- Projects that involve the use of humans who themselves are not the focus of the research are exempt from REB review. For example one may collect data from those authorized to release information or data as part of their ordinary course of employment about organizations, policies, procedures, professional practices or statistical reports. In such cases the person is NOT the focus of the research and REB review is not required. (TCPS2 pg. 16)
- Research that relies entirely on publicly available information does not require REB review when it is legally accessible to the public and appropriately protected by law OR the information is publicly accessible with no reasonable expectation of privacy. (TCPS2 pg. 17)
- REB review is not required for projects that exclusively use the observation of people in public places where A) there is no staged intervention by the PI or direct interaction with the participants B) those under observation have no reasonable expectation of privacy and C) no identification of specific individuals takes place in the research results. (TCPS2 pg. 18)
- Research undertaken and used exclusively for Laurier internal assessment, management or improvement purposes (e.g., quality improvement studies, departmental reviews) and testing within normal education requirements does not constitute research under TCPS2 and no REB review is required (TCPS2 pg. 20.) Information obtained under these projects is not to be published or presented outside of the university. Projects meeting these criteria are however subject to Administrative Research Review under University Policy 8.2. For more information on Administrative Research Review, please contact Una Glisic at email@example.com or visit the Administrative Research Review webpage.
- Research that relies exclusively on secondary use of anonymous human information so long as the process of data linkage or recording of dissemination of results does not generate identifiable information and the data was originally intended to be retained indefinitely for future analysis. (TCPS2 pg. 19)
- Creative practice activities, in and of themselves do not require REB review (e.g., an artist makes or interprets a work of art). However, a creative practice that seeks responses from participants whose responses will be analyzed to answer a research question is subject to REB review (TCPS2 pg. 20)
- The REB at Laurier recognizes that the university must from time to time gather personal data under the authority of the Wilfrid Laurier University Act and that it will store, analyze and use this data to fulfill various reporting requirements lawfully imposed upon the university or for activities deemed necessary for the proper administration of the university. Such activities are exempt from REB (and Administrative) review.
NOTE: Please be aware that various university policies, agreements and privacy legislation further regulate the use of data collected and maintained by Laurier. Researchers seeking access to such data should ensure compliance with these items. Please visit the Privacy Coordinator’s webpage for more information.