Research Ethics Board
A message from the Saint Mary’s University Research Ethics Board (SMU REB)
Dear Researchers conducting research involving humans,
At this time, the REB Team would like to reach out to you to provide a few notes regarding your research and the ongoing support activities of the Research Ethics Board (REB)/Research Ethics Officer (REO)/Research Ethics Board Office staff (REB Office Staff):
- During this time of engaging the Saint Mary's University Pandemic Policy & Plan due to the COVID-19 virus, the REB, REO and REB Office staff will continue to do our best to provide research ethics services to the university community, for research involving human participants.
- We urge our colleagues to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while conducting research with human participants. Follow all provincial and federal guidelines for stopping the spread of infection. Implementing the principle of social distancing, frequent hand washing, and frequent disinfection of surfaces are essential. Researchers should consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, etc. – and please contact the REO (see below) if there any questions related to implementing protocol changes. For more information on SMU’s response and the most current updates, see https://smu.ca/covid19/.
- Research ethics review and the workings of the REB office will operate remotely until further notice. Applications, inquiries, and requests for initial and continuing research ethics review will need to be submitted electronically (only) to email@example.com. Please do not submit or send any documents in hard copy – paper-based mail will be checked only periodically.
- With respect to Continuing Research Ethics Review requests that involve Requests for Changes to Cleared Research (Form 2), a fresh guideline is available to assist with making requests due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Guidelines for Continuing Research Ethics Review during COVID-19 Pandemic. This guidelines addresses our research community's current most frequently asked questions. Please feel free to reach out to us with your questions.
- Orshy Torok, our REO, will access voicemail and respond to requests/queries from the University community via telephone (902-420-5728) – but note the preferred method of communication remains through email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
- The REB Co-chairs are Dr. Leanna Closson (rebchair.Closson@smu.ca) and Dr. Kevin Kelloway (rebchair.Kelloway@smu.ca). The REB Vice Chair is Dr. Eric Henry (rebvicechair.Henry@smu.ca).
Submitting applications for Initial Research Ethics Review:
The REB has transitioned to virtual operations as part of the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The REB will continue to provide research ethics related support to faculty, students and staff, including review and clearance of research applications. All forms and related documents should be submitted to the Research Ethics Officer via email at email@example.com.
Please keep in mind that members of the REB, the REB vice chair, REB co-chairs, and Research Ethics Officer are all working at home during a pandemic. Some of us are working in circumstances that are challenging. It may take up to 10 business days to respond to emails.
Normally, researchers who submit a Form 1 application to the REB receive word from the REB chair 6-8 weeks after the application is submitted.
If you are a researcher with a time-sensitive COVID-19 application, then please contact Ms. Orshy Torok at firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate why your application merits expedited review. Research ethics review during the COVID-19 pandemic demands greater attention and consideration because volunteers, researchers and even the members of the REB may be in a position of greater vulnerability.
We will endeavour to process time-sensitive COVID-19 applications within 10 business days. Although we cannot guarantee this turn around time, we will work hard to accomplish this goal. Please note that in some circumstances, the review process may exceed this time frame.
Please bear with us as we deal with these changes and know that we are working hard to serve our research community as best as we can.
We thank you for your patience.
The REB Team
A message from the Saint Mary’s University Associate Vice-President, Research:
In response to the directives of the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated declaration of a Provincial State of Emergency, starting on March 23, 2021, and extending until further notice, researchers and research participants and research collaborators are all to be aware of the following:
The starting point response from Saint Mary’s University was to impose the following restrictions or suspensions of activity:
- All on-campus research and scholarly activities in labs, offices, and research spaces across our campus, is suspended;
- In addition, with attention to the travel and other restrictions associated with the Provincial State of Emergency mandate, all University Travel is suspended;
- All field research is suspended;
- Activities involving face-to-face (in-person) interactions (e.g. surveys or focus groups with research participants) are to be deferred or modified to be carried out remotely using tele-/video-conferencing tools.
However, exemptions to the above restrictions/suspensions have been made possible in the following ways:
- As of summer 2020, faculty members have been allowed access to use their office space on campus.
- Ongoing updates regarding Return to Campus utilization of classrooms and other spaces on campus are communicated to the campus community as changes occur (either restrictions easing, or re-tightening).
- Any request to engage in research activities that are listed above as being restricted or suspended (e.g. on campus research activities, field research, research involving travel, research involving face-to-face interactions with collaborators or participants) may follow our established RETURN TO RESEARCH process to gain permission for an exemption to those restrictions. This process is outlined here: https://www.smu.ca/virtualuniversity/return-to-research.html, and this page is updated and various changes to the allowed Phases of Return are identified.
To re-emphasize: a RETURN TO RESEARCH approval is required in order to gain the exemption to the above-stated suspensions and restrictions, until such time as the State of Emergency associated with COVID-19 is lifted.
Thank you for your attention to these processes.
Adam J. Sarty, Ph.D.
Associate Vice-President, Research
Welcome to the website of the Saint Mary's University (SMU) Research Ethics Board (REB).
The SMU REB reviews and provides clearance for research involving human participants under the jurisdiction of Saint Mary's University and NSCAD University as well as serves as the appeals Board for Mount Saint Vincent University; as determined by the federal Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, (TCPS 2, 2018).
All research with human participants, as defined by the TCPS 2 (2018), must be reviewed and cleared by the REB before it is conducted, before the recruitment of participants commences. Researchers contact the REB Co-Chairs (rebchair.Closson@smu.ca/rebchair.Kelloway@smu.ca) for oversight determining whether the activity is considered research with human participants according to the TCPS 2 (2018) and requires REB review and clearance or whether it is considered an activity exempt from REB review. TCPS 2 , Chapter 2. Scope of Research Ethics Review. Articles 2.1 to 2.6 is helpful reading in the course of determining whether research is the intended purpose of the undertaking and preparing questions to the REB and it is the researcher's initial first step with respect to their collaboration with the REB.
This website has been designed to help you learn about the ethical principles and preparations that are involved with conducting research with human participants, determine what policies and procedures relate to your own work, review previous questions from your peers, opportunities for consultation, and to utilize the resources and forms needed for an initial review or continuing review requests to the SMU REB.
For general and contact information relating to the Saint Mary's University Animal Care Committee, please visit our Contacts page.
Participating in Research?
Questions to ask about participating in research:
There are different reasons why people engage in research. The information here focuses on people who join or are considering joining research studies as research participants.
A lot of research cannot be done without the help of people willing to join studies. Often people want to know more about taking part in research, but do not know what kind of questions to ask. Here you will find answers to some frequently asked questions about participating in research.
The answers are based on Canada’s research ethics policy, the second edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2, 2018). Many researchers in Canada are required by their institutions to use it to help design and conduct their research. However, there is a lot of research conducted in Canada, especially in the private sector, that does not have to follow TCPS 2, (2018). You should always feel free to ask researchers what ethical standards apply to their research, and how you can learn more about them.
Canada's three federal research agencies, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, jointly created the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE of the Panel) as part of a collaborative effort to promote the ethical conduct of research involving human participants.
The Panel develops, interprets and implements the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2, 2018) and requires that all faculty, student, staff, funded or unfunded research proposals that involve human participants and fall under the TCPS 2 be brought before the REB for review and clearance. Please note that the electronic version of the TCPS 2 is the official version of the Policy. The newest version is the TCPS 2, 2018.
The REB advises all prospective applicants to read the Tri-Council Policy Statement and complete the TCPS 2 Course on Research Ethics (CORE) online tutorial. The tutorial will help applicants familiarize themselves with the TCPS 2 (2018) and consider their research in this light.
Providing access to research findings:
Researchers should make the results of their research available to their research participants, the people who provided information for that research to be possible. Asking participants to contact the researcher to discover the results can pose difficulties for both participants and researchers. Participants may find it burdensome and uncomfortable to be required to identify themselves to researchers to access the findings; this problem is intensified when participants were assured their participation would be anonymous. Researchers may find it burdensome to have participants contact them to find out the results because researchers would then be faced with the obligation to safeguard participants’ identifying information.
A good practice is to remove barriers for participants to access the research findings and to make these findings easily accessible. The choice that researchers make to give participants access to the results of their research should be participant-focused.
One option that may be appropriate is for researchers to give participants a link where they would be able to find a summary of the results in the future. This link could be provided in a Feedback or Debriefing form. Saint Mary’s University provides a web page to help researchers convey their results. The link for this web page is: https://smu.ca/academics/summaries-of-completed-research.html. Of course, researchers can use other web pages if they wish.
Related reading and tips involving handling the dissemination of research results is available at TCPS 2, 2018, Article 4.8.
The Saint Mary's University REB is mandated to review and provide clearance for research proposals that involve human participants. The REB provides a service to the University community by working together with researchers to identify and resolve ethical issues in their research in order to protect the interests of research participants, maximize the benefits of the research and minimize harms.
The Board consists primarily of faculty members, staff, graduate students, as well as members from the community who are non-affiliated to the University. The REB is tasked to clear, reject, propose modifications to, suspend or terminate research activity that involve human participants and fall under the jurisdiction of Saint Mary's University. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis throughout the year. There are no pre-determined submission deadlines to make requests.
For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions or to better understand how policies relate to your research, feel free to contact the Office of Research Ethics at email@example.com or 420-5728.
We seek to improve our procedures for implementing the TCPS 2 (2018) and our SMU REB policies and appreciate comments and recommendations you may have.
Any research involving human participants or human biological materials (including human embryos, fetuses, fetal tissue, reproductive materials and stem cells) must be submitted to the University’s Research Ethics Board.
Pilot studies (i.e., endeavours intended to inform the design of another study by collecting data from humans) require REB review prior to any undertaking. Research review is not required before making contact with any individual or community as long as the purpose is to establish a partnership and does not involve data collection for the purpose of the research.
No research with human participants shall begin before research ethics clearance is received from the University’s Research Ethics Board. Research protocols must have a valid Certificate of Research Ethics Clearance/Continuation. This includes piloting and the recruitment stages of the research project. Please seek guidance from the REB Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or REB Co-Chairs (rebchair.Closson@smu.ca/rebchair.Kelloway@smu.ca) whenever necessary.