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RDC FAQs

Research Ethics Board

It is the REB’s mandate to determine whether or not an ethics review is required. While researchers are responsible for ethical conduct in their research endeavors, they always have the support of the REB. When in doubt, please present any project to the REB for determination on whether or not ethics review is required. This consultation may be done via email, phone or in person, and typically with the Chair of the REB, although all REB members are always able to consult as well.

Yes.If you are recruiting  participants from the RDC community (students, faculty, staff), the RDC REB will need to review your project and only approved projects are able to commence recruitment.  Typically, however, the ethics approval process will be expedited. Please provide a copy of any other REB ethics approvals with your RDC application.

The process does not change typically when there are multi-investigators and/or multi-jurisdictions involved.  All researchers are obligated to follow their own institution’s policies regarding research.  Best practices are that the Principal Researcher should obtain ethical approval at their home institution. Co-Researchers on the project should then submit copies of the Principal Researcher’s ethical approval and application to their own institutions. Depending on the nature of the project, harmonized ethics board processes may be available to you; in other cases, project-specific agreements may be drawn up to minimize the REB paperwork required, while still ensuring the highest level of ethical oversight for your project.

No – as the instructor, you would be responsible for completing a Course-Based Student Project application form for the entire class (available through the Forms Index or "Forms & Templates" tab here on the REB site).  The REB strongly recommends that you then serve as a de facto REB – at the very least, this should involve students submitting proposals for their projects to you for approval; the REB can provide you with a sample Ethics Checklist that you can use.  While these are course-based projects, students should still be conducting research according to the accepted standards for ethical research. This should include ensuring that all their participants give voluntary consent prior to participation. You may provide templates for students to adapt or you can refer them to the RDC REB website.

If your students encounter any problems while conducting this research, you should be their first contact and you should notify the REB at the earliest opportunity.  Examples of problems that students might encounter could include: losing data, causing a participant to become distressed, or breaching anonymity or confidentiality of a participant.

If you plan to do naturalistic observation in a public place that does not allow for the identification of the participants, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, nothing is staged by the researcher and the observation is non-intrusive, ethics review is not normally required.  Consulting with the REB is the best way to work out the particular details of your study.

If you plan to do data collection that involves information posted by people on the internet, an ethics review is not normally required if all of the following criteria are met: the site is publicly accessible (e.g. it’s not password protected and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy), presentation of the data will not allow for the identification of any particular individuals, the research is not staged by the researcher and is non-intrusive.  Consulting with the REB is the best way to work out the particular details of your study.

  • Some of the repercussions of not obtaining ethical approval for academic research include, but are not limited to:
  • Many peer reviewed journals will not publish research that has not been approved by a research ethics board
  • If something happens during a study that affects participant welfare, the researcher will not have the protection of their institution*
  • The researcher’s eligibility for access to participant pools, funding, promotion may be negatively limited or denied
  • Participants may file a complaint against the researcher with the institution; and depending on the severity of the situation, with local authorities
  • Damage to the reputation of one’s institution and of one’s colleagues

*For a fascinating example, refer to the case of Dr. Collette Parent and Dr. Christine Bruckert, University of Ottawa.

No. Research involving human participants must not start until REB Ethical Approval has been received.  Pilot studies require research ethics approval. If approval is received for a pilot study, researchers may not have to submit a new application for the “full” study so long as there have not been significant alterations to the research protocol as a result of the pilot study. If the modifications informed by the pilot study are not significant in nature, providing the REB with any updated forms, instruments, and plans may be sufficient. Please consult with REB Chair to determine what is most appropriate in any given case.

In most cases, applications are reviewed as they come in. The RDC REB does not have designated meeting times.  Please try to submit your application at least two weeks prior to the start date of your research project.  Ethics application reviews typically take 10 business days to complete; a review may take longer if modifications or clarifications are requested. 

The REB is rarely able to accommodate “rush” or “last minute” reviews.  The majority of REB reviewers are faculty members; as such, they are subject to the same press on their time as other faculty, which makes some times during the year a bit more difficult to accommodate expedited review requests.   

The REB is able to review applications September through June.  We can still accept applications in July and August, though due to vacation schedules of the reviewers. The ten day turnaround time is not always guaranteed.  If received by August 20, Course-Based Student Research application reviews for the Fall term will be completed by the start of classes.

Ethics application reviews typically take 15 business days to complete; a review may take longer if modifications or clarifications are requested.  If a Full Board Review is required, it will take longer to conduct the review.

The REB is rarely able to accommodate “rush” or “last minute” reviews.  The majority of REB Reviewers are faculty members; as such, they are subject to the same press on their time as other faculty, which makes some times during the year a bit more difficult to accommodate expedited review requests.

Consult with the Chair of the REB as soon as possible regarding any changes to your research protocol.  If the changes affect ethical standards, you will have to reapply for ethical approval.

If the changes are not so significant as to impact on the ethical protocol, you may only need to submit documentation of the changes made; if the changes are significant enough to require not previously outlined ethical protocols, you will be required to submit a new ethics application.  It is best to consult with the REB prior to any changes.  

Examples of changes that typically do not warrant a new application could include: revising the wording of questions in a survey; adding questions of generally the same focus to an interview guide; expanding the number of participants to recruit; or deleting questions from the research instrument.

Examples of changes that might not warrant a new application, but which might require an addendum to your original application to account for some new procedures, could include: adding an online delivery component; expanding participant recruitment to include people/groups not previously described; or adding questions of a very different focus to an interview guide.

Examples of changes that will necessitate a new application could include: introducing a new research instrument; or expanding participant recruitment to include people or groups who were not in the original research design and for which specific protocols  exist for inclusion in research [e.g. Indigenous persons, children, people who cannot voluntarily consent, people with whom the researcher has a relationship (e.g. teacher-student)].

A resounding YES.  One or two errors are inevitable and thus forgivable.  Errors throughout one’s application form, however, will detract from the professionalism expected of researchers.

Please proofread your Project Application form for spelling.  The form we use unfortunately does not allow for spell check as you type.  Our best suggestion is to type the text in a word processing place of your preference, then paste into our form.

The Annual Status Report is due by June 30 of the academic year in which your project was approved. You may submit your Report as soon as your project is complete if it earlier than this date.  The REB Chair will send out the first reminder near the end of April; second reminder end of May; third and final reminder near the end of June.  If an Annual Status Report is not submitted, the REB is mandated to report cases of failure to comply with the provisions of the RDC ethics policy to the President (or designate) at RDC.  Disciplinary action may be requested: e.g., a cease order on any data collection, holds placed on any new ethics application, etc.  In the case of external researchers, a letter will be sent to the researcher’s institution’s research office alerting them of the non-compliance with RDC policy.

If you indicate that your project is still ongoing and will continue into the next academic year, you will receive a request to submit a new Annual Status Report the following year.

Instructors with approved Course-Based Student Projects do not have submit an Annual Status Report to the REB.

When any recorded information about an identifiable individual is collected and/or maintained by a member of RDC, certain guidelines must be adhered to above those specified by the REB Policy. This FOIPP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) legislation governs all provincial departments, agencies and public bodies.
Further information about FOIP, as well necessary forms, can be obtained from Mareen Redies (Records Information - FOIP Coordinator) at 403-356-4987.

Useful websites, dealing with FOIP, can be found at:

How long data should be stored depends on the data, its format, and discipline-specific guidelines. The secure safeguarding of your research participants’ data is crucial to respecting their privacy and it helps you fulfill your confidentiality obligations.  You should follow disciplinary standards and practices for the collection, protection, retention or destruction of data.

You are required to complete a brief Annual Status Report regarding your study. This Annual Status Report may be submitted any time after your research is complete and is due June 30 of the academic year in which your project was approved.  Ethical Approval is active for three years after the approval date, so if your project is a multi-year endeavor you will be responsible for submitting an Annual Status Report for every year your project is active.  If your project will go on longer than three years, you must submit a new ethics application and submit to a new ethics review.

Adverse Events are defined as occurrences with an undesirable outcome for the participant. As a researcher, you have the responsibility to report to the REB any unanticipated issues or events that may increase the level of risk to participants, or has other ethical implications that may affect participants' welfare. Some examples of adverse events that must be reported include: Participants showing signs of emotional upset in conjunction with or following interviews or other tasks associated with participation; Any release, even inadvertent, of research participants' identities or personal information; Partial or complete data loss. 
You will need to notify the Chair of the REB immediately and fill out an Adverse Events Report. The more detailed process for reporting an Adverse Event can be found on the Ongoing Review / Annual Status Report webpage.   

The REB considers this an Adverse Event as it could potentially cause harm or increase the level of risk to your participants. You will need to notify the Chair of the REB immediately and fill out the Adverse Events Report.  The more detailed process for reporting an Adverse Event can be found on the Ongoing Review / Annual Status Report page.

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