Research ethics

Questions with an asterisk (*) are new or recently updated.

Health Research Ethics Board

*How is the Health Research Ethics Board (HREB) affected?

The REO is currently open and its operations are continuing as usual. Staff are working remotely, which is facilitated by online platforms (ROMEO/Researcher Portal and VPN access). All REO staff will continue to be accessible via email and phone. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

*How are the HREB meetings affected?

In an effort to minimize in-person interactions and practice social distancing, the HREB meetings will be held electronically until further notice. To accommodate these meetings, we are asking all HREB members to utilize the Researcher Portal to its full capacity. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

*Will new research be approved by the HREB?

Until the public health crisis related to COVID-19 has abated, no new studies involving face-to-face contact may be initiated at this time. Once the public health emergency order has been lifted, HREA will reassess, and in line with orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health, researchers will receive a communication from the HREA permitting them to begin new research. Researchers must not begin any recruitment, consent processes, or study interventions until they have received this communication. Exceptions will be made for research-related to COVID-19. Exceptions may also be made for clinical trials under exceptional circumstances, and for research that involves no participant contact. Exemptions will be considered at the request of the researcher and decisions will be made by the relevant HREB on a case-by-case basis. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

*My HREB approved research activities were supposed to include in-person interactions. What should I do now?

In light of the recent restrictions, the Research Ethics Office of the Health Research Ethics Board (HREB) wishes to advise researchers that, effective immediately (March 23, 2020), research protocols must be modified or delayed to avoid face-to-face personal interactions with research participants. Specifically, research protocols for continuing research will need to be amended to replace face-to-face interactions with remote communication. Any change to research protocols should be carefully considered to maximize participant safety. Considerations include the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research and any additional risk that may arise by switching from in-person to remote communication. Revised informed consent forms and/or consent addenda may be required (e.g. to update participants with regard to privacy considerations arising from the use of different communication channels, etc.) 

The REO would like to direct researchers carrying out planned temporary changes to approved study procedures, because of COVID-19, to submit either an HREB Amendment Form (HAF) or an HREB Protocol Deviation Form (HPDF). HAFs will be required when changes to the research protocol can be anticipated. While TCPS2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the HREB at the earliest opportunity. HPDFs will be required when a change is immediately necessary to maximize participant safety. Please ensure your HPDF describes both the deviation from the approved research protocol and a description of the arrangement for returning to normal processes. For both the HAF and the HPDF please be sure to provide any supporting documentation from the project’s Sponsor, if applicable. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

Who should I contact if I have questions for the HREB?

If you require any assistance please contact the ethics officers at ethicsofficer@hrea.ca for clinical trials and genetics studies, and ethicsofficernct@hrea.ca for non-clinical trials. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.


Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research and Grenfell Campus Research Ethics Board

*How are the Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research (ICEHR) and the Grenfell Campus Research Ethics Board (GC-REB) affected?

ICEHR and GC-REB staff are doing their best to continue ethics review processing during the pandemic and reviewers are continuing to provide their reviews for new ethics applications that are submitted. Please be patient and expect longer wait times, as ICEHR and GC-REB staff are working remotely from home, facilitated by online platforms (ROMEO/Researcher Portal and VPN access). Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

*How are the ICEHR and GC-REB meetings affected?

As usual, submission and review of ethics applications is ongoing via the Researcher Portal, rather than in committee meetings. New ICEHR applications are assigned to a delegated review team of three members for assessment of risk, and feedback to the ethics officer and the chair of ICEHR within 10-12 days. Review of research judged to be above minimal risk and subject to full review by the entire committee may be delayed depending on availability of members to attend a meeting remotely.

In an effort to minimize in-person interactions and practice social distancing, the GC-REB meetings will be held electronically until further notice. To accommodate these meetings, we are asking all GC-REB members to utilize the Researcher Portal to its full capacity. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

*Will new research be approved by ICEHR and GC-REB?

Prior to resumption of research activities, under level 2 of Memorial's COVID-19 Research Working Group (CRWG) Framework, researchers must first complete the relevant request forms, which include an activity-specific COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan that details the measures to be put in place within research spaces under the control of the principal investigator, and submit the forms to their dean or school head. Access the Face-to-Face Interactions with Research Participants Request Form here; the Fieldwork Request Form here; and the On-Campus Research Request Form here. Updated June 28.

*My ICEHR or GC-REB approved research activities were supposed to include in-person interactions. What should I do now?

Researchers with approved ICEHR protocols involving in-person, fieldwork, and/or on-campus research cannot resume research activities until they obtain approval from (1) the dean or school head and (2) Environmental Health and Safety (or the campus equivalent) using the relevant request forms noted above, and subsequently submit a copy of the request forms and approvals to ICEHR using the ICEHR - Post-Approval Document Submission form via the Applications: Post-Review link in the Researcher Portal. Otherwise, researchers with approved ICEHR protocols involving in-person, fieldwork, and/or on-campus research must either modify their recruitment and data collection to use remote rather than in-person methods, or suspend the activity until in-person research is permitted to resume. Researchers who opt to replace in-person interactions with remote communication must first submit an ICEHR amendment request, to be reviewed and approved before proceeding.

Likewise, researchers who have submitted new ICEHR applications or amendment requests for revised protocols involving in-person, fieldwork, and/or on-campus research will not receive ICEHR approval until they obtain approval from (1) the dean or school head and (2) Environmental Health and Safety (or the campus equivalent) using the relevant request forms noted above, and a copy of the request forms and approvals is provided to ICEHR.

ICEHR reminds researchers that Memorial's CRWG Framework stipulates that research that can be carried out remotely will continue to be done remotely; and researchers are asked to only request to carry out on-campus research activity, fieldwork, or face-to-face interactions with research participants if absolutely necessary. Updated June 28.

*Who should I contact if I have questions for ICEHR or GC-REB?

Contact ICEHR staff via email at icehr@mun.ca or leave a voicemail for Ethics Officer Theresa Heath at 709-864-2861.

GC-REB staff member Lan Ma is accessible via email at gcethics@grenfell.mun.ca and phone at 709-639-7596. Updated 11:48 a.m., April 28.

Contact

COVID-19

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000