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2016 - 2017 Members Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee (SSREC)


D. Pawluch,
S. Colavecchia, Faculty
L. Kaida, Faculty
S. Khayambashi, Graduate
M. McGuire, Graduate
S. Lindsay, Graduate
A. Leanage, Graduate

What is SSREC?

SSREC is the Sociology Student Research Ethics Committee. It is a sub-committee of the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB).

The purpose of SSREC is to ensure that all minimal-risk undergraduate student research projects, and all minimal-risk course-based research in graduate and undergraduate courses, conducted in the Faculty of Humanities, that involve the participation of human participants, comply with Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) on the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans and McMaster University’s Research Integrity Policy.

Composition of the Committee

The committee normally consists of:

  • Three faculty members from Sociology;
  • One undergraduate students from Sociology; and,
  • One graduate students from Sociology.

The committee strives to ensure an equal balance and to represent diverse research expertise.

Terms of membership:

  • For faculty members, the duration of appointment is normally three years, renewable once.
  • For students, the duration of appointment is normally for one year, however the appointment can be renewed as often as needed.

Membership on SSREC is established in consultation between the MREB Ethics Office and the Chair of the Department of Sociology. The Chair of the committee will be selected by the committee.

Background and Responsibilities of the Committee

McMaster University has a memorandum of understanding with Canada’s three Tri-Council agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR) that all research conducted under the auspices of McMaster University involving human participants (and/or their personal records), whether or not funded by one of the Tri-Councils, will adhere to principles and guidelines of the TCPS. MREB is the ethics review board at McMaster that is responsible for reviewing non-medical (i.e., behavioural) research involving human participants. The Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (HiREB) is the jointly constituted ethics review board of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University's Faculty of Health Sciences that reviews medical-based research involving human participants. 

To facilitate the review of research protocols, MREB delegates the review of minimal-risk undergraduate and graduate course-based research, and the review of minimal-risk research projects by undergraduate students, to its Student Research Ethics Committees (SRECs) across the university. SSREC is one of several SRECs operating on campus (a list of current SRECs in operation can be found on the MREB website).

With respect to research protocols submitted to a SREC for review, the recruitment of human participants and/or the collection of their data, may not begin until the SREC clears the protocol for research ethics.

The most common research protocol reviewed by a SREC is one that pertains to an individual undergraduate student research project. Common examples include thesis-based research or major research projects. These can be submitted to the MREB Ethics Office and sent for review to the SREC anytime throughout the calendar year, though most often they are received between September and April. Research ethics clearance for undergraduate student research is normally valid for two years, as long as there are no substantial changes to the protocol. If substantial changes occur, an amendment to the protocol must be submitted for review and approval. After two years from the date of the initial approval of the protocol, the protocol must be submitted again for review.

The next most common research protocol reviewed by a SREC is one that pertains to course-based research. There are two types of course-based research: i) where the instructor assumes the role of an ethics board and reviews and clears individual student class research projects him or herself; ii) where the instructor asks a SREC to approve a research protocol that all students in the course will follow. Course-based research protocols are typically submitted and reviewed by a SREC shortly before or after the start of an academic term (i.e., when courses begin). Research ethics approval of course-based research is normally valid for five years as long as there are no substantial changes to the protocol. If substantial changes occur, an amendment to the protocol must be submitted for review and approval. After five years from the date of the initial approval of the protocol, the protocol must be submitted again for review.

During each year a protocol is approved for ethics clearance, researchers must complete an annual report. Annual renewal is contingent upon there being no change that increases concern over the protocol’s research ethics; otherwise a new protocol or amendment to the protocol must be submitted for review.

In reaching its decisions, a SREC is guided by the principles outlined in the TCPS, especially the ethical framework described in its introductory section, and other relevant chapters or sections. Whenever possible, SRECs should make decisions concerning research protocols during face-to-face meetings (see TCPS articles 6.9 & 6.10). However, proposals that fit the Tri-Council’s proportional approach to research ethics review (see TCPS article 6. 12) and definition of minimal risk, may be reviewed and approved by e-mail or physical mail circulation (see TCPS Chapter 6 on Governance of Research Ethics Review). 

If a SREC is reviewing an application in which a SREC member has a conflict of interest, that member shall not be involved in the decision (see TCPS, article 7.3).

Note that if research submitted to a SREC is considered more than minimal-risk, beyond the scope of a proportional review, or involves ethical or legal issues in which the SREC does not have adequate expertise, or, if the SREC has an insufficient quorum of members to conduct a review, then the protocol shall be forwarded to MREB or HiREB for review.

Clearance by a SREC requires at least three approving votes. It is anticipated that a SREC will normally reach a consensus and, if necessary, will work with an applicant to improve the initial proposal through discussion, revision, and reconsideration. When agreement cannot be reached, decisions of the SREC may be appealed to MREB, whose decision shall be final.

The MREB Ethics Office supports the SRECs by supplying advice and administrative support. The MREB Ethics Office is responsible for receiving all research protocol applications, records of decisions, and minutes of meetings. Protocol application forms, resources, tips, sample templates frequently asked questions etc. are available on the MREB website.

SREC Chairs are required to prepare an annual report for MREB about the protocols reviewed and cleared by the SREC and to speak to this report at MREB’s annual general meeting in June.

All SREC committee members, especially Chairs, are encouraged to complete the TCPS Course on Research Ethics (CORE) tutorial prior to serving on the committee. Course completion certificates should be forwarded to the MREB Ethics Office.

Last Update September 23, 2014tcps2