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Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. To which of the 2 research ethics boards at McMaster University (medical and non-medical) or affiliated hospitals should I submit my application?
  2. What kinds of research can the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB) review?
  3. How long does the ethics review process take for the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB)?
  4. Does the MREB have a submission deadline?
  5. Where do I get the application form and whom do I submit it to?
  6. Are there any sample applications or templates I can see or use?
  7. Is there anyone who can come and speak to my class about research ethics?
  8. I have obtained funding and need ethics clearance for the funds to be released. Because a phase of my research involving human participants will not begin for another year, can money for start-up be released in advance?
  9. I am a co-investigator at McMaster who has colleagues at other universities. Where do we get ethics clearance first?
  10. How can I make a change to my research that has already been cleared by MREB?
  11. I'm going to do some unfunded human participant research during my sabbatical year in another country. I'm just going to ask a few questions. Do I really need ethics clearance?
  12. I am teaching a course that will have student projects involving research with humans. Can I submit one application for the entire class?
  13. Do I need to read the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS)?
  14. Do I need to take the Panel on Research Ethics "Course on Research Ethics" (CORE) online tutorial?
  15. Do I need to give participants an information letter and consent form?
  16. I hear that MREB has Student Research Ethics Committees (SRECs) that review undergraduate research. What form do I use and to which SREC do I submit my application?
  17. If I am applying for a grant, when should I submit my ethics application?
  18. I will only be doing naturalistic observation or interviewing close friends or family. Do I need ethics review?
  19. I'm part of a small group of students who are going to do some research with human participants. Do we use the standard application form or can our instructor submit a course application on our behalf?
  20. I would like to do a research project in the local district schools but I don't know the procedure for doing so.
  21. As a researcher, I would like to know how best to obtain consent to tape record an interview?
  22. What do I do to make sure my study continues to remain cleared by the MREB? How about if my study is complete and I want to close it?
  23. What are the most common research ethics acronyms used at McMaster? 
  24.  My research project was cleared by the REB at my former institution. What do I do about ethics clearance now that I'm at McMaster?
  25.  When I started my research project (funded or unfunded) I didn't intend to collect data from humans, (or use their biological material, or access their records), but now I want to?  What should I do?
  26. I'm a co-investigator on a study that will have a human participant component (humans, their biological material or their records) and the Principal Investigator (PI) is at another institution.  I understand that ethics clearance will be obtained at the PI's institution? What do I do about ethics clearance?
  27. My research is funded.  How do I figure out what my "agency number" is so I can include it when answering the ethics application question about funding?

 

1. To which of the 3 research ethics boards at McMaster University (medical and non-medical) or affiliated hospitals should I submit my application?

If you are in the Faculty of Health Sciences or Hamilton Health Sciences, you need to obtain clearance from the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (HIREB) http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/healthresearch/reb/index.html. You also need clearance from them if you want to do research involving their patients, faculty, students, staff, or use the resources of these McMaster affiliated hospitals; otherwise you need to apply to the McMaster Research Ethics Board at http://reo.mcmaster.ca/forms.

2. What kinds of research can the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB) review?

MREB reviews research from faculty, post-doctoral fellows, students and staff outside of the Faculty of Health Sciences that does not involve administering drugs, blood draws, DNA, or invasive physical procedures or clinical trials. Research using fMRI studies are reviewed by the medical REB where the fMRI is to take place.

3. How long does the ethics review process take for the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB)? Does the MREB have a submission deadline?

The McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB) aims at having the Chair communicate the results of the review back to the researchers within 15 business days upon submission of the original ethics protocol. If you have a more urgent need for review, please contact the MREB ethics staff to see how it may be accommodated. MREB doesn't have a submission deadline, so you can submit your application at your convenience.

4. Where do I get the application form and whom do I submit it to?

The forms can be downloaded from the McMaster Research Ethics Board website  and should be submitted to the MREB Office either electronically or in paper copy. The top of the very first page of the application form provides information on how to submit the form.

5. Are there any sample applications or templates I can see or use?

The McMaster Research Ethics Board website does not have examples of applications, but it does have many samples and templates that you are encouraged to use and modify for your study. In addition, the MREB website has a variety of tips for completing the forms and responding to the Chair during the review process.

6. Where can I get help completing my application form?

The McMaster Research Ethics Board has monthly informal drop-in sessions if you have questions. The ethics staff are available by email or telephone to answer questions. MREB staff are also available by appointment if you need one-one consultation. If you are a student, working with your supervisor on your application is strongly advisable before submitting. There are several recommended online tutorials that are very useful in learning about Canada's ethics guidelines. Gaining familiarity with the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) can be very useful when you do your research because, ethics isn't a form, it's a process.

7. Is there anyone who can come and speak to my class about research ethics?

Yes. The Senior Research Ethics Advisor, and/or the Chair of the MREB, would be happy to accept an invitation to make a presentation or speak to your class about research ethics. Please contact the Ethics Office at X 26117 to set up a time.

8. I have obtained funding and need ethics clearance for the funds to be released. Because a phase of my research involving human participants will not begin for another year, can money for start-up be released in advance?

Funded researchers like you, can apply for an in-principle clearance for the release of funds to cover administrative start-up costs, where recruitment and data collection from human participants starts at a later date. For further advice please contact the Ethics Office.

9. I am a co-investigator at McMaster who has colleagues at other universities. Where do we get ethics clearance first?

The best process is for the principal investigator (PI) to first obtain ethics clearance at his or her home institution as the first step. If you are not the PI, you should submit a full copy of the PI's cleared application package (i.e., application form and supporting documents), communication between the PI and that REB and REB's clearance letter or clearance certificate. Based on the PI's cleared protocol you should fill out the McMaster Research Ethics Board application form and submit it, in order to obtain clearance and have it recorded at McMaster.

10. How can I make a change to my research that has already been cleared by MREB?

The MREB research ethics forms page has a Change Request form for revisions or amendments to the originally cleared protocol. Instructions on completion are found in the form.  Change Requests are reviewed by the Chair and have a shorter turn-around time.

11. I'm going to do some unfunded human participant research during my sabbatical year in another country. I'm just going to ask a few questions. Do I really need ethics clearance?

Yes, University policy and the TCPS requires that funded or unfunded research carried out with human beings, their tissue or their records in Canada or elsewhere must have ethics clearance before your research can begin. Contact the Ethics Office for more information and help.

12. I am teaching a course that will have student projects involving research with humans. Can I submit one application for the entire class?

Yes. There is a separate course-based application for instructors who teach undergraduate and graduate courses where students engage in minimal risk research projects with human participants. It is found on the McMaster Research Ethics Board website forms page. Consult the guidelines in the application or talk with the ethics staff about your course projects. Remember that because different instructors set different projects for their students, course-based clearance is granted to the instructor of each course.

13. Do I need to read the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS)?

It is extremely valuable to become familiar with the TCPS, Canada's national research ethics policy, and the one that Canadian universities, colleges and hospitals have adopted as their guidelines for research with humans. Please contact the ethics office if you would like help interpreting these guidelines.

14. Do I need to take the Panel on Research Ethics "Course on Research Ethics" (CORE) online tutorial?

At the present time, the McMaster Research Ethics Board (non-medical board) does not require researchers to take the CORE online tutorial. Many course instructors, however, do make it mandatory for their students.

15. Do I need to give participants an information letter and consent form?

The Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) outlines many ways to obtain informed consent. A signed written consent form may not be the idea method for obtaining consent in all situations. Oral consent is an appropriate and sometimes more respectful way to obtain consent with some population. All studies need to document consent, and most studies do ask participants to read and keep a letter of information and/or sign a consent form.

16. I hear that MREB has Student Research Ethics Committees (SRECs) that review undergraduate research. What form do I use and to which SREC do I submit my application?

Yes, SRECs review minimal risk undergraduate research. Use the standard application form [insert link here] and submit it to the Ethics Office. Look at the top of the first page of the application form for more information how to submit it. Most faculties have a department/student committee that reviews "minimal risk" undergraduate research. If there isn't one for your department or program, your project will be reviewed by the McMaster Research Ethics Board, or another SREC.

17. If I am applying for a grant, when should I submit my ethics application?

If you are applying to a funding agency like NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, and most other major funders you don't need to submit an ethics application until after you have been awarded the grant.

18. I will only be doing naturalistic observation or interviewing close friends or family. Do I need ethics review?

If you plan to do naturalistic observation in a public place that does not allow for the identification of the participants, isn't staged by the researcher and is non-intrusive, ethics review is not normally required. If you are interviewing friends and family as part of your research you need ethics clearance. Consulting with the ethics office is the best way to work out the particular details of your study.

19. I'm part of a small group of students who are going to do some research with human participants. Do we use the standard application form or can our instructor submit a course application on our behalf?

It depends on the project. The instructor can submit a course application for similar minimal risk student projects that he/she has set as part of a course assignment to learn about research ethics etc. If you are proposing a separate project and one that poses greater than minimal risk then you and your fellow students need to submit the standard application form. Get in touch with the Ethics Office for advice.

20. I would like to do a research project in the local district schools but I don't know the procedure for doing so.

Before you can do research in local district schools, you need ethics clearance from the McMaster REB first. Once obtained, you must apply to the school board's Research Review Committee (RRC) where you plan to conduct your research. School boards will not permit access to their schools or students without these clearances. Because you need to go through an additional review process make sure you leave enough time to obtain both clearances. Contact the ethics office for advice.

21. As a researcher, I would like to know how best to obtain consent to tape record an interview?

There are other ways to lay this out, and the exact wording doesn't have to be adopted here, but the choice to have the interview taped or not should be offered explicitly. This is designed to assure that the interviewee takes a moment to think about the choice and that you have documentation of their consent to be taped. On the consent form, just before or after the place for the signature of the participant, you can ask two questions:

I agree to participate in the research study by participating in a research interview. Further,
A) I agree to the taping of the interview _______
B) I prefer that the interview not be taped _______

22. What do I do to make sure my study continues to remain cleared by the MREB? How about if my study is complete and I want to close it?

Your clearance needs to be renewed annually, so about 6 weeks before the anniversary of your clearance we'll send you a friendly email reminder along with a link to an easy to use electronically-based annual project status/study completion form that takes just a few minutes to complete. This makes it easy for you update us on your study's status on such things as if you are still collecting data or if your study has been completed. Completing the annual report quickly means that you stay in compliance with university policies and funder's requirements and if your research is funded, there won't be any interruption in the flow of funds.

23. What are the most common research ethics acronyms used at McMaster?

MREB – McMaster Research Ethics Board | TCPS2 – Tri-Council Policy Statement (2nd edition 2010) | SREC – Student Research Ethics Committee | PRE – Panel on Research Ethics | IRB – Institutional Review Board (United States) | LOI/CF – Letter of Information/Consent Form | HIREB - Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board.

24. My research project was cleared by the REB at my former institution. What do I do about ethics clearance now that I'm at McMaster?

  • Submit MREB's standard application form,  all supporting documents & your clearance certificate/letter from former institution to the McMaster Research Ethics Board. In instances, where research has already received clearance at another REB, such applications normally receive executive clearance by the MREB Chair.
  • If your research is funded and you are moving funds to McMaster, contact the Research Office for Administrative Development and Support (ROADS) staff to tell them you are in the process of obtaining clearance at McMaster. 
  • When you receive your McMaster ethics clearance certificate, send a copy ROADS.  Contact the MREB with any remaining questions. 

25.   When I started my research project (funded or unfunded) I didn't intend to collect data from humans, (or use their biological material, or access their records), but now I want to?  What should I do?

  • Contact your REB, especially if you haven't done human participant research before, to get some helpful advice
  • You must submit your ethics application  & obtain clearance BEFORE you collect any human participant data.
  • If your research is funded, contact Research Office for Administrative Development and Support (ROADS) staff and inform them that you are changing your research & will  be requiring human ethics clearance. Once you receive McMaster human ethics clearance. Email the Assistant Director of McMaster Research Finance with your protocol number (e.g. 2012-000) after you have received clearance from MREB.
  • Contact the MREB with any remaining questions.

 26.     I'm a co-investigator on a study that will have a human participant component (humans, their biological material or their records) and the Principal Investigator (PI) is at another institution.  I understand that ethics clearance will be obtained at the PI's institution? What do I do about ethics clearance?

  • Submit MREB's standard form, all supporting documents and the PI's clearance certificate/letter from his/her institution's REB to the McMaster Research Ethics Board. In instances, where research has already received clearance from another REB, such applications normally receive executive clearance by the MREB Chair.
  • If your research is funded, contact Research Office for Administrative Development and Support (ROADS) staff to inform them that you applied for and you are awaiting human ethics clearance at McMaster
  • When you receive your clearance from MREB, send a copy to Research Office for Administrative Development and Support (ROADS)  if there will be a transfer of funds from the PIs institution to McMaster to cover your part of research.
  • Contact the MREB with any remaining questions.

27.  My research is funded.  How do I figure out what my "agency number" is so I can include it when answering the ethics application question about funding?

Since the Tri-Councils are the most common funders for Canadian researchers, we have provided samples of Tri-Council (SSHRC, NSERC or CIHR) award notification letters and have circled the agency numbers to help you identify that number quickly and easily. Please go to the Tips & Samples webpage "Tips for Completing the Ethics Application Form & Supporting Documents" to see the sample. Not all funding agencies/sponsors issue a number. Please contact ROADS staff for further assistance at http://roads.mcmaster.ca/about/staff