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Generic SREC TOR

Generic SREC Terms of Reference

McMaster University

Student Research Ethics Committees (SRECs)  

Terms of Reference


The Terms of Reference were constructed to conform with the Tri-Council Policy Statement “Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans” (2014), or TCPS. All quotations and references are from that document. The Tri-Council Policy is available on the web at:


Adoption & Modification:  

The Terms of Reference, together with the appended “Review Process & Procedures” document and any changes thereof, must be approved by all the members of the SREC and by the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB).  


All research involving humans as research participants must be reviewed by either the MREB or a SREC (TCPS, Article 1.1a).  Research is defined as “a systematic investigation to establish facts, principles or generalizable knowledge” (TCPS, Article 1.1.a). This includes research conducted for a McMaster course that is supervised by an individual who is not affiliated with the University. Research requiring review includes not only experimental protocols, but also research involving naturalistic observation, questionnaires, interviews, or secondary use of data that are not in the public domain. It also extends to research involving human remains, tissues, biological fluids, or foetuses (TCPS, Article 1.1b, 1.1c, 2.3, 3.3).  

1.                   Each SREC shall review research conducted by undergraduate students when:  

a) it is conducted as part of an undergraduate course offered by a member department;  and

b) it is not part of a faculty member’s research programme already subject to review by the MREB (TCPS, Article 1.4).  

Undergraduate research for a course that is supervised by individuals outside the SREC department membership shall be reviewed by the SREC, unless it is subject to review by the MREB or by another Ethics Board (outside the University) in compliance with the Tri‑Council Policy. Research conducted by graduate students and faculty members must be reviewed by the MREB (and, when relevant, the Ethics Board of the institution where the research will be conducted).  

2.                   The SREC shall also consider any other ethical issues that arise which concern undergraduates and research with human participants, such as subject pools and undergraduate education about ethics.  

Composition of SRECs:  

The Department(s) and/or Faculty(ies) [identify the department(s) and/or Faculty(ies)], shall form a SREC for the review of undergraduate research.   The membership, constituted of a minimum of five members in total [1] , shall encompass expertise in various methodologies used in departmental research and in ethical issues that arise in such research. The SREC shall consult relevant experts within and outside the member departments, as necessary.  

Selection of Members:  

Members (and any necessary replacements) shall be appointed by the appropriate Dean(s), in writing, in consultation with the Chairs of the member departments. Faculty members shall serve for staggered 3 - year terms; and undergraduate members for 1- year terms. Terms are renewable. The Chair of the SREC shall be selected by the Committee members or the Dean(s). Membership changes shall be reported to the MREB on an ongoing basis.  


The SREC Chair shall submit an Annual Report to the MREB by July 1st each year, reporting on the proposals reviewed and approved.  The Office of Research Services shall supply administrative support for the SREC. Applications, records of decisions and Minutes of SREC meetings shall be kept for 5 years (TCPS, Article 1.8).

The procedures were constructed to conform with the Tri-Council Policy Statement(TCPS) “Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans” (1998). All quotations and references are from that document. The TCPS is available on the web at:

Adoption and modification:

These procedures and any subsequent changes to them must be approved by all the members of SREC and by the McMaster Research Ethics Board (MREB).

Types of Applications Reviewed by SRECs: 

Applications may be made for (a) an individual undergraduate research project, or (b) for a generic research project to be conducted by several students of a course.  Although the undergraduate researcher is encouraged to be involved in constructing the application, the final application must come from the supervisor or course instructor and must be signed by the supervisor/instructor. 

The research may not begin until the SREC or MREB  (if the application has been referred to the latter) has given its approval.

Application Forms:

Application forms for both individual research and course projects are available electronically from the Research Ethics (Research Office for Administrative Development and Support) web site:

Submission and Review Procedures:

Applications may be submitted as an email attachment, followed by one signed hard copy OR may be made by submitting five (5) hard copies to:

Michael J. Wilson, Research Ethics Officer, SRECs
c/o Research Office for Administrative Development and Support, GH-305

Applications must be received by ROADs, on behalf of the SREC, well in advance of the planned start date of the research.

Each SREC establishes its own schedule of regular meetings.  Meeting schedules are posted on the Ethics Office web site

In reaching its decisions, the SREC will be guided by the principles outlined in the TCPS, especially the ethical framework described in its introductory section, Section 2 on Free and Informed Consent and Section 3 on Privacy and Confidentiality.  Whenever possible, the SREC shall make decisions in face‑to‑face meetings (TCPS, Articles 1.7, 1.9). However, proposals that fit the Tri-Council’s definition of minimal risk--without the least doubt--may be reviewed and approved by email or mail circulation. Each application shall be reviewed by at least three (3) SREC members and approval will be granted only when the decision is unanimous. If unanimity cannot be reached, the application shall considered by the full SREC, with a face-to-face meeting with the applicant. It is anticipated that the three (3) reviewers, or the full SREC, will normally reach a consensus and, if necessary, will work with the applicant to improve the initial proposal.

If the SREC is reviewing an application in which a SREC member has a personal interest (e.g. as a researcher, as an entrepreneur or as a course instructor) that member shall not be involved in the decision (TCPS, Article 1.12).

Class/group applications will be approved for a three-year period, with the understanding that no significant changes take place during that time. After a three-year period, a request for renewal will need to be submitted by the applicant.  

Referral to MREB:  

The SREC may refer an application to the MREB. Examples of situations in which referral would be appropriate are research that the SREC thinks may be of more than minimal risk, research involving ethical or legal issues for which it does not have adequate expertise, and cases for which conflicts of interest reduce its size to fewer than three (3) members.  


Every attempt shall be made to work with the applicant to reach agreement through discussion, revision, and reconsideration.  When agreement cannot be reached, decisions of the SREC may be appealed to the MREB, whose decision shall be final.  

Reconsideration of these procedures: These procedures shall be reviewed no later than June, 2001.  

First Update: December 2000

Last Update: May 2008

Latest Update December 2016


1Of the five members, there must be a minimum of three faculty members.  Each participating department must be represented by a minimum of one faculty member.   The remaining SREC membership may be complemented with the addition of student representatives, but student representation is not mandatory. Where more than one student sits on the committee, it is recommended that at least one student be an undergraduate.