VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIVERSITY

Department of Sociology

Procedures for Ethical Review of Undergraduate Student Projects and Faculty Class Projects

Our departmental review process covers both student projects and “blanket approval” for faculty class projects. As noted throughout the policy, any projects involving more than minimal risk to human participants, vulnerable populations, or deception in the research process must be vetted by VIU’s Research Ethics Board (REB).

Tri-Council Policy Statement Tutorial

All students conducting research involving human participants are required to complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement Tutorial regarding ethical principles associated with research involving human participants. It is free of charge and can be completed online at: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/.

PART 1: Student Projects

We encourage students to engage in research with human participants. With the help of a Faculty Supervisor, students can develop research projects that address the required ethical considerations. All students must work with a faculty member to develop their research projects. Since this process takes time, it is best to begin the discussion as soon as possible. If you are thinking about a project for the end of term, begin discussing possibilities with your faculty supervisor at the beginning of term.

Preparing an Application for Ethical Review

Applications for ethical approval for research projects which involve human participants must be reviewed and accepted by the Course Instructor or Faculty Supervisor AND one other faculty member who will act as the Departmental Reviewer.

All student researchers, Faculty Supervisors, and Department Reviewers must take the following steps into consideration.

STEP 1: Assessing minimal risk.

ONLY projects involving minimal harm or risk to human subjects can be approved at the department level. If a student, Faculty Supervisor, or the Departmental Reviewer has concerns that the project exceeds minimal risk to human participants and researchers, then the student must either forgo the research project or prepare an application to be reviewed by the larger CRHIS at VIU.

What is minimal risk?

While there will always be some discretion in the determining minimal risk and harm, the  guidelines used by VIU are those discussed in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: “The standard of minimal risk is commonly defined as follows: if potential subjects can reasonably be expected to regard the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research to be no greater than those encountered by the subject in those aspects of his or her everyday life that relate to the research then the research can be regarded as within minimal risk.”

An example of a minimal risk project is interviewing people about their favourite television shows. An example of research exceeding minimal risk is interviewing family members about their loved ones’ experience of a disease or illness.  

Read the larger discussion of risk and harm available on the Tri-Council policy statement: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

VIU provides an online checklist regarding minimal risk available at  Minimal Risk Checklist

What is a “vulnerable” group or population?

When studying people who are members of disadvantaged groups, including groups such as children and people in institutions, special care must be taken to ensure that the research does not expose members of these groups to harm. Given the greater likelihood that research with vulnerable groups will exceed the threshold of minimal risk, applications for research projects involving minimal risk must be reviewed by the VIU REB.

If you are considering research in School District 68; all research MUST be approved by the Superintendent's Office, and you must have a police records check. See Procedure 3871P on SD68's web page:  http://www.sd68.bc.ca/edocuments/Board/policiesandproc_/default.html

 

STEP 2: Write the ethics application

The ethics application should be about two pages in length and include the following components:

  • the name of the student(s) carrying out the project and the faculty supervisor, including phone numbers and email addresses;
  • the title of the proposed research project;
  • the purpose of the research;
  • the intended research participants;
  • how participants will be recruited and, if applicable, compensated for their participation;
  • the method(s) used for gathering information (using deception is not allowed);
  • the formal training he/she has received (or is receiving) for conducting ethical research in the social sciences;
  • Completion of the Tri-Council Policy Statement Tutorial. Please note that all students conducting research involving human participants are required to complete the Tri-Council Policy Statement Tutorial regarding ethical principles associated with research involving human participants. It is free of charge and can be completed online at: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/.
  • when, how, and to what extent the nature, purposes and results of the research will be explained to subjects;
  • the anticipated risks and benefits for research participants
  • a description of how informed consent will be obtained
  • how the data will be treated once the project is completed

Consent form: Applicants should attach to their proposal any copies of research tools including surveys or questionnaires. A copy of the consent form that will be used must also be included. The consent form should include the following components:

  1. a brief overview of the research goals and objectives

  2. why participants are being asked to participate in the research;

  3. how much of their time will be required;

  4. that the research is voluntary, and the participant may withdraw at any time without reason or penalty;

  5. a statement which promises anonymity and confidentiality (if this is promised), and that all data will be encoded for their protection;

  6. how respondent information will be used, who has access to it, how it will be stored, and when it will be destroyed;

  7. a statement of the possible risks and benefits for participating in the research (e.g., physical, psychological, social, economic, and legal);

  8. contact numbers of student researcher, faculty research supervisor, and the Dean of Social Sciences.

A sample consent form is available:

Research Consent form

STEP 3: Submit the application for review

Two copies of the application should be submitted to the Faculty Supervisor or Course Instructor. The second copy will be forwarded by the Faculty Supervisor to the independent Departmental Reviewer. Students will also retain a copy for their files.

REVIEW PROCESS:

  1. The application is reviewed by a Departmental Reviewer who is not the instructor of the course. Departmental Reviewers of student and faculty projects will be a current faculty member of the Sociology department. If the Departmental Reviewer feels that the topic is such that assessment of minimal risk requires specialized expertise, then the reviewer may request that the proposal also be reviewed by a faculty member from another department who has the appropriate substantive expertise to assist with the assessment of minimal risk.
  2. The outcomes of the review process are:
    • Approval
    • Approval subject to request for minor revisions. Should there be a request for revisions, it is the responsibility of the student and Faculty Supervisor or Course Instructor to address the revisions and resubmit the revised proposal to the Departmental reviewer.
    • A request for a second faculty member to review the proposal. In this case, both reviewers must reach consensus. If consensus cannot be achieved, the proposal moves to d) below.
    • a request for the department to review the proposal
    • rejection
    • rejection with the suggestion to develop a proposal to go to VIU’s Research Ethics Board (if, for example, the project exceeds minimal risk).

Every effort will be made to review proposals in a timely manner.

  1. Appeal process: Should the student, the Faculty Supervisor, or the Departmental Reviewer feel that the application demands a more thorough discussion at the departmental level, or that the application was unfairly reviewed, the application will be forwarded to all members of the department via email and discussed at a department meeting.
  2. The Course Instructor or Faculty Supervisor will keep one copy of accepted proposals on file for one year in his/her VIU office.


PART 2: Faculty Class Projects

In an effort to streamline the review process and to encourage faculty members to develop training exercises in sociological research for our students, faculty members can seek "blanket approval" of class projects. In this case, one application is submitted to include all students who will be undertaking the assignment or exercise.

Some activities falling within the classification of Professional Education/Development may not require an ethics review. See the Research Ethic Board website for an explanation of educational activities that must receive ethics approval.

Step 1: Assess minimal risk

Only projects involving minimal harm or risk to human subjects can be approved at the department level. If a Departmental Reviewer has concerns that the project exceeds minimal risk to human participants and researchers, then the faculty member requesting approval must do one of the following: 1) revise the project so that it meets the criteria for minimal risk; 2) forgo the research project; 3) submit an application to be reviewed by the Research Ethics Board at VIU.

What is minimal risk?

While there will always be some discretion in the determining minimal risk and harm, the  guidelines used by VIU are those discussed in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: “The standard of minimal risk is commonly defined as follows: if potential subjects can reasonably be expected to regard the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research to be no greater than those encountered by the subject in those aspects of his or her everyday life that relate to the research then the research can be regarded as within minimal risk.”

An example of a minimal risk project is interviewing people about their favourite television shows. An example of research exceeding minimal risk is interviewing family members about their loved ones’ experience of a disease or illness. 

Read the larger discussion of risk and harm available on the Tri-Council policy statement: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

VIU provides an online checklist regarding minimal risk available at  Minimal Risk Checklist

What is a “vulnerable” group or population?

When studying people who are members of disadvantaged groups, including groups such as children and people in institutions, special care must be taken to ensure that the research does not expose members of these groups to harm. Given the greater likelihood that research with vulnerable groups will exceed the threshold of minimal risk, applications for research projects involving minimal risk must be reviewed by the VIU REB.

If you are considering research in School District 68; all research MUST be approved by the Superintendent's Office, and you must have a police records check. See Procedure 3871P on SD68's web page:  http://www.sd68.bc.ca/edocuments/Board/policiesandproc_/default.html

Step 2: Write the ethics application

The two-page blanket application should include:

(a) a description of the class assignment, and

(b) a description of the ethics training that will be provided to the students.

Faculty members should include a copy of a blanket consent form that will be used by the students.  A sample consent form is available:

Research Consent form

Step 3: Submit the application for review

The faculty member will seek out a Departmental Reviewer to assess his/her class assignment or exercise.  The same general review process that is used for student projects will be used for faculty projects (See above).

Should the faculty member or Departmental reviewer feel that the application demands a more thorough discussion at the departmental level, or that the application was unfairly reviewed, the application will be forwarded to all members of the department via email and discussed at a department meeting. Where more thorough review is deemed necessary, applications will be forwarded to the VIU Research Ethics Board for their consideration.

The faculty member should keep a copy of the accepted proposal in his/her office for one year after the end of the class project.

Once a faculty class project or exercise has been reviewed and approved, the project can be used for three academic years. The intention to use an approved research project or exercise must be announced to the department prior to its implementation.

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