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Frequently asked questions

What is the SAIT Research Ethics Board (REB)?

The SAIT Research Ethics Board (REB) is a committee responsible for reviewing research applications to ensure the proposed research addresses ethical criteria as outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement.

What is the scope of the SAIT REB?

Research involving SAIT staff, faculty or students, regardless of where the research is carried out, requires ethical review and approval from the SAIT REB. It may also include research conducted on SAIT premises by third parties or research that uses SAIT resources such as equipment, web space or money.

What is the Tri-Council Policy Statement?

The SAIT REB is governed by the national policy statement of three federal government bodies: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Together, they have developed the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2014.

For detailed information, visit the complete TCPS 2.

Who do I contact if I have a question regarding my research study?

Please email the SAIT REB at research.ethics.board@sait.ca with your question and contact information. The SAIT REB chair will respond to your inquiry.

How long is the review process for research applications?

As per the SAIT Research Ethics Procedure AC 4.4.1, the REB shall make a decision no more than 45 days from the receipt of a properly completed application.

What is the definition of research requiring and ethical review?

This definition is outlined by the TCPS 2. Research requiring an ethical review involves either:

  • Human biological materials such as body fluids, hair, skin, human remains, embryos, blood, tissue, etc.
  • Human participants are individuals, whether alive or not, whose data or responses to research questions, interventions or stimuli by the researcher are relevant to answering a research question.

When does research NOT require an ethical review?

Not all research involving humans requires ethical review. Narrowly defined exemptions include: 

1. Quality assurance

Many common assessment-related activities are not considered research. This would include testing for educational purposes, performance reviews, short-term course projects under an instructor's supervision, student evaluations of courses or instructors, and most quality-assurance activities.

A quality-assurance project DOES require review if: 

  • It is not within the mandate of the organization;
  • It is not a condition of employment or training;
  • The results are intended for research purposes;
  • The results are later used for a research purpose.

2. Creative-practice activities

Making and interpreting works of art do not normally require REB review unless responses from participants are sought for research (e.g. asking a concert audience to participate in a focus group with the musicians).

3. Research using only publicly available information

The use of news articles, Statistics Canada surveys, court judgments, publications, archival records, etc., does not necessarily require REB review. However, the researcher must demonstrate that the information is either:

  • Legally accessible to the public and already appropriately protected by law such as privacy legislation; or
  • Publicly accessible and free of reasonable expectations of privacy.

Information available in the public domain through print or online publications (news media, blogs), recordings (video, audio) or artistic events (exhibitions, readings) may or may not contain personal information. As long as the individuals involved have no reasonable expectation of privacy, research using this information can proceed without REB review. If individuals have reason to expect that information about themselves will normally be accessed only by people within a select group (e.g. family, friends, co-workers, religious communities or members of an online support group), they may have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Data collected that may identify specific individuals who are not in public life can make the research subject to review.

4. Observation in public places

Observational research is a way of studying human behaviour under natural circumstances (e.g. hockey fans in an arena, passengers on a bus). Because the consent of the individuals being observed is not sought, care must be taken to make appropriate privacy and confidentiality measures part of the research design (e.g. blurring faces in photos, altering frequencies of voice recordings, changing screen names, paraphrasing direct quotes).

Observational research sometimes requires REB review, but will not require REB review if the proposal meets three criteria:

  • There is no staged intervention, manipulation of events or direct interaction with those being observed such as sounding an alarm, placing a foreign object, planting a researcher posed as someone else, etc.; 
  • Those observed have no reasonable expectation of privacy, as may a support group or online meeting where only members of a particular group are welcome; and
  • There is no identification or risk of identifying any specific groups or individuals in the dissemination of results. If there is any possibility that those observed could be identified in the dissemination of results through publications, presentations, posted photos or videos, etc., REB review is required.

5. Secondary use of data or biological materials

Information gathered for purposes other than research (e.g. patient or school records, biological samples, online opinion sites) may be later discovered to have research value. Data files or samples from one study may be useful for other research purposes on their own or when combined with information from another study. This is called "secondary use of data." This type of research activity does not require REB review as long as the data or samples are anonymous and there is no way the data can be linked to the individuals who provided it. Where there is a reasonable possibility that secondary use of data or biological samples could generate identifiable information, REB review is required. Advances in technology have made it easier to identify individual participants (or their communities) from data files that once would have been considered anonymous; care must be taken to ensure they are not exposed or at risk. As well, if the nature of the research requires follow-up contact with the original study participants, providers of the biological samples or produces identifying information of any kind, then REB review will be required.

When do I use the delegate review form?

This form is directed to instructors who have students that perform minimal-risk research as part of their course activities. The instructor can request to be a delegate reviewer of the research by completing the form. The form will also assist the instructor in determining if the course activity requires a full REB review submission form. To qualify for this type of delegation, the student research must never be published or used in any context beyond the instructor and the students enrolled in the course. For example, the research may not be presented at conferences or included in a journal article.

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