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Athabasca University

Research Ethics

In light of the COVID 19 outbreak, the Research Centre advises investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit personal contacts, laboratory visits, or interactions with students, collaborators and others in the field.

With particular regard to those researchers engaged in human participant research, the Research Ethics Board (REB) stipulates that:

· Current ongoing research that is based online only (e.g. surveys) can continue as planned but researchers should understand that recruitment may be slow if participants become unavailable;

· Current ongoing research that is conducted face-to-face should be moved to virtual approaches if possible (e.g. Skype or phone interviews). Please take into consideration the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research, and any additional risk that may arise from a move from in-person to virtual communication. Revised participant consents or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with use of different communication channels). This modification does not have to be approved by the REB before it takes place. However, researchers must file a Modification Event Form in the Research Portal within one week.

· Ongoing research conducted in person that cannot be moved online must cease for the time being, unless discontinuing such activity might pose significant risks to participant safety. In this latter case, researchers are encouraged to reduce and/or replace in-person contact with telephone or online communication tools as much as possible. As above, you must consider the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research, the extent of contact proposed/necessary, and any risks that may arise by switching from in-person to virtual communication. Revised participant consent forms or addendums to those documents may be required (e.g. to update privacy considerations with the use of different communication channels). Such changes may be put into action immediately but should be reported to the REB through a Modification Event Form in the Research Portal at the earliest opportunity (usually within 5 business days).

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Research Ethics Office at 1.800.788.9041, ext. 6718 or via e-mail at rebsec@athabascau.ca

While there is an expectation that all Athabasca University researchers will carry out their work ethically, specific ethical review is only required in certain cases.

Research requiring ethics review

Ethics review is required for any research project involving human participants, human biological materials, or animals that is conducted by:

  • members of the Athabasca University community:
    • faculty
    • staff
    • research assistants/associates
    • students
    • post-doctoral fellows
    • visiting researchers
  • external researchers who:
    • collaborate with AU researchers
    • use AU resources
    • wish to access AU participants

These projects must receive prior written approval of the AU Research Ethics Board (REB), funded or not, and regardless of where the research is located.

Research Using Health Information Governed by the Health Information Act

Research that requires the collection of, or access to, health information that is protected under the Health Information Act, must be approved by a designated HREB in Alberta.

Animal Ethics

Research, teaching or testing that involves animals also requires ethical review, but this is a separate process managed by the University of Alberta.

Purpose of review

The review is designed to ensure researchers meet the 3 main principles of ethical research with human participants:

  1. Respect for persons
    • autonomy
    • voluntariness
    • informed choice
    • capacity
  2. Concern for welfare
    • risk in proportion to benefit
    • no unnecessary risks
    • impact on participants and their communities
  3. Justice
    • fair and equitable treatment
    • equal distribution of risks and benefits
    • protection of vulnerable populations
    • justifiable inclusion
    • managing power imbalances

Exemptions

There are some limited exemptions to REB review, where protection is available by other means.

Updated March 18 2020 by Research

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