Please be advised the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Research Ethics Board (REB) has provided guidance on the implications of the current situation relating to COVID-19 for research ethics protocols. For information regarding all other research ethics protocols, visit the Research Ethics page.
Ethics update COVID-19
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Research Ethics Board (REB) advises researchers to:
- Consider postponing data collection if possible; or
- Modify study protocols in order to limit personal contacts, laboratory visits or trips to clinics and hospitals. Social distancing practices are needed in order to limit transmission of the virus in the wide variety of settings where we conduct research. Specifically, in some research settings, in-person participant interactions (lab visits, interviews, focus groups) should be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication. Considerations include the nature of your protocol, the type of participants engaged in the research, and any additional risks that may arise by switching from in-person to virtual communication.
The REB is currently operating as usual through telework. If the situation changes, the REB’s turnaround times may lengthen as COVID-19-related submissions are being prioritized.
Study Protocol Amendments
Before modifying the method of data collection under these circumstances, revised participant consents or consent addendums/amendments may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations with the use of different communication channels). The REB will work to expedite these requests in order to minimize research disruption.
While federal guidelines typically require review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception (Article 6.15) (external link) can be made when the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 48 hours as a guide).
If you are unsure as to how to proceed with your research, please get in touch with the REB at firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance.
If any adverse or unanticipated events that occur during the course of your SRC activity (e.g., contact tracing is required, breach of privacy, reported illness of SRC staff or participants, community concerns, etc.) through the course of your SRC activity, update the REB within 48 hours by (PDF file) submitting an adverse events report.
Use of Equipment
A reminder that when the research involves physical assessments and use of equipment (e.g., metabolic carts, face masks, mouthpieces, nose clips, straps, turbines, valves, tubing, cannula, treadmills, etc.), disinfection according to manufacturer’s standards where applicable is paramount and use of single-use accessories is advisable. In the absence of the manufacturer’s standards, thorough cleaning of equipment shared between participants is advised.
When research staff are feeling unwell, care should be taken to stay home to prevent transmission of any illness. If COVID-19 is known or suspected, Toronto Public Health protocols (external link, opens in new window) should be followed.
If a study team member or study participant has contracted COVID-19 following a study visit:
- Notify TMU's biosafety officer at email@example.com or 416-979-5000, ext. 554212, as soon as you become aware. By doing so, you can help to minimize the spread of illness amongst the community.
- Submit an (PDF file) REB adverse events report within 48 hours if the researcher/study staff/participants have come into contact with anyone infected with COVID-19. The REB report should outline all directions received along with any/all mitigation strategies.
REB Office Hours
Please note that the REB in-person office hours will be suspended until further notice, but our team is available to support you through virtual appointments on an ongoing basis. To make arrangements, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidance for Graduate Students
If you are enrolled in a graduate program and have an approved protocol for research involving human participants as part of your thesis or other degree requirements, TMU's Research Ethics Board (REB) strongly advises that you pause your data collection at this time.
If you are concerned about meeting your degree requirements under the current deadlines, please note the following:
- Please consult with your faculty supervisor in order to consider whether data collection requirements are essential and necessary. This applies particularly to Major Research Projects (MRP) in master’s programs. Your faculty supervisor may suggest a modification of your methodology in order to avoid the involvement of human participants in your research at this time.
- If the empirical component of your research is essential and cannot be postponed or eliminated, please contact email@example.com for further guidance. The REB will endeavour to review amended protocols within 48 hours.