Institutional Research

What does “Research Involving Human Subjects” have to do with me?

February 7, 2013

(Note: This post was written by Sheila Allarie and Ashley Blackman)

Have you ever been asked to participate in a survey, a focus group, or perhaps a clinical study while employed or studying at the college? Have you ever asked others to participate in a research study? Whether you’ve been asked to participate in a survey or research study or you’ve asked others to, there are ethical implications to be considered.

Did you know that the Red River College Research Ethics Board (REB) was formed to ensure that all research involving human participation will be reviewed by the Board before it can proceed?  The Research Involving Human Subjects Policy adopted by the RRC REB is consistent with the current approved Tri-Council Policy Statement, “Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.”  The College has signed agreements to abide by these policies; non compliance can affect our ability to receive funds from Federal granting agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada  (NSERC).

REB Responsibilities

In addition to reviewing all research protocols requiring the participation of human participants for ethical approval, the RRC REB is also responsible to the President of RRC for:

  • ŸDeveloping policies regarding ethical issues relating to the use of human participants in research and experimental teaching protocols;
  • Reviewing annually all policies regarding ethical issues relating to the use of human participants in research projects to ensure that policies remain current;
  • Dealing with matters concerned with human-based research referred to the Board by the President of RRC;
  • Preparing an annual report for submission to the RRC President;
  • Participating in continuing education organized by RRC research administrators for the College community in matters relating to ethics and the use of human participants.

Steps you need to take if you’re conducting research on human subjects

If you are doing research that involves RRC students or staff your study must be reviewed by the RRC REB. If RRC students are conducting research as part of their coursework (i.e. surveys) their research must meet ethical guidelines determined by a Divisional Ethics Committee. Here are some steps to follow for more information abour completing an RRC REB application:

  • Visit the College’s REB webpage, where you will find a directory of the members and all the application forms that are required. The first form you should read is entitled “Application Procedure and Submission Form” and can be viewed as a pdf document.
  • Take note of the scheduled meeting date and try to submit your application several weeks prior to the meeting date. The minimum submission date is 5 working days prior to the meeting, as the REB administrator needs time to circulate copies of the submissions to all Board Members confirm meeting logistics.
  • If you have any questions about your research and whether it requires REB approval, you can contact the REB administrator (Sheila Allarie, 632-2038, sallarie@rrc.ca) or the REB Chair (Ashley Blackman, 632-2091, ablackman@rrc.ca).

An Ethics Checklist

Some questions you may want to ask before you participate in any research study are:

  • Is it clear who is conducting the research and is the purpose of the study fully outlined?
  • Are there any risks if I participate in this study, and if there are risks, are they minimal or reasonable in relation to any benefits to myself?
  • If there are risks, is the researcher(s) providing appropriate provisions for the on-going monitoring of participant’s welfare?
  • Does the study provide for informed and freely volunteered consent, including providing options for withdrawal from the research?
  • Is there adequate protection of my privacy and the confidentiality of the information /data being obtained?
  •  What will happen to any personal information I have provided i.e. name, address, etc.?
  • Is the researcher in a position of power with research subjects, i.e. is my instructor conducting the research and will participation in the study affect my grades?

Why are there Research Ethics Boards?

While we usually think of research as something that will help people, there have been times in the past that researchers have conducted research with no expected benefit to the participant, worse these experiments have harmed people. For example, during World War II, in the name of research, Axis physicians, used and abused prisoners as guinea pigs. In 1946, Nazi physicians were tried at Nuremberg because of research atrocities performed on prisoners of war. In 1947, the Nazi War Crimes Tribunal issued the Nuremberg Code, which was the first internationally recognized code of research ethics. In the Social Sciences, too, there have been experiments that have put subjects, without their consent, under considerable duress, one infamous example, Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority figures in the 1960’s. These and many other examples, have prompted research organizations and their funders, to develop and apply an ethical perspective on all research.*

* The above information was taken from a PowerPoint Presentation prepared by the Jim Goho, former Director of Research and Planning – scroll to the bottom of the page under the Presentation tab.