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The Office of Research Ethics remains open during the COVID-19 outbreak.  We have, however, moved to full-time telework to protect our staff and their families.  Therefore, all communication should be conducted through email.  During this time we will do our best to respond to your communication and provide our normal level of service in as timely a manner as possible..

Update: June 26, 2020

Please see the newly developed Zoom guidance for conducting study activities (such as interviews) online. This guidance is intended to support researchers who will or have already moved their studies online in order to avoid in person research activities.

In order to move to Zoom (or other online platform such as telephone or Bluejeans, etc.) please submit an amendment to the ORE outlining the changes using the Amendment Request Form. Please also update any study documents using track changes and revise the version date. Attach all documents to an email addressed to dore@sfu.ca with your study number in [square brackets] in the subject line.

Download the Zoom guidance infographic

Starting May 20th, SFU Research Ethics is running remote help sessions to assist SFU researchers with amending their studies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Sessions will be offered in a lunch and learn format over Zoom and run weekly (except for General Holidays) on Wednesdays from 1:00-2:00pm.

If you would like additional assistance, please contact dore@sfu.ca. Emails will be answered within two business days.

Common topics include:

  • How do I move my research activity online?
  • How do I submit an amendment?
  • Where do I find the amendment request form?
  • How do I access study data remotely?
  • How do I share data will my collaborators remotely?
  • What do I do if my study is harmonized?

Zoom Information:

Topic: Weekly Remote Research Ethics Help Sessions
Time: 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/582381969?pwd=ZDJobGplNDVyZ0xNUndvMGdMelhtZz09

Meeting ID: 582 381 969

Password: 488855

Dial by your location

+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

+1 253 215 8782 US

+1 301 715 8592 US

+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

Find your local numberhttps://zoom.us/u/ay0GaxDXU

Please note that SFU is continually assessing the COVID-19 outbreak and adapting policy to reflect evolving circumstances around reviewing and approving human participant research. As always, the University’s response is guided by a desire to protect both the health of our community and the continuity of critical research activities.

To revise and replace the Update March 23, 2020 (amended April 17, 2020), the Office of Research Ethics (ORE) and the Research Ethics Board (REB) would like to inform you of the following:

  • All research activities and new recruitment of participants to research that involve in-person interactions should be suspended until further notice. Exceptions may be made in special situations, such as research involving COVID-19 or where stopping the research could put participants at risk. Please contact the ORE/REB if you think your research fits into these exceptions.
  • As we have previously noted, if you wish to change your study to eliminate an immediate risk to participants (e.g., changing in-person interviews to online interviews), you may do so without prior notice to or approval from the REB. In such cases, you will need to ensure that you are not increasing the level of risk to participants and you may need to ask participants to sign revised consent forms. Such changes may be implemented immediately but must be submitted to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 10 business days as a guide) via the amendment process. If participants are still being entered into your study, you will need to amend the protocol and all participant-facing documents to reflect any changes made.
    • * NEW * With the addition of remote practices (e.g., online interviews), applications can continue to list the in-person component, with the written confirmation that only the remote practices will proceed until the restrictions on in-person research are lifted.
  • The REB will continue to review new research applications under the following restrictions:
    • New studies exclusively involving in-person interaction with participants will receive a Conditional Approval Letter and recruitment may not begin until conditions are removed (exceptions may be made in special situations, such as research involving COVID-19).
      • The removal of the conditions is dependent on the release of the restriction on in person research at SFU with additional instructions in the letter. Please note that a Conditional Approval Letter will be accepted by Research Services to release funds.
    • * NEW * New studies involving a combination of remote and in-person interaction will receive a Certificate of Approval with the declaration that in-person research activities will remain suspended until further notice and to check the website regularly for updates.
      • For example, studies with online interviews and in-person focus groups will be approved, with the confirmation that only the online interviews will proceed until the restrictions on in-person research are lifted. Similarly, studies with online or in-person interview options will be approved with the confirmation that only the online option will be used until the restrictions on in-person research are lifted.
    • New studies that do not involve in-person interaction with participants and do not pose any risks to researchers or research staff will be reviewed using standard procedures and research can begin once a Certificate of Approval is issued.

When submitting materials for review by the REB that relate to the COVID-19 outbreak, we kindly ask that you do the following:

  • If submitting a new application for review please include the following text at the end of your study title - (COVID-19).
  • If submitting a request for amendment for review please include the following text in the subject line of the email to dore@sfu.ca – (COVID-19).

Doing this will bring these submissions to the attention of ORE staff, allowing us to prioritize the review of these materials. Should you have any questions about the content of this message, do not hesitate to contact the Office of Research Ethics at dore@sfu.ca. Please be sure to also visit the research-specific FAQs that have been created to address current concerns related to the continuity of SFU’s research activities. The FAQs will be updated frequently so please check back often.

As a part of Research Ethics BC, SFU is pleased to share a number of updates and resources for multi-jurisdictional research projects. Please review the links below: The BC AHSN COVID-19 Research Inventory is a single inventory of current COVID-19-related research projects based in BC. The inventory is intended to increase connection, coordination and collaboration and to avoid duplication of research effort.

The new BC Rapid Response Ethical Review Process for Clinical Research Pertaining to COVID-19 relies on the existing reciprocity agreement at the heart of harmonization to help facilitate COVID-19 research. Please note that this is only applicable for clinical research pertaining to COVID-19 and must include a Health Authority.

This Resources for Researchers page contains COVID-19 updates from most REBC Partner Institutions and is central source for updates to practices, policies and guidelines across the institutions.

REACH BC is a new online platform that connects research participants and researchers across British Columbia. Researchers sign up for REACH BC and add their active research projects to the public directory, then REACH BC’s matching algorithm will automatically find any volunteers in the REACH BC database that match the basic eligibility criteria

Please check the REBC website or sign up for the newsletter for regular updates.

Please note that SFU is continually assessing the COVID-19 outbreak and that the university will provide updates to the research community regarding impacts on the university’s research operations. We wish to assure you that the University’s response at this time is guided by a desire to protect both the health of our community and the continuity of critical research activities.

To expand upon the notice that was issued by the Office of the Vice-President, Research on March 20, 2020, both the Office of Research Ethics (ORE) and the Research Ethics Board (REB) would like to inform you of the following:

  • All research activities and new recruitment of participants to research that involve in-person interactions should be suspended until further notice. Exceptions may be made in special situations, such as research involving COVID-19 or where stopping the research could put participants at risk. Please contact the ORE/REB if you think your research fits into these exceptions.

  • As we have previously noted, if you wish to change your study to eliminate an immediate risk to participants (e.g., changing in-person interviews to online interviews), you may do so without prior notice to or approval from the REB. In such cases, you will need to ensure that you are not increasing the level of risk to participants and you may need to ask participants to sign revised consent forms. Such changes may be implemented immediately but must be submitted to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 10 business days as a guide) via the amendment process. If participants are still being entered into your study, you will need to amend the protocol and all participant-facing documents to reflect any changes made.

  • The REB will continue to review new research applications under the following restrictions:

    • No new studies involving in-person interaction with participants will receive a Certificate of Approval and recruitment may not begin until further notice (exceptions may be made in special situations, such as research involving COVID-19).

    • Any new studies involving in-person interaction that are not research involving COVID-19 and cannot move exclusively online, will instead receive a Conditional Approval. The Condition for Approval will be dependent on the release of the restriction on in person research at SFU with additional instructions in the letter. Please note that a Conditional Approval Letter will be accepted by Research Services to release funds.

    • New studies that do not involve in-person interaction with participants and do not pose any risks to researchers or research staff will be reviewed using standard procedures and research can begin once a certificate of approval is issued.

When submitting materials for review by the REB that relate to the COVID-19 outbreak, we kindly ask that you do the following:

  • If submitting a new application for review please include the following text at the end of your study title - (COVID-19).

  • If submitting a request for amendment or annual renewal please include the following text in the subject line of the email to dore@sfu.ca – (COVID-19).

Doing this will bring these submissions to the attention of ORE staff, allowing us to prioritize the review of these materials. Should you have any questions about the content of this message, do not hesitate to contact the Office of Research Ethics at dore@sfu.ca. Please be sure to also visit the research-specific FAQs that have been created to address current concerns related to the continuity of SFU’s research activities. The FAQs will be updated frequently so please check back often.

Given the current COVID-19 outbreak, the SFU REB advises investigators to consider whether at any point their research protocols should be revised to limit personal contacts, for example by reducing the frequency of in-person visits or replacing in-person interviews with telephone or online communication.  Whether and when this may be advisable will vary depending on your protocol and the participants with whom you are interacting. 

While the TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15).  Changes that are necessary to eliminate an immediate risk(s) to the participants may be implemented as needed, but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 10 business days as a guide).

Please contact the ORE if you are considering making such changes to your study or if you have any questions about your responsibilities as a PI at this time. 

Please refer back to this page during the outbreak for updated guidance and notices.

For university-wide updates and information regarding COVID-19 please continue to refer to SFU Community Frequently Asked Questions.

Last updated: June 29, 2020