Faculty FAQs

1. What is the “Tri-Council Research Ethics Policy”?
Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans describes the policies of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). These Agencies will consider funding (or continued funding) only to individuals and institutions that certify that they comply with this Policy regarding research involving human participants. Researchers should review this document before submitting an application to the REB. 

2. Which research projects require STU REB approval?
St. Thomas University’s REB Policy applies to all “STU Research.” This means all research involving human participants that is conducted:

- by a STU staff or faculty member
- in formal collaboration with a STU staff or faculty member

- at STU (or with members of the STU staff, faculty, and student communities) by others
- by STU students as part of class assignments, teaching exercises, or honours projects

Research in the fourth category (i.e. conducted by students as part of a course requirement) that falls below minimal risk should be handled at the departmental level. This is provided for in Section 2.7 of the REB Policy.

3.  Which research projects do not require STU REB approval?
Not all research activities undertaken by STU community members will trigger an ethical review. The TCPS2 provides exemption for:
- Publicly available information (section 2.2)
- Observation in public places (section 2.3)
- Secondary use of data or biological materials (section 2.4)

These exemptions apply to:

  • Research based on existing information in the public domain (e.g. news articles, StatisticsCanada surveys). However, if data can be used to identify specific individuals in waysthat are not already public knowledge, the exemption may not apply.
  • Observational research that studies human behaviour under natural circumstances (e.g.shoppers in a mall, hockey fans in an arena, discussants in an online forum). Theobservational research must not involve:
    - any staged interventions or direct interactions with those being observed;
    - reasonable expectations of privacy on the part of those observed;
    - the identification of specific individuals in any disseminated results
  • Studies conducted for the internal use of the University (e.g. quality assurance,performance reviews) or testing within normal educational requirements when usedexclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes.

However, if the data are later used for research purposes, that project would require REB review.

  • The gathering of information for purposes other than research (e.g. school records, onlineopinion sites) that is later discovered to have research value. Data files or samples fromone study may be useful for other research purposes on their own or when combined withinformation from another study. This "secondary use of data” does not require REBreview 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;
    - and not follow-up contact with the original study’s participants occurs

4. How do I apply to the REB?
Please complete the application form and submit it to the REB Coordinator in the Research Office, Brian Mulroney Hall room 312 (452-0621 or

5. When should I apply?
During the teaching terms, you should ensure that your complete application is received by the Research Office no later than two weeks in advance of the next scheduled meeting. There are no deadlines for application during the summer months (May-August).

The review process takes time and may result in changes. It is always best to start the review process as early as possible in the development of a research project. Some funding agencies require that ethics approval accompany the application. Other funding agencies receive applications before ethics approval is in hand as long as evidence is provided that the work has been or will be submitted for REB review. Although St. Thomas University allows submission of research proposals to funding agencies prior to ethics approval being issued, in no case can research involving humans proceed without ethics approval. Regardless of the source of funds, a St. Thomas University research grant account will not be opened to receive funds before ethics approval has been issued. In special circumstances a Release of Funds can been requested so that a project may begin to access funding in adavnce of recieving ethical clearance.

6. When does the REB meet?
The REB committee typically meets to review files on the first week of every month (except December and May-August).

7. How are applications processed?
During the teaching terms, reviews are normally conducted by the full board during monthly meetings. During holiday seasons, reviews of projects deemed by the REB to be of minimal risk (see FAQ #9) typically undergo delegated review (handled through email and telephone correspondence). 

8. When should I receive feedback from the REB after my application has been reviewed?
You will normally receive feedback within two weeks after the monthly REB meeting at which your application was discussed. Final approval may be immediate or may take a bit longer depending on whether you need to meet any requirements of the Board.

9. How do I know if my project is minimal risk or not?
"Minimal risk" research is defined as "research in which the probability and magnitude of possible harms implied by participation in the research is no greater that those encountered by participants in those aspects of their everyday life that relate to the research".

In other words, a proposal is deemed to involve no more than minimal risk if the risk to participants is no more than what they would experience in their day-to-day lives.

Ultimately, the decision on the level of risk rests with the Board, but you should do your best to assess your project’s degree of risk to human participants. No matter what the level of risk, focus your application for approval on making it clear to the Board how you are ensuring that ethics requirements are being met in your project.

10. I am affiliated with another institution but would like to conduct research involving St. Thomas University students, staff or faculty members or using St. Thomas facilities. Do I need to submit a protocol to the STU  Research Ethics Board?
Yes, any research involving STU students, staff or faculty members or at STU facilities mustbe reviewed and approved by the STU Research Ethics Board.

11. I am a student at another university but have an affiliation with STU as well. Do I need to have my research reviewed by the STU Research Ethics Board?
Yes. Because you are affiliated with STU, your research will be reviewed here as well as at your originating institution. To begin this process, please contact the Chair of the REB.

12. I am conducting research in another country. Is my STU research ethics approval all I need?
No, you may need to obtain approval from an institution in that country. Please make sure that any relevant certifications are obtained in that jurisdiction.

13. Who can I talk to about other questions I have about research ethics?
Feel free to contact the Chair of the Research Ethics Board, Dr. Karla O'Regan (452-0347 or or the REB Coordinator, (452-0621 or