IRB: Ethics & Human Research

Canadian Research Ethics Boards and Multisite Research: Experiences from Two Minimal-Risk Studies

Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) mandates that all research involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by a research ethics board (REB). We have little evidence on how researchers are dealing with this requirement in multisite studies, which involve more than one REB. We retrospectively examined 22 REB submissions for two minimal-risk, multisite studies in leading Canadian institutions. Most REBs granted expedited review to the studies, while one declared the application to be exempt from review. Time between submission and approval ranged greatly, from four to 546 days. We received a total of 155 REB queries for changes and clarifications, most of which asked for further information, clarification, or additional documents. Less than a third of the REB queries were requests for specific changes, and a vast majority had a very limited impact on the research projects. Institutions also varied broadly in their description of what was required of local principal investigators. We conclude that the organizational and practical challenges these results imply could deter researchers from embarking on multisite research projects, and that recently proposed changes to the TCPS will not solve these problems.

Key words/concepts: human subjects research, multisite studies, minimal-risk research, research ethics board (REB), Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS).

Eric Racine, Emily Bell, and Constance Deslauriers, “Canadian Research Ethics Boards and Multisite Research: Experiences from Two Minimal-Risk Studies,” IRB: Ethics & Human Research 32, no. 3 (2010): 12-18.