Navigating the Research Ethics Board Pt. 1

As some of you know, stomach this semester I have been navigating ACAD’s fairly new Research Ethics Board and the process for submitting a project to them. The basis of my proposed work is to interview survivors of sexual violence and print their stories in small, hand-bound books. When I first embarked on this wild ride I had no idea how much work it would be. Let me tell you, it’s a lot. Here is a link to the REB Self Assessment Form, which is the first step in a submission to the REB. This is where you, your instructor and the head of the REB basically decide whether or not you need to do a full-on proposal to the board or not. Basically is your proposed project directly involves people or animals, you will likely have to do a full blown proposal to the whole board.

Something else I did was the Government of Canada’s Course on Research Ethics (CORE), which is an online ten-module course that gives an overview on how to conduct ethical and responsible research. The course is about 3 hours long, and definitely worth the time if you have any to spare (though if anyone goes on to do graduate degrees you will likely be required to go through it anyway). Overall this beginning process was helpful for me identifying problem areas with my proposed research and rectifying them. For example, confidentiality of participants and their information is absolutely paramount, especially around this subject matter. Mackenzie mentioned to me that were anyone, familiar with my work, to see me interviewing a participant they may guess as to what we are talking about, thus outting the interviewee as a survivor of sexual violence. Of course, this makes complete sense but I had not completely considered all the ways in which I will need to protect participants in my project. Having an individual go over absolutely every little detail of a proposed project is exactly the point of the REB, a fact which I am grateful for.

After this point things became a bit complex. Unlike many other post-secondary institutions, ACAD has not had a Research Ethics Board for decades, rather only a couple of years (chicken incident anyone?). Because our REB is relatively new and our population very small (the REB is not receiving hundreds of submissions thus forcing a streamlined process), there was a lot of waiting and a lot of re-doing the same information in a variety of different ways (so many emails). At this point ACAD does not have our own checklist of requirements for REB submissions, so I was given the Researcher Checklist from Dalhousie University and told to address from points 2.1 onward, which I then did.

Continued in Navigating the Research Ethics Board Pt. 2