Research Ethics Board guidelines and procedures during COVID-19

The Yukon University Research Ethics Board (REB) recognizes that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses an extraordinary and serious safety and public health threat to our communities. The REB will continue to operate normally as much as possible, however some changes are necessary.

Please be advised that on April 2, 2020, the Government of Yukon introduced the Civil Emergency Measures Health Protection (COVID-19) Orders.  This defines critical and essential services in a new set of guidelines intended to provide clarity for determining who can safely travel and work throughout the territory. This guidelines document provides details for local and non-local individuals to understand how to comply with the rules and to protect themselves and Yukoners from COVID-19. You should review these so you are familiar with these requirements.

Effective immediately, researchers are required to eliminate all personal contact, in-person data collection, travel to communities and site visits with study participants. This also means that research involving physical assessments, or the in-person use of equipment or devices, must be suspended. 

In-person participant interactions should be replaced with telephone, videoconferencing or other online communication. In doing so, researchers should be mindful of the nature of their protocols and of any additional risk that may arise from switching from in-person to virtual communications, including risks to privacy. Revised participant consents or consent addendums may be required (e.g., to update privacy considerations for the use of different communication methods).  If it is not practically or scientifically possible to do your research project without in-person research interactions, then the project, or those particular elements of the project, should be delayed pending further notice from the REB.

While TCPS2 typically requires review and approval of study modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (TCPS2 Article 6.15). Such changes, including those necessary to comply with this TCPS2 policy, should be implemented immediately, but must be reported to the REB within 5 business days. If you need to amend your study to comply with this requirement, please submit the Study Modification Form (Form 4) to the REB and include your updated REB application with these changes. 

The Principal Investigator on the REB application is responsible for exercising sound judgement in determining when ongoing study activities are appropriate, taking into consideration: (a) the objective of the research; (b) the mandate to protect all participants, research staff and the community at large; and (c) the resources available (e.g., access to study sites, personnel, technologies, etc.) to carry out ongoing activities.

Some things to consider:

  1. Are ongoing studies activities essential at this time?
  2. If ‘yes,’ what study activities must continue?
  3. Are any modifications to approved study procedures needed to responsibly carry out these activities?
  4. If ‘yes,’ will these modifications increase any risk to participants, researchers, the community at large or Yukon University?
  5. If ‘yes,’ what steps will be taken to minimize risk to all involved?

Below are some technologies Yukon University makes available which may help facilitate physical distancing and minimize travel to campus and face-to-face interactions, while still allowing research teams to communicate with each other and with participants as needed. 

  • Consent modifications: verbal consent via telephone (required: verbal script and evidence of documented consent such as via audio-recording); written consent received via email attachments; online consent via Survey Monkey (available product)
  • Videoconferencing options: MS Teams, Skype for Business and Zoom
  • Office 365 Suite: deemed secure for collection, transfer, storage of some sensitive information (e.g., de-identified research data)

REB review of research projects will continue at this time. Check the website for application deadlines and meeting schedules. Please contact Valoree Walker, Research Ethics Coordinator if you have any questions about research ethics and requirements.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit Health Canada.