Research Ethics Board guidelines and procedures during COVID-19

November 23, 2020 

Following the Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health's COVID-19 update November 18th, YukonU is tightening their protocols.  YukonU does not recommend non-essential travel INSIDE the territory, between campuses.  Any such travel plans must be approved by your supervisor. Given the current situation, the REB does not recommend any travel for human participant research at this time.

Research involving human participants under COVID-19 restrictions

The COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have significantly affected human-participant research. Yukon University is committed to the responsible resumption of human-participant research by following the guidance and directives that are currently in place.  As research activities resume, we must follow the directives and requirements of Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Yukon University and Government of Canada. As this is a dynamic situation, research with human participants may need to be scaled back or halted, depending on broader Public Health guidelines. The Yukon University Research Ethics Board (REB) will follow a phased approach with ongoing assessment of the COVID-19 situation that allows for the return to more restricted human participant research if necessary.  The initial phase permitted only remote research methods, with no in-person work.  In the current phase, the REB will consider some in-person activities if all the conditions and requirements for safe research are met. This is required for research that is conducted on campus or in Yukon communities.

COVID transmission risks must be part of the ethical considerations for the approval of any human participant research. No matter where the research occurs, it may present incremental research-related risks, including increased exposure to participants and other people, travel risks, privacy and security risks associated with online research, and ensuring secure communication protocols and platforms.  Some research groups, such as the aged or immuno-compromised individuals, may be at greater risk than others (see Vulnerability Considerations).

The following covers the range of options and considerations for new and ongoing human participant research:

1. Continuation of remote research methods

  • To reduce risks of the transmission of COVID-19, research activities should take place using secure remote/virtual interactions rather than in-person as much as possible. This is the best practice to maintain the safety and health of research participants, research team members, collaborators, Indigenous nations, community organizations, etc.
  • Please see the templates and guidelines section on the research ethics webpages for the use of remote methods and video conferencing for collecting data from human participants.
  • Please see the Panel on Research Ethics New Risks Arising From Changes to Researcher’s Plan for Interacting with Participants for a good discussion regarding new risks and ethical issues to consider when doing remote research.
  • With the use of remote practices, applications to the REB 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 or approval has been given for in-person activities

2. Evaluating the Need for and Planning of Safe In-Person Research

The Yukon University REB understands that sometimes it is not appropriate or feasible to conduct certain human participant research remotely and that in-person interactions are necessary.  Researchers seeking to conduct in-person research must follow the guidelines and steps to ensure safe in-person participant-researcher interactions. You must complete a Safe Research Plan (SRP) for Face-to-Face Human Research and submit to your Department/Division Supervisor for approval. Clearly explain why it is necessary to use in-person methods.

See Checklist for Researchers – Return to In-Person Human Participant Research for steps to take to assist with the planning of in-person research during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Support materials:

3. Amendments to Previously Approved Studies

For any ongoing human participant research that was approved for in-person interactions prior to the beginning of the pandemic, steps outlined in #2 (above) must also be followed and new documents submitted to the REB for new approval.  See Checklist for Researchers - Return to In-Person Human Participant Research for details of documents needed. Changes must be submitted for ethics review by the REB.

Participants already enrolled in studies must be presented with the new information about COVID-19 risks and consent to continue participation.  See Guidance Materials:  COVID-19 Risks & Re-Consent and Informed Consent Additions for COVID-19. Please note the Vulnerability Considerations.

Yukon University under the guidance and requirements of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation and adapt procedures to reflect evolving circumstances around the review and approval of human participant research. The REB follows the requirements of TCPS2.

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.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Guidance materials and templates

These guidelines and templates have been adapted from the University British Columbia, University of Guelph and the University of Saskatchewan and modified for use at Yukon University.