Below are categories of frequently asked questions, click to find on a heading to find more information.
- When do I complete the Security and Confidentiality agreement? (the Privacy Office form)
Please complete the Security and Confidentiality agreement with the Carleton University Privacy Office prior to starting your research when your research involves the use of personal data held by Carleton.
Personal data, or personal information, is defined as recorded information about an identifiable individual. This includes, but is not limited to, name, contact information, biometric information, demographic information, educational and employment information, financial information, health information, opinions the individual has made.
Here are some commonly asked questions about when to use the form:
- When a student wishes to ask their department to send out a study recruitment notice to a departmental email distribution list on their behalf,
The form would not be required in this instance.
When a faculty instructor/PI wishes to recruit current students in their class by directly emailing the class,
The form is only required if the e-mail addresses will be used as part of the research.
The form is not required if the PI is simply sending a link to an anonymous survey.
When a faculty instructor/PI wishes to post a recruitment notice to their CuLearn page to passively recruit students as participants,
The form would not be required in this instance.
When an instructor wishes to post a recruitment notice to their CuLearn page in a current class to help another researcher with recruitment,
The form would not be required in this instance.
When an instructor/PI wishes to recruit previous students by contacting them through their Carleton email addresses,
A form would not be required.
However, instructors need consent from prior students to contact them.
When any researcher contacts the Registrar’s office to obtain student grades
Yes, a form is required.
When any researcher contacts the PMC to send a recruitment email to PMC clients on their behalf,
A form would not be required. Please contact the PMC for permission.
The PMC will need consent from clients to contact them for research purposes.
Are there any considerations for Carleton researchers who intend to recruit participants from other universities?
If the participants is not affiliated to Carleton University, our form may not be required.
Please contact the other university’s privacy office to learn their procedures.
If you have questions about the completion of this agreement, or best practices around privacy management for research, please contact the Carleton University Privacy Office by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- TCPS2 Tutorial and Additional Information
Where can I find out more about ethical principles?
Honours, graduate students, and faculty are required to learn more about ethical principles by completing the TCPS2 web-based tutorial designed by the Tri-Council Panel on research ethics.
Is there a Carleton University-wide research policy?
Yes, please see the Policy on Responsible Conduct of Research.
What is the Ethics clearance number?
Cleared projects receive a reference number that is used on the recruitment, informed consent and debriefing forms, as well as any communication with the CUREB.
- Animal Care Committee and Biohazards Committee Approvals
How do I proceed if my research also involves the use of animals, biohazards or biological samples?
In addition to securing human ethics clearance, you will also require clearance for research with animals and biohazards. For more details on these processes, please consult the following webpages:
Please note that you can begin securing approval at the same time as you apply for your human ethics clearance. (Clearance will be conditional until your project has secured all necessary approvals).
- Changes and Unforeseen Events
Do I need to notify the Research Ethics Board if I want to make changes to an approved protocol?
Any changes to an approval protocol must be reported to the Research Ethics Board. Changes can include:
- Title change
- Adding/changing research team members
- Recruiting participants from an additional source
- Any other changes to your protocol
In all cases, you must submit a change to protocol/addendum request outlining the proposed changes.
Do I need to inform the REB if some unforeseen event happens while conducting research?
Yes. you must contact the Research Ethics Coordinators immediately (email@example.com) if any unforeseen event happens.
Should incidental findings be communicated to participants?
According to the Tri-Council Policy: Incidental findings is a term that describes unanticipated discoveries made in the course of research but that are outside the scope of the research. Material incidental findings are findings that have been interpreted as having significant welfare implications for the participant, whether health-related, psychological or social. (pg.34)
Researchers are obligated to disclose any material incidental findings to participants.In some cases, incidental findings may be such that they prompt legal reporting obligations (e.g., law enforcement or child welfare agency). If you are unsure how to disclose incidental information to participants or whether your findings need to be reported to the relevant authorities, you should contact the Research Ethics Coordinators immediately for assistance.
- Reporting, Renewing and Closing
Do I need anything once my study is completed?
Yes, you must submit an Annual Status Report request to close your study. This form must also be submitted once the study is complete. (You do not need to wait until your ethics clearance expires.) Please see the Forms and Templates page.
What is an annual status report (ASR)?
Every study that is approved by CUREB-A or CUREB-B receives an ethics clearance certificate that includes a set time period during which the study may be conducted. Before the expiry date, researchers must submit an Annual Status Report request to either renew their project or close it. Failure to do so will halt your project and affect your research funding.
- Data Collection, Storage and Security
What do I need to know if using Qualtrics online surveys?
Depending on the level of sensitivity of a survey, researchers may wish to include a withdrawal link for the participant. Try following the directions below in Qualtrics:
- Step 1: Create two surveys in Qualtrics. The first survey will include the full survey. The second survey should only contain a copy of the debriefing page (The participant will see this separate debriefing form if they select the withdrawal link);
- Step 2: Add a link within the full survey: In the full survey, select “Edit Survey.” You may then select “Look and Feel,” followed by “Advanced.”
- Step 3: You can now insert a sentence into the “Footer” box which will serve as a link to the second survey with the withdrawal debriefing form. “For example, click here if you would like to withdraw from the survey.” This sentence will serve as a link on the bottom of each page in the survey.
- Step 4: Using the “Edit” Function, turn the footer sentence into a hyperlink that will link to the separate debriefing page created in step 1.
What are the requirements for the safe storage of data?
To respect the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), you need to indicate clearly, in the informed consent, the length of time for which any personal information collected (e.g., signatures on the consent forms, contact information, identifying information from audiotapes or in a dataset) will be kept in a secure location before being destroyed. You also need to indicate that personal information will only be viewed by researchers (and supervisors) directly involved in the study.
See Carleton University’s Mobile Technology Policy. According to the TCPS2, electronic research data should be encrypted and password-protected. Physical copies of data must be kept in a secure location that only the researcher and supervisor have access to. In the case of funded data, please ensure you are in compliance with the requirements of the funder. Anonymized datasets (i.e., with all identifying information removed) or anonymous datasets (i.e., where participants never provided identifying information) can be retained indefinitely. However, if you wish to utilize this data in the future for purposes beyond the initial intent of the study (e.g., educational purposes, secondary data analyses), this possibility must be clearly indicated on the informed consent form.
How long do I need to keep personal information, consent forms, and raw data?
To respect the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), researchers need to indicate clearly, in the informed consent, the length of time for which any personal information collected (e.g., signatures on the consent forms, contact information, identifying information from audiotapes or in a dataset) will be kept in a secure location before being destroyed. Researchers also need to indicate that personal information will only be viewed by researchers directly involved in the study.Signed informed consent forms, raw data that contains identifying information, and any other personal data (contained in any format) should be retained for at least three years following one of two options: (a) the completion of the study; or (b) after a report of the work is published or otherwise publicly presented. Researchers might need to keep these records for longer periods depending on the requirements of individual funding agencies, psychological associations, and/or publishers.Anonymized datasets (i.e., with all identifying information removed) or anonymous datasets (i.e., where participants never provided identifying information) can be retained indefinitely. However, if researchers wish to utilize these data in the future for purposes beyond the initial intent of the study (e.g., educational purposes, secondary data analyses), this possibility must be clearly indicated on the informed consent.
- Consent and Assent
What is assent and when do I need it?
When children or adults of limited cognitive capacity participate in research, researchers must secure the assent of the potential participant as well as the permission of the parent or guardian (in place of the consent of the participant). The assent process should involve taking the time to explain to the participant what will happen in the study, why the study is being done, what will be done to the participants, and that, if they object, that the research will be terminated and the participant will not be punished or scolded. The assent must be provided in a language that the participants can understand, while communicating the essential elements of consent without obscuring the important information in a lot of detail. The greater the cognitive capacity of the participant, the greater the amount of information that should be shared.
The assent information can be presented orally or in writing, depending on the literacy level of the participants. When using assent, parents and guardians must sign a permission form rather than a consent form. If a participant refuses to participate, even if a parent has signed the permission form, the research will not take place.
When can I start working with human participants?
You cannot proceed with your project until it has been cleared by one of the Research Ethics Boards and you have received a clearance certificate via email.
Do I need additional permission if I’m recruiting participants from organizations other than Carleton University?
Yes. Approval from both CUREB and the outside organization (e.g., businesses, hospitals, schools, prisons) are needed. Some organizations require ethics approval from Carleton before giving approval from the organization. As each case is unique, we encourage you to contact the Research Ethics and Compliance Office for guidance on how to proceed. Note, your Carleton Ethics clearance is always conditional on securing clearance from the other organization. Conditional approval does not permit researchers to collect data. Final approval will be granted once a copy of that outside approval, scanned and uploaded as an addendum to a conditionally approved protocol has been processed by the REB. Final ethics clearance must be obtained before any data are collected.
Are there any special concerns when recruiting participants by email or through social media?
If participants are being recruited by e-mail or through social media for your study, describe how notifications and reminders to participates will be done (i.e., specify which email program or social media website will be used). Note that you should be using an e-mail client program (e.g., Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) rather than a web-based e-mail program (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) and you must use your official University email address for all communications.
Social media sites have their own regulations about who owns the content posted on their websites. When using social media, you must describe to the REB which site you will be using and what their policies are regarding data storage and ownership. As with all recruitment methods, you must submit to the REB copies of all your recruitment materials whether they be ads, emails or posters.
Can I recruit participants in the courses I teach or other courses in Psychology or Cognitive Science?
Researchers must use SONA to recruit student participants within Psychology or Cognitive Science.
Who can recruit participants from the Psychology or Cognitive Science pool?
Researchers in the Psychology Department can recruit participants from PSYC 1001, 1002, 2001, 2002 and NEUR 2001, 2002 through the SONA system. These students can earn a maximum of 4% towards their final mark in each of these courses. Because we want the students to gain knowledge about research, it is important that researchers who recruit from the participant pool provide a debriefing that is as informative as possible.
Researchers in the Institute of Cognitive Science can recruit participants from CGSC 1001. These students can earn a maximum of 4% towards their final mark in each of these courses.
- Levels of Risk
What is minimal Risk?
In accord with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, the REB relies on the principle that more invasive or hazardous research requires a more careful ethical analysis afforded by a full-board review. In contrast, research proposals with no more than minimal risk to the participants (research subjects and personnel) may be expedited. Expedited review means that the research proposal is reviewed by a subset of the full board. Researchers may recommend an expedited review, but the decision rests with the Chair of the REB or his/her designate.
The Tri-Council has recognized the difficulty in assessing risk. To help determine what constitutes minimal risk research, the Tri-Council has defined the term:
For the purposes of this Policy, “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 than those encountered by participants in those aspects of their everyday life that relate to the research (p. 23 TCPS2).
The Tri-Council Policy goes on to indicate that researchers and REBs must take into account (1) the type of risk; (2) the extent and likelihood of experiencing harm; and (3) known pre-existing individual or group vulnerabilities that might exacerbate or alter the likelihood or extent of harm. Each of these is described below.
- Type of risk has been interpreted as risk that is physical (e.g., risk of harm through bodily contact or administration of a substance, or by administering a painful stimulus), psychological or emotional (e.g., feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, anxious, or upset), and social risk (e.g., risk of loss of status, reputation, or privacy, financial loss, legal risk following disclosure of duty-to-report events).
- The extent and likelihood of experiencing one of these harms (physical, psychological, social) must also be taken into account. The magnitude of the harm (e.g., a little emotional discomfort, loss of reputation, experience of pain) and the likelihood of harm (very unlikely to certain) are independent constructs.
- With respect to individual and group vulnerabilities, the Tri-Council has indicated that REBs (and researchers) “have special ethical obligations to individuals or groups whose situation or circumstances make them vulnerable in the context of a specific research project, and to those who live with relatively high levels of risk on a daily basis. Their inclusion in research should not exacerbate their vulnerability (see Article 4.7)” (p. 23 TCPS 2). This does not imply that any research involving a vulnerable group should necessarily require full board review. To qualify for minimal risk, however, researchers must make the case that participation in the research is unlikely to exacerbate the participant’s (or group’s) vulnerability or increase their risk of physical, psychological, or social harm.
Designating a group as vulnerable presumes that the researcher or the REB believes that there is a reasonable expectation that at least one member of the group will experience a physical, psychological, or social harm in the course of or as a result of participating in the study/experiment. This is a question of probabilities that should be substantiated with empirical evidence or advice from those with extensive and direct experience with the group (e.g., clinicians for those with a disorder, teachers for children). Such evidence or advice must take into account the nature of the study or experiment being proposed. Where there is a reasonable expectation that at least one member of the group will experience harm in the course of or as a result of participating in the study or experiment, researchers must have a plan for mitigating the harmful consequence.
Deception. Experiments involving serious deception (e.g., giving false negative feedback about an important aspect of self; creating a fearful environment; convincing someone they have a serious medical condition; covert recording of individuals with the intent of obtaining consent after the fact) should be considered more than minimal risk if there is a reasonable expectation that at least one member of the sample will experience a physical, psychological (e.g., feelings of emotional upset or anxiety), or social harm.
Stress induction. Experiments involving the instigation of stress or anxiety (e.g., where the Trier Stress Test is used) should be considered more than minimal risk if there is a reasonable expectation that at least one member of the sample will experience a physical, psychological (e.g., feelings of emotional upset or anxiety), or social harm.
Finally, the Tri-Council Policy notes that in assessing risk, special attention needs to be given to the culture, values and beliefs of population being studied. Where expertise is lacking, REBs should consult ad hoc advisors as needed (p. 24 TCPS 2).
How can I assess the risk level of my research?
If the study involves sensitive material, then there is potential anxiety, pain, and/or embarrassment. Researchers must assess whether their procedures may cause anxiety, pain, and/or embarrassment to participants. If so, the ethics application should include: (1) a description of the nature of the anxiety, etc.; and (2) a detailed description of the precautions that will be taken to safeguard the participants also should be included (e.g., informing participants, providing contact information). Special procedures, which may include providing resources and/or reporting to authorities, must be followed in the case of potential harm to self, harm to others, or child abuse. Please contact a Research Compliance Coordinator for further information about these special procedures.
In addition, studies that involve purposefully or potentially anxiety-inducing procedures should have a mood neutralization procedure as the final step of their study (e.g., viewing pleasant pictures).
- Review and Approval Process
Who reviews submissions?
In accordance with the Tri-Council Policy Statement, the REBs use a proportionate approach when reviewing ethics applications, whereby the level of review depends on the foreseeable level of risk to participants. Applications that have a lower risk level will receive less scrutiny than applications with a higher risk level.
How much time does it take the REB to review a submission?
Initial feedback from the REB varies depending on the level of ethics review and the response time of the applicant…
- Minimal risk reviews, course clearances and administrative reviews take two to three weeks on average; whereas,
- Full REB reviews take four to six weeks.
During busy periods the review time may be longer. If you have not heard from us during this time, we encourage you to follow up at with a Research Ethics and Compliance Coordinator.
How do I get feedback from the REB?
Once your proposal has been reviewed, you will be notified by e-mail. Your application will be assigned one of the following recommendations:
- accept as is
- minor revisions
- major revisions
If you are told that your ethics application needs minor or major revisions, you will receive feedback from the reviewers as to what needs to be revised in your application.
Once you have made the revisions (underlining and bolding any changes on your application), send the revised application back by email (for CUREB-A applications) or through the CuResearch platform (for CUREB-B applications). Once re-submitted, allow a minimum of one working week for feedback on the revisions.
- Submitting an Ethics Application
Do I submit to CUREB-A or CUREB-B?
Researchers submit to a particular board based on their department.
- CUREB-A: this Board reviews all ethics applications where the lead Carleton University researcher is in the Faculty of Public Affairs, Sprott School of Business, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (exclusive of Psychology).
- CUREB-B: this Board reviews all ethics applications where the lead Carleton University researcher is in the Faculty of Engineering and Design, Faculty of Science, Department of Psychology, the Institute of Cognitive Science and any research that involves the collection of biological specimens or bodly fluids (e.g., blood, saliva, tissue samples), the use of a bio-instrument (e.g., electrodes, MRI/X-ray imaging, sensors for blood pressure or temperature), or a bio-intervention (e.g., administration of a drug by mouth or injection, drug testing, medical devices, rehabilitative exercise programs, mental health programs, inducing moderate or severe physical or biological or pharmacological stress).
- Please note: Board expertise will also be taken into consideration when protocols are submitted to CUREB-A or CUREB-B for review.
- If you are still unsure please contact the Research Ethics Coordinators.
How do I use the online application system to submit to CuResearch?
For instructions on how to use the Online Submission System, please consult the following documents:
Can Grad students submit a protocol for their thesis before their prospectus meeting?
No. In the case of graduate theses, it is necessary to have the prospectus completed and approved before the ethics application is submitted, in order to avoid premature and repeated evaluation of the project by the REB.
Do Honours students always require Ethics approval for their thesis?
Yes. For educational purposes, all honours students must submit an ethics application for their thesis, including for anonymous archival research. In addition, honours students must include a copy of their ethics clearance certificate, which includes the study reference number, when they submit their thesis. Honours students whose theses are part of an approved program of research for the current academic year only need to submit a copy of the ethics approval certificate with their thesis and need not apply for separate ethics approval for their thesis.
- Completing an Ethics application
How do I assess the risk level of my research
Researchers must assess whether his/her procedures may cause physical, psychological or social or economic harm to participants and provide a detailed description of the precautions that will be taken to safeguard the participants (e.g., informing participants, providing contact information). Special procedures, which may include providing resources and/or reporting to authorities, must be followed in the case of potential harm to self, harm to others, or child abuse.
What do I need to know if my research requires the use of deception?
If the true purpose of the experiment, or other similar information is altered, then deception is used.If your study involves deception, then your ethics application should include a description of the nature of the deception, why it must be used, the procedures that will be used to protect the participants (e.g., explanation in the debriefing of the nature of the deception and why it was necessary, such as getting participants’ natural responses). In some disciplines, a debriefing document should also be included that explains full details of the deception to participants. In addition, the REB requires that once the true purpose of the study is revealed at the end of the project, that the researchers must explicitly offer participants the opportunity to 1) withdraw their data from the study and 2) to consent a second time to the use of their data.
- Do I need to submit an Ethics application?
Why do I have to apply for ethical approval before I can begin my research?
All research should be undertaken in a responsible, ethical manner that protects participants and researchers. In order to do so, Carleton University has two Research Ethics Boards (CUREB-A and CUREB-B) that reviews and approves all research projects. In order to ensure that projects are carried out as safely as possible, the REB will want to know what risks a research project entails and what steps you, as the researcher, will take to mitigate and manage these risks. By going through the REB research ethics approval process, researchers are demonstrating the value they place on the well-being of participants.
In addition, funding agencies require that institutions have a process in place ensuring all projects have ethics clearance.
Do I need ethics review?
All research involving human participants, including secondary data that is associated with a faculty member (including Adjunct Faculty), or a student at Carleton University must be reviewed by the appropriate REB. This includes research conducted at Carleton, research conducted off campus (e.g., businesses, hospitals, prisons, schools), research approved by another academic institution, and may include archival research.
Do I need ethics clearance for archival research?
The Tri-Council Policy states that REB review is not required for research that relies exclusively on secondary use of anonymous (not anonymized) information, or anonymous human biological materials, provided the process of data linkage or recording or dissemination of results does not generate identifiable information.
In the case of all other types of data (including anonymized or de-identified data), approval must be sought from the REB. In all cases, we advise you to contact the Office of Research Ethics to confirm whether you need approval and if so, what steps to follow.
Do I need Ethics approval from Carleton University if I already have approval from my home institution?
Yes. It is the policy of Carleton University that all research taking place on campus or involving our staff and/or students, must have approval by the REB. In these cases, you would apply for an administrative review. In order to apply, you must submit all the documents you already submitted to your home institution: application form, appendices, any email correspondence with the institution, and your clearance from the external REB. Please visit the Administrative Review section on our Forms and Templates page for more information. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Can students in the course I teach conduct studies as a part of course requirements?
Instructors may want their students to conduct small research projects for pedagogical reasons. (Note that students running studies with human participants as part of course requirements are required to have ethics approval for such studies.) See the Course Ethics Application under the Forms and Templates section for detailed instructions on how to submit.