OCAD University Research Ethics processes:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What policy do we follow?
2.Who sits on the OCAD U Research Ethics Board (REB)?
3. How does the TCPS2 define research?
4. When do students need to submit an application?
5. What is the supervisor’s role in this process?
6. What do the best applications look like?
7. When is the best time in their studies for a student to submit their application?
8. How long does the REB review process take?
9. When is an amendment application necessary?
10. Do students have to wait for the OCAD U REB’s monthly meeting before submitting an application? Is there a deadline for applications?
11. Can REB approval be granted retroactively?
12. Does user testing require REB approval?
13. What should students consider in preparing an application when their research involves an industry partner?.
14. A substantial amount of design research relies on observation. Does this require REB approval?
15. My students will be interviewing officials in organisations. Does this require REB review and approval?
16. I am teaching a graduate course that involves research activities with human participants with no results being disseminated outside the classroom. Does this require REB approval?
17. What is OCAD U’s Integrity in Research and Scholarship Policy?
18. Who can I contact for more information?



1. What policy do we follow?

All Canadian universities and institutions that are eligible to hold research funding from the federal Tri -Council agencies (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) must follow the guidelines of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2). The TCPS2 can be found at the Government of Canada Panel on Research Ethics website

The federal panel that is responsible for the Policy can be found here.

2. Who sits on the OCAD U Research Ethics Board (REB)?

The TCPS2 mandates the composition of the Research Ethics Board. Boards are to be made up of faculty members representing the particular research areas of the university, as well as outside members (community members) and a Specialist in Ethics. At OCAD U, all faculties are represented by at least one faculty member. We also have a Graduate Student and an Undergraduate Student member. These are your peers, trained in Art and Design. The current members can be found here

3. How does the TCPS2 define research?

The TCPS2 defines research as “an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation.”

4. When do students need to submit an application?

If the Graduate Student’s research involves human participants, he/she will most likely need to submit an application for ethical review. Applications must be submitted on-line through the ROMEO researcher portal. Please contact Christine Crisol Pineda, for the OCAD U Research Ethics Board Secretariat, at cpineda@ocadu.ca or ext 4368.

5. What is the supervisor’s role in this process?

Through submission of the student’s application in ROMEO, the supervisor signs off on the REB application of the student. Within the on-line application, there is a section where the supervisor signs off: confirming that they agree to provide proper supervision and ensuring that the rights and welfare of all human participants are protected; that they will ensure that either a request for approval renewal or a final report is submitted within a year of receiving approval; and that they have read and approved the application and proposal.

Applications received directly from students who do not have an assigned supervisor or an approved topic will be returned through ROMEO.

6. What do the best applications look like?

The best applications are ones that are complete and require no or very little back and forth between the Board and the applicant for clarifications. Applications should be written in lay language, keeping in mind that the applicant is addressing a multi-disciplinary Board. The research should be placed in context of the research question the student is addressing. All questions should be answered. All supporting documentation including questionnaires and the consent form should be reviewed by the supervisor.

7. When is the best time in their studies for a student to submit their application?

The supervisor should ensure that the student’s REB application is submitted at the appropriate time in the development of their research, in other words, neither too soon nor too late. If the application is made too soon, the student will not have developed their research adequately to answer the detailed questions that the application requires and will result in the REB either turning back the application for a full revision or requiring extensive responses to questions. The role of the REB is not to replace the role of supervisor although the REB process may indeed provide another focus through which the student considers their work.

If the application is submitted too late in the process, the timelines for the review become a source of stress for students.

8. How long does the REB review process take?

Review can take a minimum of twenty working days from the date of submitting a complete signed application to receiving a response. The most common reason for a delay in receiving approval is the quality of the application. For example, if an applicant has not written his/her application in lay language, if he/she has not provided sufficient detail in answering questions, or if there are inconsistencies between the information provided on the consent form and that provided on the application itself.

9. When is an amendment application necessary?

An amendment must be submitted to the Board when any change is made to the research plans; that includes changes in recruitment, methodology, location of the research.

An amendment application must also be made when there is a change in supervisors.

10. Do students have to wait for the OCAD U REB’s monthly meeting before submitting an application? Is there a deadline for applications?

Only applications involving research with human participants in vulnerable circumstances require a full Board review. The Board meets monthly and the meeting dates are posted on the Web site.

Most research and research activities carried out at OCAD University are of minimal risk. There is no deadline for submission of applications of minimal risk.

The TCPS2 distinguishes between research that is of less than minimal risk and that which is more than minimal risk. Minimal risk 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” (TCPS2, Chapter 2, Section B, “Concepts of Risk and Potential Benefits”). Minimal risk research also excludes research with vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly, those who cannot give consent and those in vulnerable circumstances.

For research of minimal risk, the REB uses a delegated review process: two Board members review the application.

11. Can REB approval be granted retroactively?

There is no provision in the TCPS2 for retroactive consent. While students may make initial contacts with potential groups or participants before REB approval, actual research with human participants cannot commence before REB approval has been received. Students will not be allowed to use any data collected without REB approval in their thesis, MRP, publications and the like. He/she also runs the risk of being in non-compliance with the University’s Integrity in Research and Scholarship Policy by failing to follow the REB processes at OCAD U.

12. Does user testing require REB approval?

Yes. There is a common misconception that user testing is exempt from REB review and approval because some believe that confidential information is not being collected in this activity. Nonetheless, the risk of loss of confidentiality is not the only risks with which the TCPS2 is concerned. There are other risks to consider including physical harm.

13. What should students consider in preparing an application when their research involves an industry partner?.

If there will be a benefit to either the student or the industrial partner (beyond the benefit to the student of receiving a graduate degree), this must be noted in answer to Question 8 on the application which, in the interests of transparency, asks about conflicts of interest.

This benefit must also be noted on the Consent Form. The REB suggests the following language:

BENEFITS TO RESEARCHERS

As the goal of the overall project is to [FILL IN] , the research has the potential to lead to profit for the researchers or the research partners, if it is commercialized.

14. A substantial amount of design research relies on observation. Does this require REB approval?

Under specific circumstances, REB review is not required for research involving the observation of people in public places. Please note that in order to be exempt, all three conditions must be met:

  • it does not involve any intervention staged by the researcher, or direct interaction with the individuals or groups
  • individuals or groups targeted for observation have no reasonable expectation of privacy; and
  • any dissemination of research results does not allow identification of specific individuals.

However, it is important to note that the final decision on whether or not research requires REB approval lies with the REB itself.

15. My students will be interviewing officials in organisations. Does this require REB review and approval?

This is another common misconception. If students are interviewing individuals for purely factual responses, REB review is not required. However if personal opinions are being sought, the student must apply for REB approval.

Please read the following excerpt from the TCPS2 states: “In some cases, research may involve interaction with individuals who are not themselves the focus of the research in order to obtain information. For example, one may collect information from authorized personnel to release information or data in the ordinary course of their employment about organizations, policies, procedures, professional practices or statistical reports. Such individuals are not considered participants for the purposes of this Policy. This is distinct from situations where individuals are considered participants because they are themselves the focus of the research. For example, individuals who are asked for their personal opinions about organizations, or who are observed in their work setting for the purposes of research, are considered participants.”

16. I am teaching a graduate course that involves research activities with human participants with no results being disseminated outside the classroom. Does this require REB approval?

Many courses focus on pedagogical learning outcomes rather than the type of independent research with which the TCPS2 is primarily concerned. Generally, the objective of this type of endeavour is to provide students with exposure to research methods in their field of study. When this involves research activities with human participants, as the course instructor, you are required to apply for REB approval using the application for ethical review of course-based research. You can receive approval for a variety of projects within a single course by applying for course-based approval. You will find the course based application in ROMEO.

17. What is OCAD U’s Integrity in Research and Scholarship Policy?

OCAD U defers to the TCPS2 on all issues related to research with human participants. Any instances of non-compliance with the Research Ethics Policy are referred to the Associate Vice President Research under the Integrity in Research and Scholarship Policy. The mandate of the Integrity in Research and Scholarship Policy is to ensure that researchers and scholars: be honest in their pursuit of research and scholarship, have respect for others and for intellectual property, demonstrate scholarly competence and stewardship of resources, and exercise due regard for ethical principles.

18. Who can I contact for more information?

Please contact Christine Crisol Pineda, for the OCAD U Research Ethics Board Secretariat, at cpineda@ocadu.ca or ext 4368.