Fundamentals of Research Ethics

Course Description

Research Ethics Basics is normally a one-day course providing an introduction to research ethics suitable for persons who are relatively new to research ethics, such as recently appointed REB members and staff, as well as researchers.  The training draws from the guidelines found in authoritative sources including the Tri-Council Policy Statement, which primarily governs the conduct of academic research in Canada.  The course is practical and focuses on learning how to understand and review protocols critically.  It includes both lively presentations and interactive discussion with case examples drawn from 18 years of experience serving on REBs in Canada and the US.  

Brief Summary of Course Content

  • The course opens with a discussion of the history of research ethics and describes the fundamental justification for its requirements and guidelines.  
  • Drawing upon this historical context, an overview of the conceptual underpinning and foundational values of research ethics: autonomy, welfare and justice (equal moral status).
  • In small groups, participants review a “mock protocol” (distributed in advance) that exposes a broad range of difficult ethical issues arising in a fictional study and report back the results of their deliberations to inspire further discussion on the different approaches taken.  
  • A review of the basic research ethics issues focusing on: the scope of research review, and the basic requirements and guidelines for consent, risk/benefit analysis, inclusion in research, confidentiality, and proportional review.
  • A discussion of the strategies and techniques for effectively reviewing protocols.
  • An overview of particular issues and specialized types of research to which REB members and staff are commonly exposed.


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