I had my first meeting with U of T’s research ethics people, regarding my proposed PhD project.
One thing they drew my attention to is some of the policy language in the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, which is like the north star for research ethics in Canada.
One policy directive (6.11) explains:
Researchers shall submit their research proposals, including proposals for pilot studies, for REB [Research Ethics Board] review and approval of its ethical acceptability prior to the start of recruitment of participants, access to data, or collection of human biological materials. REB review is not required for the initial exploratory phase, which may involve contact with individuals or communities intended to establish research partnerships or to inform the design of a research proposal.
Similarly, another directive (10.1) says:
Researchers shall submit their research approvals, including proposals for pilot studies, for REB review and approval of its ethical acceptability prior to the start of recruitment of participants, or access to data. Subject to the exceptions in Article 10.5, REB review is not requires for the initial exploratory phase (often involving contact with individuals or communities) intended to discuss the feasibility of the research, establish research partnerships, or the design of a research proposal.
This is quite important, in part because chapter 9 (“Research involving the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Peoples of Canada”) calls for a “collaborative relationship between researchers and communities”.
During the next couple of months I need to put a lot of effort into situating this project within relevant literatures, as well as developing a convincing and ethically appropriate methodology for effectively evaluating my research questions.