Frequently Asked Questions
What is the HREB?
The Human Research Ethics Board works to protect researchers and research participants. They provide guidance and feedback to researchers on their proposals and methodology to ensure the research will meet the highest ethical standards. The Board is made up of representatives from each Faculty, community members, a legal representative, and an ethics expert. Together they serve UFV in two primary roles -- educative and review.
In its educative role, the HREB serves the UFV research community as a consultative body and thus, contributes to education in research ethics.
In its review role, the HREB has the responsibility for independent, multidisciplinary review of the ethics of research to determine whether the research should be permitted to start or to continue.
Why do I need HREB approval?
All research directly or indirectly involving living human subjects or participants requires review and approval by the HREB or its designate in accordance with Policy 54 and the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS 2) before the research is started. A researcher is any faculty, student, or community member employed directly by, or otherwise affiliated with, UFV who undertakes to conduct research. It also includes anyone who enlists UFV faculty, staff, students, or departments as participants. The TCPS and the UFV Policy are intended to protect researchers and research participants. A key principle of research ethics is regarding participant risk.
How long will it take for an application to be reviewed and approved?
There are a many factors involved, and it depends on the nature of the project. HREB protocols are reviewed in the order they are received, so depending on the time of year, there can be anywhere from 1 to 15 protocols in the queue. HREB protocols will take a minimum of 2 weeks to be reviewed and approved, and the majority of protocols are sent back for revisions or clarification.
1-2 weeks (Minimal Risk*)
2-3 weeks (Full Board Review)
Student projects that are minimal risk and have been recommended for approval by the Department Research Ethics Committee (DREC) will usually be approved within a week. If there are revisions to the protocol that the Chair of the HREB is requesting from the student, it will usually be approved within the week after the student has submitted the changes.
If the student project is not minimal risk, it needs to be reviewed and approved by the full HREB board at the monthly meeting. The protocol review time is subject to the meeting date – if the student submits before the deadline of the next meeting then it will be reviewed and revisions will be requested within the month. If the student misses the deadline. the protocol will have to wait until the next month’s meeting.
If there are multiple student DREC protocols from an instructor and a class assignment, the review time will be at least two weeks. Please allow enough time for your students to receive approval of their project.
*Minimal risk it outlined in the policy and in the forms.
The HREB would like to stress that if students submit an above minimal risk ethics protocol in the middle of their course, they may not get approval in time to complete their research before their course ends. Not sure if your research is minimal risk? Click here and fill out the Minimal Risk Checklist and contact the Ethics Officer right away. Above minimal risk research must be reviewed at the board level and there are often major discussions and deliberations before a final version is approved. Additionally, if your research requires approval from a secondary source that has their own ethics board (health authorities, community services), this will delay your approval even more. It is unavoidable and it is the nature of that type of research.
Faculty Projects (2-3 weeks)
Faculty protocols will be put in the queue for review by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the HREB. The researcher will usually hear back from the ethics administrator within a few days to know if it is minimal risk or if it needs a full review. Minimal risk submissions will take at least two weeks to be reviewed and for revisions to be sent. Once revisions are received, approval is usually given with a week unless further revisions are required.
Protocols that need to be reviewed by the HREB are subject to the meeting date. After the protocol is reviewed at the HREB meeting (1-5 week wait depending on when the protocol was submitted), the protocol will follow the same time frame it would have if it were minimal risk, unless major revisions are required.
What is the difference between a full and a delegated review?
A full board review requires that the submitted protocol be reviewed at the HREB regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Click here for the meeting schedule. If a protocol is NOT minimal risk, it will be reviewed by the full board. If a study involves minors (persons 18 years or younger) it automatically goes to the full board. A course designation also automatically goes to the full board. There are other instances in which the full board reviews a protocol (e.g., a complicated protocol or one involving human fluids).
A delegated review is a protocol that is minimal risk and can be reviewed and approved by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the HREB. The delegated review does not go to the full board review at the monthly meeting nor does it have to wait for the meeting date to be reviewed, but this doesn't necessarily mean it will be reviewed any faster.
What is a course designation?
A course designation is when a course is designed to be a research course and has a research assignment, but it can also be a non-research course with a research assignment. If the assignment will be an ongoing one that involves students doing some form of research, please get in touch with the Chair of the HREB to find out if the course can be designated as a research course. Course designations are given a three year approval instead of the typical one year approval and make it much easier for students to get their assignments done. Course designations require the instructor to provide oversight and supervision of the student research.
I’m not sure if I’ll run the course assignment more than once. Do I still need a course designation?
If you are doing a trial run of a research assignment before implementing it into your course outline and curriculum, you can apply for a student request for ethical review on behalf of all your students and attach a class list. This approval will be given for only one semester and for the students on the class list.
I think my project falls in the professional education and skill development category. Can I proceed without ethics review?
You should always check with the HREB first if you think your project might be exempt from ethics review. There are more explicit explanations of professional education and skill development in the Handbook.
My project has changed. Do I need to submit a new request?
No – if your project has changed minimally, such as hiring a new research assistant, expanding into another school to get more participants, or simply needing an extension for another six months to finish collecting the data, a request for amendment can be sought. If the changes are significant (such as changing the use of the data), then the HREB will notify the researcher and ask for a new protocol.
My project will definitely take longer than a year to complete. Do I have to submit a new request every year?
If you are sure your project will take longer than a year, indicate the project length on the request for ethical review. When approval is given the certificate will still only be valid for a year, but the HREB will extend the certificate for another year upon receiving an annual report of the project.
What is the TCPS2?
The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) is a document created by the three major granting agencies in Canada: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). This document provides guidelines for researchers using human participants in their research and covers everything from the ethics review to privacy and confidentiality to clinical trials.The TCPS also provides a tutorial for researchers to educate them on the ethics process and ethical concerns. TCPS 2 Tutorial
What should I do if my research involves multiple institutions?
We do our best to make sure the process is not onerous when doing research at multiple sites. You will need approval from each site. You should submit your application to the primary institution for ethics review (generally the primary investigator's home institution) first. When you receive ethics approval from there, you will then send all your documents to our HREB for review (the application form and all supporting documents). The HREB will review the application on the other institution's forms and will either approve the ethics for UFV or request extra information. The UFV HREB will need a copy of the ethics approval from each institution.
I want to survey teachers or have children in school as participants in my study. What is the process?
Before the HREB can approve a protocol that involves anyone in any school district, we need written consent from the school district and/or the principals at the schools. Consent letters need to be given to the parents with enough time for them to make an informed decision (at least three business days). It is recommended that you have a completed criminal record check on file if you are going to be working with children. Although the HREB cannot require the criminal record check (in terms of jurisdictional responsibility), the school district will likely require it.
What are some guidelines for storing and destroying data?
Raw data needs to be stored in a secure area/way until it is destroyed. For example, if you have hard copy surveys, they need to be in a locked cabinet or office. If you have online data, it needs to be on a password protected computer or password protected USB drive. The protection of data is an important issue because you are protecting the information you receive from the research participants. The date of data destruction should be identified in you Request for Ethical Review. The most common way to destroy data is to shred it. Data that is stored on tapes or computers needs to be erased.
Who should I send my request to?
Faculty should send their projects to firstname.lastname@example.org. Students should submit their project to their appropriate DREC first unless they know it is not minimal risk – then they can send it to the Research Office by emailing email@example.com. If there is any question about the risk level for student research it should be sent to the HREB immediately to ensure it meets the deadlines for review at the meeting. Graduate students are treated like faculty and should submit their protocols directly to the Research Office. Students doing a directed studies research project also need to apply directly to the Research Office.
When is the deadline for submissions?
The deadline for HREB submissions to be included for review in the current month’s meeting is the Thursday two weeks prior to the meeting date, at noon. Please click here for the meeting schedule and submission deadlines. Please do not wait until the last minute to submit a request as it takes time to determine the risk level and decide if it is appropriate to delegate the request or not.
Who should complete TCPS2 CORE?
All UFV students are required to complete the TCPS2 CORE tutorial prior to submitting a request for research ethics review. All students enrolled in a research course or working directly with human participants as a research asssistant must complete CORE. For students enrolled in a research course, please submit your CORE certificate to your instructor. All students must register for CORE using their UFV student e-mail address and select UFV as their host institution.
For FAQ about TCPS2 CORE, please visit
My question isn’t here. Who can I contact?
For general research ethics questions or to submit a protocal, please contact the Research Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more specific questions regarding the details of a protocol or questions on course designations or professional education/skill development, please contact the HREB Chair. See HREB Board Members.