Anthropology/Religious / Geography
Studies Research Ethics Committee

2011 - 2012 Membership Anthropology/Religious Studies & Geography Research Ethics Committee

B. Newbold, Geography, Chair
T. Carter, Anthropology
D. Machiela , Religious Studies
L. DeMiglio , Geography grad
L. Jewett, undergrad

Link to the Course Form (New)

Link to Individual Student Form (Revised Dec. 10, 2010)

 Link to Guidelines for Course Based Projects Involving Human Subjects

Terms of reference will be updated in Fall 2010 as the Geography department will merge with Anthropology and Religious Studies for the purposes of student research ethics review.

History: These procedures were approved at meetings of faculty in the Departments of Anthropology and Religious Studies held in the Fall of 1999.  They were then approved by the University Research Ethics Board.  They become effective and apply to all Anthropology and Religious Studies courses as of January  3rd 2000.  Since the Humanities department was added to this committee in Fall 2000, the terms of reference have been modified accordingly.

Purpose: These procedures were adapted from those developed by the Psychology Ethics Committee for Undergraduate Research and are constructed to conform with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (1998), or TCPS. All quotations and references are from that document. The Tri-Council Policy is available on the web.

Adoption and modification: These procedures, and any subsequent changes to them, must be approved by a majority of the faculty members in both the Departments of Anthropology, Religious Studies, Humanities, and by the University Research Ethics Board.

Scope: All research involving humans as research participants must be reviewed by either the University or Departmental Research Ethics Commitee (TCPS, Article 2.1).  Research is defined as “a systematic investigation to establish facts, principles or generalizable knowledge” (TCPS, Article 2.1). This includes research conducted for a McMaster course that is supervised by an individual who is not affiliated with the University. Research requiring review includes not only experimental protocols, but also research involving ethnographic methods, questionnaires, interviews, or secondary use of data that are not in the public domain. It also extends to research involving human remains, tissues, biological fluids, or foetuses(TCPS, Article 2.1and TCPS, Article 5.5)

The Departmental Committee shall review research conducted by undergraduate students when (1) it is conducted as part of an undergraduate course offered by the Departments of Anthropology,Religious Studies and Humanities, and (2)  it is not part of a faculty member’s research programme already subject to review by any other Ethics Board (TCPS, Article 6.1). Undergraduate research for Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Humanities courses that are supervised by individuals outside the Departments of Anthropology, Religious Studies and Humanities, shall be reviewed by the Departmental Committee unless it is subject to review by the University Research Ethics Board or by another Ethics Board in compliance with the Tri-Council Policy. Research conducted by graduate students and faculty members in the Departments of Anthropology, Religious Studies or Humanities,  must be reviewed by the University Research Ethics Board (and, when relevant, the Ethics Board of the institution where the research will be conducted).

Departmental Committee: The Committee for the Review of Undergraduate Research is comprised of 3 faculty members (one from Anthropology, one from Religious Studies, and one from Humanities) and 2 undergraduate students (one from Social Sciences and one from Humanities).  The Committee is encouraged to consult relevant experts on methodological issues within and outside the Departments of Anthropology, Religious Studies and Humanities, as necessary.

Selection of members: Members (and any necessary replacements) shall be appointed by the Chairs of the Departments. Faculty members shall serve for staggered 3-year terms; undergraduates or graduates, for 1-year terms. Terms are renewable. The Chair of the Committee shall be selected by the Committee. Membership shall be reported to the University Research Ethics Board.

Rationale for the composition of the Committee:

We believe that the selection of 5 individuals should provide sufficient range of experience and expertise so as to be able to assess the various methodological and ethical issues arising from applications in the two departments. It is anticipated that the majority of applications will come from Anthropology. In decisions requiring a vote (for example, to request revisions to an application, or to refer it to the University Ethics Committee) a decision will be made based on a majority vote involving not less than 3 members.

Information to be supplied: Applications may be made for an individual undergraduate project, for a generic project to be conducted by several members of a class, or by an entire class. For independent studies and seminar courses we encourage the undergraduate researcher to be involved in constructing the application, but the supervisor or course instructor must sign the final application. For large class projects we anticipate that the instructor will prepare the application, and that students will receive information and instruction concerning the ethical issues involved in research. The research may not begin until the Departmental or University Research Ethics Board  (if the application has been referred there) has given its approval.

We suggest that early in each term (Week Two or Three) instructors   discuss basic issues associated with the ethics of research, including, for example: Confidentiality of the data, consent, and the harms and benefits of the research. A brief statement of this part of the curriculum would constitute “steps taken to educate undergraduate students” as outlined below.

In each case, the application must include:

  •  The purpose of the project
  •  How participants will be recruited
  •  Method: What will happen from the participant’s perspective, including a description of any written instruments to be  used
  •  The process for obtaining the initial consent and monitoring for ongoing consent, including a copy of any proposed consent form
  •  Possible benefits
  •  Possible harms and dangers
  •  How possible harms and dangers will be minimized
  •  How the participants will be informed about the results of the research or will have access to research results.
  •  Confidentiality of the data
  •  Steps taken to educate the undergraduate student(s) about
  •  Ethical issues in research
The application form will also contain a space to indicate whether the research is part of a supervisor’s research project that is subject to review by the university ethics committee.

The form is to be Signed by the supervisor and should list the names of the student(s) who will carry out the research.

Forms for each academic year will be available from the Departments of Anthropology , Religious Studies and Humanities. There are also found on the web page of the Office of Research Services, Ethics in Human Subject Research.  Contact is the secretariat of the SREC, Michael J. Wilson GH-305, ext. 23142.  Applications may be made by E-mail attachment or by submitting 2 hard copies.

Process and procedure: Applications should be sent to the SREC secretariat as soon as possible at the start of each term and at least two weeks prior to the date at which the research is to be started.  In reaching its decisions, the Committee will be guided by the principles outlined in the Tri-Council Policy. Applications will be approved only for the academic year in which they are made. If the project will continue in a subsequent year without any change, the applicant should request renewal of the approval.

Whenever possible, the committee shall make decisions in face-to-face meetings (TCPS, Articles  6.8, 6.9). However, proposals that fit the Tri-Council’s definition of minimal risk may be reviewed and approved by E-mail or mail circulation.  Approval requires at least three approving votes. However, it is anticipated that the committee will normally reach a consensus and, if necessary, will work with the applicant to improve the initial proposal.

If the Committee is reviewing an application in which a Committee member has a personal interest, that member shall not be involved in the decision (TCPS, Article 7.3).

Referral to University Research Ethics Board:  The Departmental Committee may refer an application to the University Research Ethics Board. Examples of situations in which referral would be appropriate are research that the Departmental Committee thinks may be of more than minimal risk, research involving ethical or legal issues for which it does not have adequate expertise, and cases for which conflicts of interest reduce its size to fewer than three members.

Appeals: Every attempt shall be made to work with the applicant to reach agreement through discussion, revision, and reconsideration.  When agreement cannot be reached, decisions of the Departmental Ethics Board may be appealed to the University Research Ethics Board, whose decision shall be final.

Other responsibilities: The Departmental Committee shall also consider any other ethical issues that arise which concern Anthropology, Religious Studies and Humanities undergraduates and research with human participants, such as undergraduate education about ethics.

Reconsideration of these procedures: These procedures shall be reviewed not later than June 2001.

Last Update December 14, 2010tcps2