Guidelines for ethical conduct in human research are constantly updated and used as a reference by research participants. They are also intended for members engaged in research governance and researchers involved in human research.
The main goal is to ensure the necessary level of protection for participants in compliance with relevant regulations. In case of conflict between ethics and law, it is important that researchers seek advice and guidance by legal professionals, organizations and relevant bodies, and colleagues.
Research participants are persons whose questions, responses to stimuli and interventions, and information contribute to scientific progress. They are actively involved in research and thus bear risks. For this reason, ethical conduct for research is based on 4 key principles – justice, welfare, concern, and respect for research subjects. These principles apply to both clinical trials and qualitative research. There are legal provisions that govern research involving humans, and standards apply to areas such as decision-making, intellectual property, confidentiality, privacy, and others. Equal treatment is also a core principle and discrimination is prohibited. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also safeguards the security, liberty, and life of persons involved in human research.
Research is premised on ethical treatment and commitment to human welfare. Respect for human wellbeing, rights, and dignity is a core principle. To this, research bodies and institutions commit to establish relevant procedures and policies for observations, questionnaires, and interviews involving groups or individual participants. Institutions establish and implement guidelines, procedures, and policies for research ethnics. Three bodies are tasked with the review of relevant policies - the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The Research Ethics Board reviews studies that involve questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and physical interventions as well as personal information and data that is systemically collected. The Board reviews data and grants ethics approval before research can begin. Applications for ethical review must include supporting documents, a conflict of interest disclosure, a plan outlining the procedures for maintenance and collection of data and its confidentiality, the target population or group of individuals to participate in the investigation, and a description of methodology and the research itself. Research applications are approved only if no greater than minimal risk is involved. Risk is defined as the probability and extent of harm of different nature, including economic, physical, psychological, behavioral, and social. Minimal risk is limited to risk that research participants encounter on a daily basis. It is also important that all participants consent to cooperate and take part in the study.