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Geography Departmental Policy for the Ethical Review of Student Projects

Geography instructors would like to assist their students in developing their research skills through class projects that involve interacting with human subjects. This would involve conducting interviews, circulating questionnaires or surveys, and facilitating focus groups. These research techniques would be part of a structured research process involving posing a research question or problem, collecting data, formulating conclusions, and presenting findings to their fellow student and instructors. To this end:

1. Geography students will receive instruction – mainly, but not exclusively, in GEOG 324: Research Methods – in the theory and practice of research ethics regarding the use of human subjects. Also: all faculty and students will be encouraged to take the tutorial on the ethical conduct of research offered on-line by the federal Tri-Council.

2. Each student proposing or being required to conduct research on human subjects will submit two copies of an application for departmental ethical review. View a checklist (PDF) may be found at the following site. These two copies must be submitted to the instructor by the deadline established in the course syllabus. One copy will be retained by the instructor and the other will be passed on to another faculty member who will be selected for a minimum one- year term.

3. Each proposal will contain: the name of the principal investigator, a brief description of the training they have had in research ethics, and the name of their faculty supervisor; the title of the proposed project; a brief but complete description of the purpose of the research; the methodology; proposed subjects; how the subjects will be recruited; specific instruments to be used, and a statement of ethical issues. This will not exceed three single-spaced pages.

4. In addition, each proposal should contain as an attachment: an informed consent form (PDF) that both the investigator and subject will sign.

The informed consent form addresses the nature of the study, what is being asked of the subject, time required, the voluntary nature of participation, anonymity and confidentiality of data, risks and benefits, contact information for the faculty supervisor, whether deception of any kind is involved, whether debriefing/ results will be available afterwards, and plans for storage and destruction of data.

Additional required attachments include: interview or survey questions (or description of requested tasks); advertisements for volunteers and, if applicable, and debriefing forms (available, along with examples on the web site). The student will also have to make a pledge to protect the confidentiality of all informants (for instance, in casual conversation). NOTE: See all pertinent forms available from the Committee for Research Involving Human Subjects (CRIHS).

5. If the instructor and the other faculty member are in agreement about the soundness of the proposal, with possible minor modifications, then the proposal will go ahead. If the two individuals are unable to resolve serious differences of opinion, then the application will be adjudicated by the Chair of the Department.

6. Data would be kept in the relevant faculty member’s office in a locked storage cabinet for a year to allow for any adjudication of grade disputes, at which time the data will be destroyed.

7. Every year, the Department will submit a report to the Dean that would include the number and type of research projects completed within the academic year, and an estimate of the number and type of projects likely to be carried out over the next academic year. The report would also note if any projects have been forwarded to the CRIHS.