Terms of Reference
The Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research (SRCR or Secretariat) (formerly, Secretariat on Research Ethics) provides substantive and administrative support for the Panel on Research Ethics (PRE), the Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research (PRCR), and for the three federal research granting Agencies (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) with respect to the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2nd edition (TCPS 2), and the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (the Framework).
The mandate of the Secretariat with respect to PRE, PRCR and the Agencies is to:
- promote high ethical standards in the responsible conduct of research;
- learn from and respond to emerging issues in research ethics and responsible conduct of research, in a national and international context;
- provide interpretations, as requested, of the TCPS 2 and the Framework for their implementation and use;
- recognize the diversity of approaches used in research involving humans;
- foster awareness and understanding of research ethics issues among researchers, research institutions, members of REBs, and the public;
- participate in the ongoing national discussion regarding the development of an oversight system for research ethics review practices;
- implement and promote educational activities related to the implementation of the TCPS 2 and the Framework;
- identify concerns or issues that may arise as part of these activities and inform PRE or PRCR should these issues warrant any modification or clarification of the TCPS 2 or the Framework;
- participate in the ongoing national dialogue regarding the responsible conduct of research;
- foster awareness and understanding of responsible conduct of research among researchers and research institutions through education and training; and
- establish and sustain collaborative relationships with other organizations.
For PRE, the Secretariat provides administrative, substantive and communication support by:
- managing incoming requests for interpretation of the TCPS 2;
- arranging for expert advice on substantive questions of interpretation, as needed, for PRE;
- issuing and disseminating official interpretations of the TCPS 2 to develop a publicly accessible bank of precedents;
- monitoring requests for interpretation over time to identify trends, gaps or difficulties in the TCPS 2 and communicating these to PRE for action;
- coordinating and supporting PRE's meetings;
- communicating PRE's decisions and highlights of their meetings, to the broader community in an open and transparent manner; and
- implementing and promoting educational outreach with respect to the ethical conduct of research involving humans to the research community.
For PRCR, the Secretariat provides administrative, substantive and communication support by:
- managing allegations of breaches of Agency policies;
- coordinating and facilitating PRCR meetings;
- reviewing institutional investigation reports to ensure the process followed by the institution is in accordance with its own responsible conduct of research policy and is consistent with the Framework;
- preparing and presenting summaries of cases of alleged breaches of Agency policies to PRCR for discussion;
- communicating PRCR recommendations for recourse in the event of confirmed breaches to the President of the relevant Agency for final decision;
- preparing an annual statistical report on cases related to alleged and confirmed breaches of Agency policy for posting on the PRCR web site, broken down by Agency;
- communicating advice from PRCR to the Presidents of the three Agencies;
- consulting with external subject matter experts or Agency staff for advice or input, as required. These consultations will respect the confidentiality of all parties involved; and
- implementing and promoting educational outreach with respect to the responsible conduct research to the research community.
The Secretariat supports the Agencies by :
- providing technical and policy advice related to the implementation and application of the TCPS 2 and the Framework in institutions or organizations eligible to receive or administer Agency funds;
- coordinating and supporting the meetings of the Interagency Management Committee and the Steering Committee; and
- maintaining websites for PRE and PRCR.
Relationships with Other National Organizations
The Secretariat collaborates with other national organizations, such as the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards, the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Canadian Research Integrity Forum, among others.
The Secretariat also has the option to engage in activities through outsourcing, which benefits the process by involving a larger expert constituency in the evolution, interpretation, education and implementation of the TCPS 2 and the Framework.
The Executive Director of the Secretariat reports to the Advisory Panel on Research Ethics and the Advisory Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research through their respective Chairs primarily on policy matters, and to the Interagency Management Committee (IMC) primarily on interagency administrative and operational matters.
The IMC is composed of the Executive Vice-Presidents of CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC. It is chaired by the Executive Vice-President of CIHR. The membership of this committee could vary should the Presidents of the Agencies wish to designate other senior executives and agree to such a modification. The IMC provides administrative oversight and facilitates the operations of the Secretariat. The IMC reports to the Steering Committee, composed of the Agencies' Presidents, on operational and strategic issues, as appropriate and required.
Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans
Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (2011)