IMPORTANT NOTICE: Procedures for researchers during COVID-19 outbreak for research falling under the purview of REBs 1,2,3,4

Published: 20 March 2020

March 20, 2020

Given the COVID-19 outbreak and in consideration of the importance of preserving the health and safety of the population, including research participants and McGill members, following government directives for social distancing and University directives, all on campus research or any in-person interactions with research participants is to be discontinued or postponed.

However, in many cases, in person participant data collection can be replaced with telephone or virtual communications such as Zoom and Skype. If researchers need to make immediate changes to their research method to conduct the data collection by phone or other virtual communication in order to eliminate risks related to the COVID-19 outbreak, then this change can be implemented without REB approval (as per TCPS Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented immediately, but must be reported to the REB within 10 working days using the COVID-19 Temporary Protocol Deviation Report (available on the website).

In such cases, researchers will need to ensure that they are not increasing the level of risk to participants, ensuring the change in communication allows for privacy and confidentiality of the participants. It may also require a change to the consent process e.g. obtaining consent through email or verbally. Current participants must be contacted to explain the proposed method change and given the opportunity to agree, decline or withdraw from further participation. All consent must be documented.

There are circumstance where prior REB approval will be needed. An amendment must be submitted to the REB for prior approval when a) additional changes are proposed that are not currently approved such as audio or video recording the interaction b) proposing to collect data electronically through email or an online questionnaire using platforms such as Qualtrics, Lime Survey etc. c) the research involves therapy or treatment or involves sensitive data collection where the researcher is expected to be physically present.

Requests for just-in-time research directly related to COVID-19 research will be prioritized. When submitting new studies or amendments or any inquiries that relate directly to COVID-19, please identify it as such in the subject line.

The REB Office will maintain regular services, to the best of our ability, remotely and/or virtually. Please note that there may be delays in responses and review times due to the high volume of requests. Reviews may be delayed, as REB members are busy dealing with changes to their teaching and research responsibilities.

Please be aware that, as the current situation is continually evolving, procedures may change. We will update this information as needed.


Please contact any of the REB staff if you have any questions.

Lynda McNeil (Associate Director) – lynda.mcneil [at]

Deanna Collin (Senior Ethics Review Administrator) – deanna.collin [at]

Georgia Kalavritinos (Ethics Review Administrator) – georgia.kalavritinos [at]


For Faculty of Medicine IRB information please go to


Back to top