Review Of Face-To-Face and Off-Campus Research

Off-Campus Research (No Face-to-Face Human Participant Component)

Researchers who wish to conduct research at an off-campus site or conduct on-site field research (e.g. Koffler Scientific Reserve, Hart House Farm, Gull Lake) that does not involve any human participant Face to Face (F2F) components are to complete the new online Face-to-Face and Off-Campus (F2FOC) COVID-19 Review Form. The form is used for both F2F and off-campus research, but contains branching logic so that only questions relevant to off-campus research are asked.

Researchers are to send a copy of the completed F2FOC form (provided as a PDF when the form is submitted) to ehs.office@utoronto.ca. Researchers will be contacted by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) once that review has been conducted. If you have any questions in advance of submitting your form please contact OHS directly at ehs.office@utoronto.ca.

Face to Face (F2F) Human Participant Research (On or Off Campus)

The University of Toronto’s Research Ethics Boards (REBs) are now accepting submissions of F2F human research as one of two separate review processes. Researchers proposing F2F human participant research will complete the Face-to-Face and Off-Campus (F2FOC) COVID-19 Review Form, and upload the provided PDF copy of the completed form to the Documents Summary (Section #13) of their My Research Human Protocols (MRHP) new submission or amendment. The REB review process focuses (as usual) on human research ethics issues. There is now a second review process by the Face-to-Face COVID-19 Review Committee (F2FCRC)  specifically to assess the COVID-19 health and safety risks of the research being proposed. Approvals from both review processes are required before F2F research activities can commence. If you have any questions about the process, please contact f2f.research@utoronto.ca.

Prioritization of Submissions

Acceptance of submissions for F2F research will occur in a stepwise progression based on COVID-19 research risk, beginning with Level 1 research and following prioritization criteria within each level as determined by the Research Restart Steering Committee. Current information regarding which studies are currently accepted into the process can be found on the F2F Human Research Review Status page.

COVID-19 research or F2F research where the participant is receiving a service that would be delivered/received regardless of the research may be submitted for REB review at any time. Please contact ethics.review@utoronto.ca if you have questions regarding whether your study qualifies. Researchers currently in other regions or countries where public health directives may allow for F2F research to commence may submit their protocols for REB review at any time.

The Research Restart Steering Committee has prioritized previously approved F2F studies that were stopped in November or studies that are time sensitive for review within each level. The resumption of F2F research at each level will follow institutional and public health guidance. Review processes for each level will begin in advance of the level at which that research may commence (e.g. Level 2a research that might begin Orange-Restrict will be prioritized for review when the GTA is in Red-Control). 

For research where the U of T REB is not the Board of Record (e.g. a TAHSN REB is the Board of Record), researchers should follow the applicable direction of that institution (assuming the in-person research is not on the U of T campus).

Process for F2F Human Participant Research

Researchers proposing F2F human participant research will complete the Face-to-Face and Off-Campus (F2FOC) COVID-19 Review Form, and upload the provided PDF copy of the completed form to the Documents Summary (Section #13) of their My Research Human Protocols (MRHP) new submission or amendment. The F2FCRC will review the form and provide recommendations to the vice-deans/associate deans/vice-principals (research) and researchers on the project’s risks and health and safety requirements, and the REB will separately review the human research ethics protocol. If both the F2FCRC and the REB approve the study, an approval letter will be issued to the Principal Investigator to allow them to start or resume their study. As study submissions must be reviewed by both the REB and the F2FCRC before they can proceed, review times may be longer than normal.

Researchers should monitor the VPRI website periodically to ensure that they are aware of any changes to public health directives, and suspend activities as required. As the reviews restart, up-to-date information will be posted on the Face-to-Face (F2F) Human Research Review Status page regarding the review status for all risk levels so the research community is aware of what the F2FCRC and REBs are able to review.

Order of submission for F2F research recovery

COVID-19 Research Risk Research Method Direct contact / close contact? Conducted in an EHS-approved safe research space? Approximate Start (Provincial Framework)
Level 1 Interaction / observation None or minimal contact, physical distancing can be easily achieved (e.g., interviews, computer-based experiments, non-invasive methods) Not required Red
Level 2a Intervention Some physical contact (e.g., biospecimen collection, body measurements), physical distancing sometimes challenging to maintain Yes Orange
Level 2b Intervention Some physical contact (e.g., biospecimen collection, body measurements), physical distancing sometimes challenging to maintain No Green
Level 3a Physical treatment / manipulation Sustained physical contact, participant breathing heavily, physical distancing not possible Yes Yellow
Level 3b Physical treatment / manipulation Sustained physical contact, participant breathing heavily, physical distancing not possible No Normal activities