Project History

Background documents related to BCEHI’s development, including environmental scans, evaluation reports, and strategic plans, are available for download.


Initial Planning & Consultation (2007 – 2010)

Health research stakeholders across BC identified the need for an effective, coordinated, provincial approach to ethical review of studies involving human subjects.

In 2007, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Advanced Education, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) agreed to facilitate a process to explore options for harmonizing review processes across British Columbia’s disparate research ethics boards.

A task force was established to determine the focus and scope of the ethics harmonization initiative, and its recommendations were released in February 2008:

  • Explore how ethics review for multi-jurisdictional research projects can be made more efficient, consistent and timely, possibly with some degree of inter-institutional reciprocity
  • Create common forms (e.g., application forms, informed consent)
  • Develop common educational and training resources to be shared by research ethics boards
  • Develop a shared/common IT platform and tools accessible to researchers and institutions at which human subject research is undertaken in BC

Phase I (2010 – 2011)

In summer 2010, a consortium of three BC universities (Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria) submitted a proposal to develop a collaborative provincial human-subject ethics review process. The proposal was approved and funded by MSFHR.

Based on this proposal, three pilot projects involving three or more research ethics boards were completed that utilized different approaches to collaborative review. Following submission of a report in April 2011, the consortium expanded to eight partners.


Phase II (2011 – 2015)

Phase II funding was approved by MSFHR in fall 2011. The project’s second phase has been designed around three key components:

  • Strengthening the initiative through networking and leadership
  • Developing effective and sustainable collaborative review models and resources
  • Building capacity and education to implement and sustain the initiative

Milestones of this phase have included the publication of a guideline document to help researchers and ethics review administrators identify minimal risk studies, and the completion of a reciprocity agreement between all eight project partners.

Consensus was reached in 2013 for supporting a centralized approach to multi-jurisdictional ethics reviews. Current work is focused on development of centralized research ethics review models, which have been implemented on a trial basis. A pilot model for minimal risk studies launched in December 2014, followed by an above minimal risk pilot model in June 2015.


Pilot Phase (2015-2016)

BCEHI supported the pilot implementation and evaluation of harmonized ethics review models. A harmonized model for the review of above minimal risk studies launched June 1 and was piloted through the end of 2015. The introduction of this model ensured harmonized review was available for all multi-jurisdictional studies in BC. A pilot model for minimal risk studies launched in December 2014 and was well received by researchers. The minimal risk pilot was completed at the end of July 2015. Results of the evaluation of this pilot were reported back to the research community in Fall 2015.

The models were designed to address three priority objectives:

  • Improve the timeliness and efficiency of the ethical review process
  • Improve the system effectiveness for health research ethics review
  • Facilitate maximal reciprocity between BC institutions for the ethical review of health research conducted within BC