TCPS Interpretations

The Panel is pleased to share a growing collection of its responses to written requests for interpretation of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS).

Interpretations have been updated to reflect the changes in TCPS (2022), where applicable.

Interpretation Categories

Other categories will be added as the collection grows.

The Panel’s Role in Interpreting TCPS

Through its interpretation service, the Panel seeks to support the needs of participants, researchers, and Research Ethics Boards (REBs) in the effective use and understanding of TCPS. Answering these questions also helps the Panel to identify issues, gaps, and ambiguities in TCPS that may warrant clarification or amendment. Posting these interpretations on its website is one way for the Panel to respond to the evolving needs of the research community. It is also in keeping with the Panel’s mandate to develop a publicly accessible bank of interpretations.

Authority and Application of Interpretations

The Panel considers institutional REBs—with their expertise, delegated authority, and awareness of their particular institutional requirements—as the primary source of guidance for research ethics questions in their community. The Panel is not an appeal body for TCPS-related decisions made by institutional REBs, and it does not provide legal advice or opinions. Interpretations provided are based on TCPS. In their application by REBs, they may be modified to take into consideration the research under review as well as applicable policies, laws, and regulations.

The Panel’s interpretations of TCPS are provided as advisory opinions for guidance. The objective of these interpretations is not necessarily to produce identical decisions across REBs, but rather to ensure that researchers and REBs take into account the same considerations as they design and evaluate research involving humans. As with TCPS itself, responses to interpretation questions may also evolve. Changes introduced to subsequent versions of TCPS may result in revisions to interpretations. In case of discrepancy between the interpretations and TCPS, text in TCPS shall prevail. We welcome your input.

Responding to Interpretation Requests

Interpretation questions vary in their level of complexity. Many requests for interpretations are answered directly by the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research (Secretariat). Where the requests raise novel or complex issues, the Secretariat refers questions to the Panel. For some issues, the Panel may require input from other sources or a broader consultation.

Submitting Requests for Interpretations

If you do not find the answer to your question through your REBs or in this collection, you can request an interpretation. Simply send an e-mail to the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research at Put “Request for Interpretation” and the focus of your question (e.g., consent, recruitment, identifying information) in the subject line. Please provide your contact information to help us respond to your question. A policy analyst should be in touch with you within 48 hours.

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