In the 2008 fall semester at Conestoga College, fourth-year BScN students, Katie Trihey and Melinda Wyma, were brought on board – the Research Ethics Board (REB) that is.
The idea of bringing students onto the REB began with the desire to have students participate in the ethics review of applications to conduct research on humans, as many potential participants are Conestoga students.
Trihey and Wyma were placed, as non-voting members, on the REB and were assigned the task of performing a literature search on the topic of Students as a Vulnerable Research Population.
The purpose of researching this topic was to educate the REB members regarding the nature and extent of the vulnerability of students as a research population, and to provide a stepping stone to the REB for further research endeavors.
In addition to their literature review, the students reviewed research proposals and took part in discussions during two REB meetings. "The REB was accepting of any suggestions or input we had regarding the research proposals," says Wyma.
Trihey adds she and Wyma also participated in a delegated review of a research proposal. "This experience allowed us to see the extent to which a proposal is reviewed with a fine tooth comb, before the application is approved and the research can begin."
Jane McDonald, chair of the REB, says the main role of the REB is to look at applications from people who want to do research at the college involving any human participants to ensure that participants’ rights are protected. According to McDonald, the REB would like potential researchers to understand the ethical review of research proposals can make their research better by ensuring the research provides them with the data required to answer their research questions.
Wyma says despite facing some challenges, her involvement in the REB, including the completion of the literature review was a positive experience, overall. "It was a challenge to find applicable research articles for the literature review, but we were able to complete it and come out with useful findings."
Trihey adds overcoming the challenge was worth the success, as the information they found and presented to the REB was of interest to, not only members of the REB, but nursing faculty as well. "It was a very positive experience to be able to sit on a research ethics board and see what goes on behind the scenes in a sense, and what needs to occur in order for a research study involving humans to receive approval.
McDonald says following the students’ presentation of their findings, the REB realized they wanted to know more about this topic. A follow-up research project on "Students as a Vulnerable Population” began this May and is headed REB member, Maureen Nummelin and REB Chair, Jane McDonald."The students’ work has stimulated us to get going," says McDonald. "One benefit is we (the REB) are now stimulated to actually do this research ourselves, following up on what they (the students) found. I think on a broader scale, it’s good for us to have students as part of the REB, because they bring a different voice to the review of applications."
By: Benjamin Richmond