The PHSA Project Sorting Tool is intended to help differentiate between research and non-research projects and direct them to the relevant review bodies (as applicable) within PHSA. Some of the questions are based on the Alberta Innovates. (2010). ARECCI Ethics Screening Tool. Questions also reference the BC Centre for Disease Contol’s Panorama Data Governance Framework and the tool authored by Mike Catchpole et al. and included in the Field Epidemiology Manual.[1]

As explained in Article 2.5 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS),[2] quality assurance and quality improvement studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews...do not constitute research for the purposes of TCPS2 and do not fall within the scope of Research Ethics Board (REB) review. The TCPS2 Interpretations go on to explain that activities that are conducted in support of a public health program or under the jurisdiction of a public health authority and that does not have research as a primary goal, do not fall within the TCPS2 definition of research and do not require REB review.

However, the Panel on Research Ethics is also clear in its TCPS Interpretations that where in doubt about the applicability of TCPS2 or the requirement for REB review of a particular research project, the researcher should consult the REB. This tool does not replace proper consultations with your REB or other relevant review bodies.

Useful definitions:

  • TCPS defines research as an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry and/or systematic investigation.
  • TCPS defines public health surveillance as the systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data for the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health practice. The primary intent of the public health project activities is to improve a program or service by:
  1. identifying patterns or behaviours associated with increased health risks
  2. measuring the burden of disease
  3. measuring the effectiveness of public health interventions and services
  4. preventing or controlling disease or injury and improving health, or
  5. improving disease reporting
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians defines quality improvement (QI) as a systematic, formal approach to the analysis of practice performance and efforts to improve performance.

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