Behavioural Research COVID-19 Guidance

*October 18, 2023*

The UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board (BREB) continues its concern for the safety of research participants, but it no longer requires researchers to submit Safe Research Plans for in-person research, except in the following circumstances: 

  • Research with immunocompromised individuals  
  • Research taking place internationally 
  • Case by case high risk situations (researchers will be notified by the BREB) 

The BREB expects that all researchers, including students conducting course-based research projects, will follow UBC’s Communicable Disease Prevention Framework and take precautions against infectious diseases; this includes doing health checks for themselves and their participants before engaging in research. The BREB also expects that researchers will accommodate participant requests for increased infectious disease protections (see below, “Researcher Duty to Accommodate”). For more information, see UBC’s Framework:

The BREB asks researchers who are doing research within the community - where infectious disease protocols may not be in effect - to be clear within their ethics application about what measures they are taking to protect participants. Researchers may either complete a Safe Research Plan (See Forms and Resources) or simply include information within the application itself (in Box 5.6 Summary of Procedures).  

If you are removing an old Safe Research Plan from your BREB application, you will need to submit a Post Approval Activity (PAA) – Amendment in RISe. When doing so, include a statement in the PAA coversheet indicating that you will follow UBC’s Communicable Disease Prevention Framework and, therefore, are removing your Safe Research Plan. If your research is in-person involving immunocompromised populations or is in international locations, see below.

Research with immunocompromised populations or international research

If you are conducting research internationally or with immunologically compromised populations, you are required to submit a Safe Research Plan using the most recent template, attached to page 9 of your ethics application. You will need to save the Safe Research Plan to your computer in order to fill out the fields. 

Consultation requirement for graduate students

If you are a graduate student doing in-person international research OR research with an immunologically compromised population, in addition to submitting a Safe Research Plan, you will need to request a consultation before submitting your ethics application. Please email (Vancouver) (Okanagan) to arrange.

Consultations will cover: 

1. Vaccinations

2. Masking. Researchers should wear N95 or equivalent masks during research indoors unless the ventilation is highly efficient. 

3. Rapid Antigen Testing. Researchers are required to test themselves, even if asymptomatic, when:    

  • travelling for extended periods on public transportation
  • working with an isolated social unit or network
  • conducting research indoors with a group (focus group or workshop)
  • showing symptoms of respiratory illness

4. Health Check. Research participants should be advised to self-screen for symptoms before arriving at the research site.  


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BREB guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccination status

Vaccination provides one of the most effective layers of protection for participants and researchers. BREB reserves the right to require COVID-19 vaccination for in-person research and expects that in most instances researchers conducting face to face research will be vaccinated. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis through consultation between the researchers and the BREB. Researchers may decide whether they wish to disclose their vaccination status to the BREB.

NEW Researcher Duty to Accommodate

The TCPS2’s principle of Justice requires that no one group or individual take on the burden of research or be unfairly excluded from research participation. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the vulnerability of those who are immunocompromised and those who are in close contact with individuals who are immunocompromised. This has created a barrier to their participation in research. Researchers have a duty to accommodate reasonable requests from participants to increase their infectious disease safety protocols in order to allow them to participate in research. Accommodations may include ensuring N95 masks are worn by all research personnel, conducting interviews in well-ventilated or outdoor spaces, using remote video conferencing in place of in person meetings, and ensuring that lab space and research equipment are cleaned between uses. The researcher should talk to participants about the level of protection they want to make their participation possible.

The BREB recommends including information in the Risk section of the consent form. Duty to Accommodate sample consent form wording:

  • Please let the researcher know if you require modifications to the research procedures to enable your participation. The researcher is obligated to accommodate reasonable requests and can discuss your situation with you. Examples of reasonable changes include increasing infectious disease protections by providing masks or improving ventilation, changing a meeting location to improve access and navigation, or providing the services of an interpreter.
You are beginning or resuming in-person research outside Canada

This guidance applies if you are conducting research outside Canada. If you are a graduate student, see the CONSULTATION REQUIREMENT section above for details. 

You are required to submit a Safe Research Plan. The BREB will consider current circumstances in the region where the research is being undertaken. Please provide as much detail as possible about local current public health directives, vaccination rates, rates of COVID-19 or other infectious respiratory infections, and rates of hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Also describe how vaccination and mask-wearing protocols will be managed. For reference, see

In the ethics application:  

  • Specify the locations where your research will be conducted in Section 4.2. Institutions and Sites for Study. Indicate if you are travelling to multiple sites within a country.
  • Include a note in Box 5.6 that a COVID Health Check will be used for all participants at the start of each interaction.
  • Attach your Safe Research Plan to Box 9.7You will need to save the Safe Research Plan to your computer in order to fill out the fields.
Additional requirements for students conducting research outside Canada

Students planning to conduct research outside Canada are required to complete the Student Safety Abroad Registry and consult with BREB regarding their Safe Research Plans.

  1. Before proceeding to submit an ethics application, review the current requirements provided at and contact if you need more information. The steps for Safety Abroad and research ethics review can be carried out in parallel. You will need to attach a screen shot of your registration to Box 9.7 of the ethics application.
  2. Upload your approved Safety Abroad application (for high risk travel) or a screen shot/PDF of your registration screen (for non-high risk travel) to Box 9.7.
  3. Complete a BREB Safe Research PlanYou will need to save the Safe Research Plan to your computer in order to fill out the fields.
  4. Contact the BREB office to schedule a consultation before submitting your ethics application or amendment. See the Consultations section above.
  5. When seeking travel insurance, pay attention to Covid-19 related exemptions that may affect coverage. See for most current status.
Forms and resources

Safe Research Plan | (May 2023) Template for developing Safe Research Plans, required for international research and research with immunocompromised populations. You will need to save the Safe Research Plan to your computer in order to fill out the fields. Safety protocols developed for facility and departmental use at UBC are unlikely to have sufficient detail to account for the conduct of in-person interaction with research participants. NB. The Safe Research Guidelines have been retired as of April 2023.

COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool | This tool should be used by researchers and participants to screen themselves before research interactions. Use of the tool (and a link to the tool) should be described in the consent form.

Culturally Safe and Trauma-Informed Practices for Researchers during COVID-19 | Published by the First Nations Health Authority in collaboration with Research Ethics BC (REBC) and offered here as a resource for all researchers who wish to conduct research with First Nations people or communities. The document provides extensive resources and additional readings.

Zoom Conferencing in Research | BREB resource to assist researchers using conferencing platforms for research data collection. This document is designed for researchers; relevant details from it should be shared by the researcher with invitees and participants (i.e. do not provide a link to this document in your consent forms or other participant materials).