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Past Interpretations of the TCPS

Subject Applicability of the TCPS to Agency-funded Organizations as well as those not Funded by the Agencies
Keywords application of the TCPS, reach of the TCPS
TCPS Articles N/A
Date July 2004

PDFApplicability of the TCPS to Agency-funded Organizations as well as those not Funded by the Agencies_July 2004.pdf

1. Thank you for your correspondence regarding the application of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS)1.. You ask whether the TCPS applies to any organization or individual who plans to carry out research involving humans, or only to institutions or individuals funded by the three Agencies (listed below). As we explain below, the TCPS generally applies to research conducted under the auspices of institutions funded by the Agencies, or to research conducted by institutions that have otherwise adopted it.

2. The TCPS is the joint human research ethics policy adopted in 1998 by the three Federal Granting Agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR),2. the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). In November 2001, they created the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE) supported by the Secretariat on Research Ethics (SRE), to provide independent, multidisciplinary advice to the Agencies on updates to and further evolution of the TCPS.

3. To be eligible to receive funding from any of the three Agencies, institutions must adopt, and implement, the TCPS for research involving humans. Thus, the TCPS applies to all research conducted under the auspices of any institution that receives funds from any of the three Agencies. A funded institution is thus responsible, for instance, for the ethical conduct of research undertaken by its faculty, staff or students, regardless of the location of where the research is conducted. This means that the TCPS applies both to Agency and non-Agency-funded research that takes place within the eligible institution and its affiliates.

4. Typically, Agency-funded institutions include Canadian universities, colleges and affiliated hospitals. More than 80 such institutions have adopted the TCPS by signing a memorandum3. with the Agencies. Most Agency funding goes to universities, but the TCPS would apply to a private company in rare cases if the company received funds directly from one of the Agencies. More likely, the TCPS would apply indirectly, as, for example if a company were to conduct research involving humans in affiliation with an institution receiving Agency funds, or if the research involves humans affiliated to one of the institutions eligible to receive Agency funds. In such cases, the primary recipient is obliged to apply the TCPS to all research conducted “under its auspices.” This obligation broadens the reach and application of the TCPS.

5. Beyond the university/college or hospital setting, other organizations have chosen to adopt the TCPS as a standard for the ethical conduct for research involving humans that falls within their institutional jurisdictions. For example, other federal government entities such as Health Canada, National Research Council, and National Defence have done so. In both university and other settings where the TCPS applies, it is often one of several norms that complement applicable legal, institutional and professional standards.

We hope you find this information useful in your deliberation of research ethics.


Secretariat on Research Ethics

  1. Available at /eng/archives/tcps-eptc/.
  2. In 2000, the Government of Canada created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and dissolved the Medical Research Council of Canada
  3. Memorandum of Understanding on Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards. See schedule 2: Ethics Review of Research Involving Humans available at