Quality assurance or quality improvement projects

When used exclusively for assessment, management, or improvement purposes the following data collection activities are typically not research and do not require ethics review, provided there is no element of research:
  • quality assurance and improvement (QA/QI) projects,
  • performance reviews, or
  • testing related to assessing performance of employees or students within normal educational or employment requirements,
These activities are generally administered in the ordinary course of the operation of the organization where participation is required by employees or students, for example, performance appraisals and student course evaluations. The results or findings from these activities are not generally available for public release outside the institution.
Although the activities above may be exempt from research ethics review, it is expected that the project be conducted professionally and ethically following the guiding principles of the Tri-Council Policy Statement. This includes:
  • protecting the interests of the participants, from bodily to psychological to cultural integrity,
  • respecting free and informed consent so participation is voluntary and there is no undue exercise of power of authority or undue influence, and
  • respecting privacy and confidentiality so, for example, participants’ decision to participate and their data or information are not identified without their consent.

Definition of QA/QI

QA/QI projects assess how an organization, group, faculty, department, or program is doing and is an activity undertaken by members of the University of Waterloo for administrative or operational reasons.
For a QA/QI project to be exempt from ethics review, all of the following must apply:
  • the project must be within the mandate of the University of Waterloo or according to the terms and conditions of employment or training,
  • the project must be a review of practices and procedures designed to identify possible improvements,
  • the project only involves participation of University of Waterloo employees, students or alumni and relates only to the specific site or area such as the department, program, school, faculty, employee group, or key informants such as co-op employers, and
  • results tend to be local to the University of Waterloo such that they are not generally available for public release outside the institution however in some instances dissemination or publication may mean the results are shared at a conference or other public means or with a Ministry or accrediting body.

The University of Waterloo has a policy on conducting campus-wide surveys for QA/QI purposes. Faculty, staff, or students who are looking to conduct a QA/QI project are to contact Jana Carson in Institutional Analysis and Planning to discuss their project. Even though a QA/QI project may not require ethics review, there may still be ethical issues or sensitivities that have to be considered.