REBs and the Forest Industry

January 2004

Ian Scott and Cheryl Wilson (2003) investigated the Research Ethics Boards (REBs) of medical schools acrossCanada. They found that different REBs required dramatically different numbers of copies of the research ethics protocol to be submitted for approval.

For example, REBs inNewfoundland andLabrador required 11 copies of the ethics application,Manitoba 15, andBritish Columbia 20.The correlation between the number of copies requested and the longitude of the location of the faculty of medicine was statistically significant (0.75). Interestingly, there was also a statistically significant correlation (0.65) found between the number of copies requested by the REBs and the “annual cut of trees for each province that has a medical school.”

The results apparently startled the authors who speculated that the findings “may point to a tacit or not-so-tacit agreement between the forestry industry and REBs.Is it the job of ethics boards to create demand for paper to support the forest industry?These authors would suggest not. Such an association must stop, and we would suggest that any and all communication between REBs and the forest industry cease.” Politically astute to the dangers involved in their subversive report, the authors conclude their article with the hope “that by uncovering this startling break of ethical behaviour that they will not suffer any delays or undue rejections by REBs in the future.”

On the assumption that this report is not simply pulp fiction, SAFS agrees with the authors that the REBs are barking up the wrong tree. Accordingly SAFS will set up a new, investigative branch to follow this clear-cut violation of ethics by the REBs.


Scott,I., & Wilson, C. (2003).Understanding the number of copies of ethics applications required by faculties of medicine.Canadian Medical Association Journal, 169, 1297.