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Is your project QI or Research?

Projects designated as research involving humans require the review and approval of a responsible Research Ethics Board (REB) prior to initiation. Quality Improvement (QI) projects have no such oversight body- and the ethical conduct of QI projects relies on the principles that promote ethical conduct in clinical care. Namely: adherence to professional codes of conduct, conformity to role responsibilities, establishment of appropriate supervision, and compliance with the hospitals policies and procedures.

The characteristics that distinguish a QI project from a research project are often not clear.  For example, the intention to publish or present on the findings of a prject does not necessarily indicate that a project is a research study.  Alternately, a project employing methods typically used in resaerch activities may qualify as QI. 

If the intention is to plan and implement a QI project or it is uncertain whether a project qualifies as research or QI, the Ethics Review Self-Assessment Tool (ER-SAT) must be completed.  Upon completion of the ER-SAT tool, the requirements for undertaking the project will be outlined.  Please see link below for access to the ER-SAT tool.  

If the tool indicates your project meets the criteria of a research study, you will be directed to the procedure for submitting a research project to the REB. If the tool indicates your project does not meet the criteria of a research study, please retain a copy of the completed ER-SAT in the project file and follow the instructions for registering your project.  It is a Sunnybrook requirement that QI projects be registered with the institution.  

For support completing the ER-SAT tool, please contact the Ethics Centre (ext. 7693). For questions about conducting Quality Improvement activities at Sunnybrook, please contact the Department of Quality & Patient Safety at

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