Terms of Reference – Standing Committee on Ethics (SCE)


CIHR By-Law No. 1 – Article 5, sections 5.04 and 5.05.


The Standing Committee on Ethics will be chaired by a member of Governing Council.


The Vice-Chair will be a Canadian ethics expert selected by the Committee.


Voting members:

  • One member of Governing Council, Chair of the committee
  • Two current CIHR Scientific Directors
  • Two current Institutes Advisory Boards Ethics Experts
  • Four Canadian ethics experts (including at least one Indigenous representative)
  • Two senior international ethics experts
  • Two members of the public
  • One member from industry
  • One health journal editor

Non-voting, ex-officio members:

  • President
  • Vice President Research, Knowledge Translation and Ethics
  • Chief Financial Officer/Vice President Resource Planning and Management
  • Director General of Science, Knowledge Translation and Ethics
  • Executive Director of the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Manager, Ethics Strategies

Meeting Frequency and Time Commitment

The Standing Committee on Ethics will meet at least four times per annum with teleconferences at the call of the Chair of SCE as needed. Expected time commitment is up to 18 days per year (plus travel time).


Quorum is a majority of voting members, with the proviso that decisions should be adopted only when the members in attendance at that meeting have the specific expertise, relevant competence and knowledge necessary for the matter under consideration. Minority opinions will be documented and conveyed along with the advice of the majority of members.


Bourinot’s Rules of Order, 4th Edition.


The Standing Committee on Ethics identifies for the Governing Council emerging ethical issues of strategic relevance with respect to health and health research. It provides the Governing Council with high-level strategic advice on the ethical, legal and socio-cultural dimensions of CIHR's mandate as set out in the CIHR Act, at its initiative or at the request of the Governing Council, Science Council, or the President.

Major Roles and Responsibilities

In scope:

  1. Identify emerging ethical issues of strategic relevance within CIHR’s mandate and set forth an action plan for addressing them.
  2. Monitor trends that could have broad national or international impact and set forth an action plan for addressing them.
  3. Respond to the President’s, Governing Council’s and Science Council’s requests for advice on special issues.
  4. Provide advice and recommendations to Governing Council and Science Council regarding considerations of ethics in priority setting, programs, policies, processes and partnerships; research capacity and research needs for ethics in high priority areas for CIHR; embedding ethics in strategic and Signature Initiatives.
  5. Provide expertise and guidance to enable the finalization and implementation of CIHR’s ethics action plan including a communications strategy, and a framework that measures and reports the performance of CIHR including Institutes and initiatives in ethics.
  6. Recommend ways to engage the wider Canadian ethics community to assist CIHR in meeting its legislated ethics mandate.
  7. Exchange information with the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research.
  8. Evaluate and monitor the impact of the ethics action plan, including its success in enabling integration of ethics considerations and issues within key strategies and initiatives, and evaluate the ethics leadership model.

Out of scope:

The Standing Committee on Ethics is not responsible for providing advice with respect to:

  • CIHR policies that concern the behavior of employees, such as the Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest Policy, and Disclosures of Wrongdoing, which are aligned with the federal Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and related legislation; and
  • CIHR’s Financial Management Framework, which is aligned with the Financial Administration Act and Treasury Board policies.

The Chief Financial Officer is responsible for oversight of the implementation of the above‑mentioned employee policies and agency financial management framework.

Reporting Function

  • Direct reporting to Governing Council through the Chair.
  • Independent reports including recommendations to Governing Council at each of its meetings.
  • Verbal de-brief at Science Council via the Vice-President, RKTE with meeting minutes and other outputs of the SCE to be distributed to Science Council and Institutes Advisory Boards.


The Standing Committee on Ethics will review its own terms of reference every two years.


Approved by Governing Council on November 18, 2014

Revised by Governing Council on June 21, 2017

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