Access to Residents for Research Projects (Guidelines)


Medical education research is an increasingly recognized area of scholarship.  Dalhousie has a number of medical education researchers and co-sponsors a Masters degree in Medical Education with Acadia University.  As such, the Dalhousie community is actively engaged in medical education research activities.   In order to conduct such research on topics in residency education, researchers sometimes seek to access residents.  In other cases, researchers seek to determine the specific opinions or views of residents on a non-medical education topic.  In order to access the residents, the PGME office is approached and asked to collaborate.  While individual programs and the postgraduate medical education office can provide such access for individual worthwhile projects, some have expressed concern that the information sought and the volume of requests for study participation could pose an undue burden on residents and may represent a violation of their expectation of privacy.

In an effort to facilitate the performance of medical education and other types of research involving residents at Dalhousie, provide guidance to researchers who are studying valid and useful educational questions, and provide a degree of assurance to residents and program directors that the residents’ privacy will be respected, the following policy has been drafted.


This policy applies to all research projects that seek to access residents through the central PGME database.  These projects may be locally initiated or originate outside the institution.  They may or may not focus on medical education.  This policy does not apply to industry-based research projects seeking to determine the opinion of residents about individual products or product lines for the purpose of marketing.  Such projects are not supported by the PGME office.

Under no circumstances will the PGME office release a list of residents’ email addresses directly to researchers.  Rather, the PGME office may distribute surveys or questionnaires to residents through a weblink.  They may also distribute introduction letters inviting residents who are interested to contact the research team themselves.  It should be noted that PGME will not be responsible for research participation including compliance with deadlines or follow ups, or receiving back completed surveys.


For the purposes of this policy, the PGME Committee refers to the standing committee of Faculty Council on Postgraduate Medical Education.  Researcher refers to the person submitting the request for access to the residents.


Researchers with a project that requires resident involvement as respondents or subjects should submit a proposal to the PGME office to the attention of the Associate Dean.  The proposal should be submitted by the 15th day of the month prior to the PGME Committee meeting at which the project is to be discussed.  The proposal should consist of an executive summary of the proposed project (one page max) and must outline the proposed research project including its purpose, methods, expected outcomes and anticipated timelines.  The names and affiliations of all members of the research team must also be provided.

Ethics approval is not required prior to an application being submitted.   Researchers granted access to residents, are required to submit proof of ethics approval prior to commencing data collection involving residents.  Research proposals submitted by non-Dalhousie faculty, residents or students must have a local champion and undergo Dalhousie ethics review

On receipt of the proposal, the PGME office staff will date stamp the project and include it in the PGME agenda materials that are sent to committee members before each meeting. 

 At the PGME meeting, the researcher or his/her representative will be invited to attend the discussion of the project to answer any questions if he or she wishes.  There will not be an opportunity for the researcher to make a presentation at this meeting. 

Following a review of the project, the researcher will be excused and the PGME committee will vote to allow or not to allow the PGME office to facilitate access to residents by distributing surveys or invitations to participate electronically.  A majority of votes of committee members present will be required to allow the project access to residents. 

 If the vote is yes, then the researcher will work with the Director of PGME to facilitate resident access, as noted above.  If the vote is no, then the PGME office will not facilitate the project.  There is no appeal for this decision, but if the project is modified to become more acceptable, it may be resubmitted at a later date.

Please be aware that any electronic survey used to collect data must meet the Personal Information International Disclosure Protection Act. (SurveyMonkey is not permitted).

Guiding principles in assessing research projects for support, the Postgraduate Medical Education committee will consider the following criteria:

  • Is there a benefit to the residents who participate in the study?

  • Is there a benefit to future residents or students?

  • Is there a risk to residents who participate in the study? 

  • Is the information to be obtained from the study likely to be of use to the Faculty of Medicine or the University in program evaluation or future planning?