Terms of Reference - Stem Cell Oversight Committee


CIHR By-Law - Article 5 , section 5.04


Stem cell research is an area of growing interest among researchers because of its potential to lead to cures for many diseases and to improve the health of Canadians. In recognition of this and because of the complex ethical issues that it raises, the President of CIHR convened the Ad Hoc Working Group on Stem Cell Research in the fall of 2000. It included members with expertise in stem cell research, ethics, law, and medicine and its mandate was to advise CIHR as to whether human embryonic stem cell and human embryonic germ cell research should be considered eligible for CIHR funding. In January 2002, after a year of discussion and consultation, the group produced a report to CIHR's Governing Council, which was unanimously accepted and formed the basis of stem cell research guidelines ("Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research: Guidelines for CIHR-Funded Research; the Guidelines") that were publicly announced in March 2002. The Guidelines provided for the review of human stem cell research applications to CIHR by a stem cell oversight committee. In 2014, the Guidelines were integrated into the 2nd Edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

The Stem Cell Oversight Committee (SCOC) will review applications dealing with human pluripotent stem cells and other ethically sensitive human stem cell research to ensure that they are in accordance with Chapter 12 Section F of TCPS 2 (2014). SCOC has been delegated the authority to approve research using existing SCOC-approved human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines and/or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, unless the research involves the engraftment of those cells into humans. Governing Council's approval is required on all other types of research proposals (e.g., research involving the derivation of hESC from human embryos, the use of hESC lines not yet approved by SCOC, and/or the engraftment of human pluripotent stem cells into human beings).

SCOC is a heterogeneous group of individuals with a range of backgrounds and disciplines relevant to the mandate of the Committee. Technical experts will provide the Committee access to the latest scientific and ethical information, and representatives from the general public will represent the views and values of Canadians potentially affected by the new technologies.

Chair and Membership

The Stem Cell Oversight Committee consists of a chair and a minimum of 9 additional members, chosen by the Governing Council, after receiving advice from its Nominating and Governance Committee based on nomination profiles and gap analysis. Membership shall include experts in the areas of stem cell biology and therapeutics, developmental biology or embryology; health care (e.g., a professional specializing in reproductive medicine); ethics; law; and social sciences. Other members may represent the voluntary health sector, public and patient groups, international stem cell research policy, and those with a general interest in health research. A member of SCOC is an ex-officio member of the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics. The President of CIHR is an ex-officio member.


Members will normally be appointed to serve an initial term of three years, and may be re-appointed to a second term of one, two, or three years. This will ensure, as far as possible, the expiry in any one-year of the terms of office of not more than one third of the members. Members can be appointed for no more than two consecutive terms.


A majority of its members.


The Committee will meet at least twice per year, at the call of the Chair or by request of the President or one third of its members. The Committee is expected to operate by consensus.


Bourinot's Rules of Order, 4th Edition.


SCOC will provide review of human stem cell research funding applications submitted to CIHR and approved by CIHR's peer review committees, using considerations set forth in Chapter 12, Section F of TCPS 2 (2014). In addition, it will review stem cell research proposals submitted by other public or private granting agencies, by mutual agreement. The SCOC review is intended to complement, at a national level, the review undertaken by the investigator's own institute's research ethics board. In addition, SCOC will:
  • Provide ongoing advice to CIHR's Governing Council about the ethical and scientific issues of human stem cell research and eventual clinical applications to enable CIHR to
    • Provide ongoing advice to the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics about the ethical issues of human stem cell research;
    • Provide ongoing review of Chapter 12, Section F of TCPS 2 to ensure continuing relevance;
    • Develop and maintain a list of frequently asked questions to provide advice on application of Chapter 12, Section F of TCPS 2 (2014);
    • Create and maintain a registry of human embryonic stem cell lines created in Canada;
  • Give ongoing reports of its activities related to the review of human stem cell research funding applications to Governing Council, and offer recommendations on the conformity of human embryonic stem cell lines used or derived in research funding applications to Chapter 12, Section F of TCPS 2 (2014).


The Stem Cell Oversight Committee (SCOC) is a committee of Governing Council of CIHR and reports to the Governing Council.


On an annual basis, a review of the terms of reference.

Terms of Reference

Approved by the CIHR Executive Committee at its meeting on May 23, 2003.

Revised at the 13th meeting of the Executive Committee held January 19, 2004.

Further revised at the 39th meeting of Governing Council held March 22-23, 2006.

Further revised at the 56th meeting of Governing Council held June 18-19, 2008.

Further revised at the 85th meeting of Governing Council held June 25, 2013.