THE A-LIST: Josh Leslie of Stewardly


NAME: Josh Leslie

COMPANY: Stewardly


I love many quotes. If I had to whittle it down, it’s a tie, for me:

“Everyone must create their own future. Even though I may die without fulfilling my ambitions, I will have no regrets, because I made sincere efforts.” – Bruce Lee

“The impossible for one may not be the impossible for another. It is a matter of ability and defiance.” – Daryl Furuyama


Through my social purpose business, Stewardly, I am working to put the ‘human’ back into human subjects research administration.

In North America, human subjects research administration encompasses the work of research ethics boards (REBs), institutional review boards (IRBs), research administrators and institutional officials; they are known by other names and roles elsewhere in the world.


After working for over a decade in the fields of research ethics and research administration, I got frustrated with recurring themes I encountered:

  • A lack of human-centred tools to support the research ethics and broader research administration processes;
  • Watching ethical research studies “die on the rocks” due to overly cumbersome research ethics and research administration processes, despite the fact that everyone involved in the process(es) was giving it 120%, oftentimes to the point of burnout;
  • The amount of duplicative and monotonous work that volunteer REB members and paid REB staff, as well as human subjects researchers and their teams have to deal with in order to get an ethical research study up and running;
  • Opportunistic companies taking advantage of overburdened professionals, charging them too much for solutions that are not human-centred and add little value to their day-to-day work (oftentimes detracting value, due to new problems such solutions introduce);
  • The busyness that inhabits the entire field, due to all of the above causes, and which keeps all of the individual groups and people within the process from communicating directly, and effectively, rather than through forms, checklists, and letters — always at least one-step removed — other than (more often than not irate) phone calls or in-person meetings to find out the status of research study submissions.

The passion and dedication of almost everyone I’ve met in this field — REB members, REB administrators, research administrators and their teams — is infectious and inspiring. It really bothers me that these folks have to spend so much of their time and efforts on activities that do not allow them to express or showcase these inspiring and admirable qualities.

I founded Stewardly with the goal of freeing up more of all of these peoples’ time so that they can bring more of themselves to their day-to-day work and interactions with the researchers that they support, without compromising the quality of oversight they provide, or adherence to regulations and requirements for the work they do.


I was once asked in a job interview to ‘describe myself, metaphysically’. Being an honours philosophy major, the question itself wasn’t daunting, but I found the answer that came out of my mouth enlightening: I said that I am a bridge; I see the connections between and amongst people, groups, and activities (often before they see them themselves), and then help to connect them — by creating a space or opportunity for them to connect, if need be.

My cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter approach and ability to simplify complex concepts or situations into accessible ones is especially unique and valuable to my industry. This, paired with my ability to listen attentively and respectfully to all those involved in a process, project, or activity, has proven to be a true gift in all the work I do.

I have brought all of these strengths to bear with Stewardly, the primary aim of which is to put more of the ‘human’ back into human subjects research administration by building bridges throughout the whole process, and creating new spaces and opportunities to have those connections take place.


I develop and provide freemium software as a service (SaaS) solutions for researchers, REBs and research administrators and their teams, and combine that with a continuum of services that help people get clear on what they’re doing, what they ought to be doing, where they no longer need to direct their efforts, and most importantly, how to translate their vision of where they want to be, into concrete, actionable projects and strategies.


The catalyst for my start on my ‘gifted journey’ was just the realization (when I fulfilled my responsibilities and then left my day job behind) that I could do something about the things that bothered me, by investing my time, energy and resources toward positive change right now (not tomorrow, not next week, not ‘someday’).

It brings me joy to watch people flourish and be able to embrace their passion, and more fully express their skills and aptitudes in supporting one another. For me, I’ve found this happens when they have had encumbrances removed, or minimized.


Spend less time thinking, worrying and/or complaining about what’s wrong in your life and in the world around you and spend more time doing something — anything — about it.


In whatever (eco)system you are passionate about working in, try to see the 100,000 foot view of it and identify the barriers to human connection, expression and collaboration. Becoming a gifted entrepreneur entails a desire to make a positive social impact, so to me, the barriers to human connection, expression and collaboration are where you should focus your efforts.

What can you do in the larger (eco)system you work in with the sum total of resources you have at your disposal (including your skills, aptitudes and passions) that can help others, but may not benefit you directly? Commit to focusing a portion of your resources on those things, and partnering with others who share your vision of how things could be better.


  • Sr. Yvonne Vigneault, Former Congregation Leader of Sisters of Saint Martha (“The Marthas”)

Sr. Yvonne, and through her, the Sisters of Saint Martha were the first to ‘gift it forward’ to me. They first invested in me personally and financially as I looked for my direction in life, partially funding me to attend the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference at Notre Dame when I decided that this “bioethics” thing was interesting; I wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise. When I committed to organizing a Canadian version of this conference due to the lack of dialogue in Canada at the undergraduate level about bioethics and about our healthcare system, The Marthas were among the first to support me in this first effort of “Gifting It Forward”.

  • Fadi Chehadé, CEO of ICANN

While he is not a politician, Fadi is doing some of the most difficult and important political work in the world today. He has shown what is possible in terms of transforming a large, closed, U.S.-centric organization (ICANN) into the beginnings of a truly international, transparent, world-focused and world-serving organization in just one year while bolstering the organization’s touchstone “bottom-up, multistakeholder model” of policy-making. Which is a damned good thing, since he and his team are largely the glue keeping the global Internet from undergoing a complete Balkanisation.

  • Byron Holland, CEO of CIRA

Byron works tirelessly to ensure that Canadians are informed and engaged with respect to Internet governance in Canada, as well as abroad. I hope more Canadians dial in to his ‘channel’ (metaphorically, and literally speaking, vis-à-vis YouTube and his blog) soon, to engage with the Internet privacy and surveillance challenges that are threatening key elements of democracy and freedom of expression as we know it.

  • My Dad (Bruce Leslie)

For teaching me the value of hard work, whether I wanted to learn it or not (mostly not, at the time).

  • My Mom (Cathy Leslie)

For believing in me and supporting me in whatever I set my mind and heart to. And for doing laundry pretty much every day for 20-some years, for 5 kids including me. (Can you tell how much I enjoy laundry?).


I have recently launched a major crowdfunding campaign to establish a new standard and an open-source platform — and a non-profit organization to develop and steward them — which will enable a fundamental change in the process for researchers in drafting informed consent forms (ICFs) for their research studies, and for REBs/IRBs in reviewing and approving those ICFs. Once established, this new standard will permanently free up a million hours a year in research capacity, worldwide. That’s a million hours a year right now that researchers and REBs/IRBs are spending reinventing the wheel, which they can all use for more meaningful, value-added activities.


Every dollar contributed and every social media (or even better, in-person) share counts, and I appreciate any support that anyone reading this can provide. The long-term outcome of this work should be that better treatments and better health products make it to the consumer market more quickly, which benefits everyone who uses our healthcare systems to manage or improve their health.

Members of the general public can find the message for them HERE.

Members of the research community can find the message for them HERE.

I would also love to speak with anyone who shares my vision for positive change in the field of human subjects research administration, and welcome you to share your thoughts, ideas and solutions. Contact me through the Stewardly website.



Josh Leslie is the founder of Stewardly, a social purpose business dedicated to making positive innovations in the field of human subjects research administration. By identifying opportunities for stewardship, efficiency, and ease, he has built his career and his business around working with Research Ethics Boards (REBs) and research administrators to move ethical research studies forward.

With over a decade of experience, Josh has become an industry leader in innovative process design, regulatory interpretation, and organizational efficacy. His vision for Stewardly is to put the ‘human’ back in human subjects research administration via innovative tools and leading stewardship practices.