Ethics Review

Research ethics review is intended to protect human participants and animal subjects by minimizing the harms or risks to which they are exposed during research activities.

What is "research"?

Research means an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation. Some knowledge generating activities are not research.

The Research Ethics Office makes the final determination as to whether or not ethics review is required for a study; if there are any questions about whether or not review is required, please contact REO before commencing your research.

When is ethics review required?

All Faculty members, staff and/or students at the University of Alberta must have UA ethics approval to conduct research involving human participants (or their data) or animal research. You may need ethics approval for the following types of research activities:

  • Does your project involve collecting input and/or information from people (responses, reactions, measurements, opinions, experiences) including in person, online, in writing, over the phone or by any other means?
  • Does your project involve the use of human biological materials? Are you analyzing samples that come from a human body (whether you procured them directly from a person, from a sample bank or from a commercially available source)?
  • Does your project involve using data about people collected by someone else (eg. student records, medical records, data collected by another researcher)?
  • Does your project involve the collection or use of health information, as defined in the Health Information Act?
  • Does your project involve animals?
  • Are you collaborating with a non-UA researcher who is doing any of the above, and who may or may not already have ethics approval?

If you have answered YES to any of the above, consult with REO about UA ethics approval:  Contact REO

Related link, human research: Request a determination for whether your project requires ethics review

Related link, animal research: When is ACUC Review Required?

University of Alberta research ethics requirements apply to all staff and students conducting research in connection with the University,

  • anywhere on-campus or off, regardless of location
  • in person or by mail, telephone or online
  • regardless of the type of research (eg. experimental, correlational, qualitative, descriptive, pilot project or a fully formed study)
  • whether the results are intended for publication or not

Failure to obtain and maintain ethics approval is noncompliance, which will result in an allegation of misconduct under the Research and Scholarship Integrity Policy, and the immediate suspension of access to funds.


"Human participants" are those individuals whose data, or responses to interventions, stimuli or questions by the researcher, are relevant to answering the research question.

Research Ethics Board (REB) review and approval is required for research involving:

  • living human participants
  • human biological materials*
  • human embryos, fetuses, fetal tissue, reproductive materials and stem cells*

*This applies to materials derived from living and deceased individuals.


"Animals" are defined by the University Animal Ethics Policy as any living non-human vertebrate and any living invertebrate of the class of cephalopoda, including free-living and reproducing larval forms.

Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) review and approval is required for research, teaching and testing involving:

  • living non-human vertebrates
  • living invertebrates of class cephalopoda
  • that is CCAC Category of Invasiveness B or higher

Teaching, testing and research using animals and carried out by University staff and students or using University resources or facilities must be approved by an Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC).