Do I need research ethics approval?

When is an 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.  If you answer yes to any of the questions below, you may require ethics approval to conduct your research.

  • 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?

Human participant research

"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. 

Animal use

"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).

Research exempt from review

Not all studies involving humans or animals require ethical review. Examples of research that is exempt from ethics review are listed below; however, ultimately, the REB and/or ACUC must make the final determination as to whether or not ethics review is required.

If you have any questions about whether review is required for your study, you can contact the Research Ethics Office ( and/or complete one of the determination/exceptions forms below. Ethics approval cannot be granted retroactively.

Human participant research exempt from REB review

  • Relies exclusively on publicly available information that is legally accessible to the public and protected by law or where the information is publicly accessible and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Involves observation of people in public places where no intervention is staged by the researcher or direct interaction with the individuals or groups; the individuals or groups have no reasonable expectation of privacy and dissemination of research results does not allow identification of specific individuals.
  • Involves the secondary use of anonymous information or anonymous biological materials. "Anonymous" means the information or samples never had identifiers associated with it (by anyone, anywhere) and the risk of re-identification of individuals is low or very low.
  • Quality assurance and quality improvement studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews, or testing within normal educational requirements when used exclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes, do not constitute research for the purposes of this Policy, and do not fall within the scope of REB review.
Request a determination for whether your project requires Ethics Review

Animal use exempt from ACUC review

  • The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) policy statement on Categories of Invasiveness in animal experiments exempts most Category A protocols from ethical review: this includes the use of tissue culture and tissues obtained at necropsy or from the slaughterhouse; the use of eggs, protozoa or other single-celled organisms; experiments involving containment, incision or other invasive procedures on metazoa.
  • There are also some " Other Activities" involving animal use which may not require ACUC review, but may still require that human and/or animal health and safety issues be addressed. This could include activities such as the Bar None parade, a petting zoo at University Open House, dog therapy for students at exam time, etc.
  • Complete the Exceptions to ACUC Review form to obtain a determination as to whether or not ethics review is required and to register your Category A and Other animal use activities with REO.

Complete the exceptions to ACUC Review form

Failure to obtain and maintain ethics approval

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.