Research Ethics Office

Human Research Ethics

All research involving living human participants (or their data) or human biological materials conducted by staff or students affiliated with the University of Alberta, or involving University resources, must be reviewed and approved by one of the University’s Research Ethics Boards (REB), or an REB designated by the University before the research starts (ie. the University has designated the review of cancer research to the HREBA-CC). Human participant research at the University may be funded or unfunded. It ranges from anonymous internet surveys, interviews and focus groups to studies involving retrospective chart reviews and blood samples, clinical drug trials, surgical interventions and longitudinal studies. Human participant research is carried out in every Faculty and nearly every academic department. About 40% of human research studies are conducted by researchers in the humanities, fine arts, social sciences, education, business, science and law. The balance of human research ethics files relate to health research, including clinical research and industry sponsored clinical trials.

Research ethics review is focused on protection of the participants and maximizing benefits while minimizing harms. The review process is determined by the level of risk the proposed research presents for the participants. The level of risk is dependent on the participants, their capacity to provide free and informed consent and the nature of the intervention or activity being studied. Minimal risk and above minimal risk research is conducted in all domains. Using a proportionate review process, the REBs ensure that individual research projects involving human participants, identifiable data and/or human biological material meet the requirements of the current Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Humans and University policy as well as provincial, federal and other legislation and regulations, as applicable.

Ethics approval is valid for up to one year at a time and must be maintained for the duration of the human participant research activity, through an annual review process. Changes to a study must be approved by the REB before they are implemented.

The human Research Ethics Boards or Panels administered by the University of Alberta are described in detail here