Research Ethics Office

Research Ethics Boards

The University of Alberta administers several research ethics boards.

REB 1 and REB 2 review the full range of social sciences, behavioral, education, arts, business, humanities, and engineering research conducted by University staff and students.

The Health Research Ethics Board (HREB) was established in 1997 by Capital Health (now AHS), Caritas Health (now Covenant Health) and the University of Alberta. HREB is simultaneously and concurrently the research ethics “board of record” for all three institutions and was created to streamline and simplify health research ethics review in the greater Edmonton area. In 2010, following the establishment of AHS, the agreement was reviewed and updated. 

HREB operates as two panels (REB 3 - HREB Health Panel and REB 4 - HREB Biomedical Panel) and is designated under the Alberta Health Information Act to review research involving health information. Currently, HREB is mandated to review all the health research conducted by researchers from the University, Covenant Health (province wide) and AHS (Edmonton and North Zones) or involving the resources or facilities of those institutions, including chart reviews, population health studies, clinical interventions and clinical trials.

Under the Research Ethics Reciprocity Agreement, the University of Alberta has formally delegated ethics review for all University research primarily focused on the study of cancer or treatment of cancer patients to the Cancer Panel – Health Research Ethics Board of Alberta which is operated by AIHS.




Research methods/key words

REB 1 

Reviews research that primarily involves in-person interviews, focus groups, ethnographies, or community engagement.

Reviews all instructor-led course-based research ethics applications.

  • observational, interviews, ethnography, auto-ethnography, community based, focus group, iterative, participatory action research,
  • vulnerable or protected populations, community involvement, aboriginal, international, qualitative research. 
  • This REB also reviews ethics applications for all course based research.

Reviews all interventional type research (behavioural, educational, social or performance interventions) and research where the primary ethical consideration relates to privacy or confidentiality.

Research applications submitted to this Board can also encompass mixed method applications, which may contain methods covered under the REB 1 portfolio but also contain additional methods and methodologies.

  • Questionnaires, surveys, internet research, social media;
  • use of protected lists or registries to identify participants, such as U of A students, or members of a political party, use of information governed by FOIPP law or policy;
  • training interventions for educational, psychological, social or performance purposes;
  • interventions to produce behaviour change; interventions to produce changes in low-risk or non-physically invasive health outcomes (e.g. body composition, physical capabilities) and psychological outcomes.
REB 3Health Research Ethics Board-Health Panel  Reviews all non-invasive health research where the researcher will access health information (as defined in the Health Information Act of Alberta) excluding research focused on the study of cancer or treatment of cancer patients.
  • non- invasive interventions and measures, or health research that concerns privacy, confidentiality and survey methods;
  • e.g., randomized trials of non-invasive interventions, interviews, chart reviews, surveys, questionnaires, observational or descriptive health research.
REB 4: Health Research Ethics Board-Biomedical Panel

Reviews all invasive health research where the researcher will access health information (as defined in the Health Information Act of Alberta) excluding research focused on the study of cancer or treatment of cancer patients.

REB 3 and REB 4 hold a US Federal Wide Assurance (FWA00000077) and is the REB that reviews research funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for instance NIH.

  • invasive interventions and invasive measures, regardless of how significant a part the intervention or measure has in the overall project;
  • e.g. administration of drugs, vaccines, natural health products, use of an unlicensed device, surgical procedures, collection of blood or other specimens, studies involving the use of tissues and work involving human stem cells.