Research Ethics Office

Ethics Review

Research ethics review is geared at protecting participants by minimizing the harms or risk to which they are exposed during research activities.


What exactly is "research"?

The University of Alberta has adopted the standards of the Tri-council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2010), which defines research as:

"an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation."


When is ethics review required?

Approval from a University administered ethics board is required for any research that is:

  • conducted by the staff or students of the University (see Note below), and/or
  • involves the facilities or resources of the University, and/or
  • involves human participants (see HUMAN PARTICIPANT RESEARCH below), and/or
  • involves any research, teaching or testing using animals.

Note: The requirement for Faculty, students and staff to obtain U of A ethics approval applies regardless of where the research is actually taking place.  Many applicants believe if they conduct research in a jurisdiction outside of Alberta they do not require U of A REB approval, especially if they obtain ethics approval in the jurisdiction in which they conduct the research.  For clarity, regardless of the location of research, Faculty, staff and students require U of A REB approval to conduct human participant research. 


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.

Ultimately 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.


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).