Research Ethics

(Arts, Science, Law Research Ethics Board)


All research involving human participants must receive University of Alberta Research Ethics Board (“REB”) review and approval before research commences. Research teams with members at other institutions may require review of proposed work by their own Research Ethics Boards, but University of Alberta REB approval is still required before the research is conducted by researchers at this University.

In the Department of History and Classics, research involving human participants generally involves interviews or archival research; it sometimes involves aboriginal peoples. Some research involves teams where researchers are based in jurisdictions outside Alberta and outside Canada. Both individual and team research may be conducted outside Canada. This web site attempts to highlight ethical issues and requirements relating to this research context.

All research involving humans, including research by graduate students and research assignments for courses, must be conducted in accordance with General Faculties Council (“GFC”) regulations and the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Research Ethics (“the Policy”).

GFC Regulations

GFC Regulation 66 sets out the University of Alberta Standards for the Protection of Human Research Participants.

Section 66.4.2 sets out which research must receive ethics review.

"All research that involves living human participants or involves human remains, cadavers, tissues, biological fluids, embryos or foetuses (except as stipulated in this 66.4.2) requires review and approval by an REB before the research is started regardless of:

  1. whether it is funded (eg, by grant, award, fellowship, contract) or is non-funded;
  2. whether funding is internal (ie, University) or is from an external source (including domestic and foreign public, governmental, and private sources);
  3. whether participants are drawn from University sources or from any other sources (eg, workplaces, residences, public places, day care centres, non-University hospitals, other universities, the military, public/private/separate schools);
  4. whether participants are paid or unpaid;
  5. whether it is conducted inside or outside Canada;
  6. whether it is conducted on University property or at any other location;
  7. whether it is conducted in a laboratory or in the field;
  8. whether it is conducted in person or by some other means (eg, mail, telephone, computer link);
  9. whether information is collected via direct observation, apparatus, questionnaire, interview, or review of records or other materials not normally available to the public;
  10. whether it is experimental, correlational, qualitative, or descriptive in nature;
  11. whether it is conducted to acquire basic or applied knowledge (eg, safety and function assessments of equipment and materials, product development assessments, personnel selection, consumer preferences, and product evaluation);
  12. whether the information collected has as its focus the human participant or some aspect of the environment with which the human participant interacts;
  13. whether the research is a pilot study or a fully developed project;
  14. whether it is primarily for teaching or demonstration purposes or whether the primary purpose is the acquisition of new knowledge;
  15. whether or not it is intended for publication or other public presentation."

The Tri-Council Policy Statement

In 2001, Canada's three federal research agencies, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, jointly created the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE) as part of a collaborative effort to promote the ethical conduct of research involving human participants.

The Panel develops, interprets and implements the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (“TCPS” or “the Policy”). The Policy is available in html and .pdf formats on the PRE web site. The draft second edition is also available on the web site, together with a summary “What’s new” document and a concordance for the two editions. The second edition makes some significant changes to the first, including an expansion of the chapter on confidentiality and privacy, and policies on research involving aboriginal peoples (these replace the “recommendations” in the first edition).

The PRE web site also includes a tutorial on the Policy and guidance on interpreting the Policy.

Application to researchers in the Department of History and Classics

Research about living persons, including persons in public life and artists, that is based on information contained in publicly available materials is not subject to REB review unless the subject, or a third party, is approached directly for interviews or for access to private papers or other materials.

Quality assurance studies and performance reviews of an organization, its employees or students which are within the mandate of the organization, or testing within normal educational requirements, are not subject to REB review unless they contain an element of research in addition to assessment.

Researchers must seek the advice of their REBs whenever there is any ambiguity or doubt about the applicability of the University of Alberta Standards to a particular project.

Procedures and practices exclusively used for pedagogical purposes (e.g. classroom discussion) without a research component are not subject to REB review. Such procedures and practices are governed by other professional standards of ethical conduct.

General guidelines

The general guidelines for research ethics approval are as follows: (1) the proposal should assess the risk of harm to the research subject; (2) research subjects should provide informed and voluntary consent; (3) participants will be guaranteed anonymity and confidentiality unless they consent to be identified; and (4) the researcher must be knowledgeable, trained and competent. 

An application for research ethics approval should briefly describe the research question and research design, should assess the degree of risk to human research subjects and consider the manner in which the researcher will provide for confidentiality and privacy. Furthermore, the application should list the strategies used by the researcher to minimize and manage any risk. A consent form, questionnaire, and other such material may be appended as appropriate.


This site was last updated on 7 December 2009.