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What Needs Ethics Approval?

The following kinds of research require review and approval by an REB before the research begins:

  • Research involving living human subjects. 
  • Research involving human remains, cadavers, tissues, biological fluids, embryos or foetuses. 
  • Research about a living individual in the public arena if s/he is to be interviewed and/or private papers accessed. 
  • Research involving secondary use of data (use of data initially collected for another purpose) - health records, employee records, student records, computer listings, banked tissue - if any form of identifier is involved and/or if private information pertaining to individuals is involved. 
  • Quality assurance studies and program evaluations which address a research question. 

REB review is required only if program evaluation meets the TCPS2 definition of research or serves as a component of a research project. Although program evaluation may share some methods and techniques with those employed in research (such as data collection and data analysis), the intent and objectives of the data collection, as well as the further use of the collected data, are factors for establishing whether it is research and whether it should be reviewed by an REB. The TCPS 2 exempts from REB review program evaluation activities normally administered in the ordinary course of operation of an organization (see Article 2.5). If the collected data for such activities is later proposed for research purposes, it is considered secondary use of information not originally intended for research, and may require REB review at that time.

If in doubt about the applicability of the TCPS 2 or the requirement for REB review of a particular research project, the researcher should consult the REB.

Research that does not require ethics review

The following kinds of studies do not require ethics review (TCPS 2 Articles 2.2 to 2.4).

  • Research about individuals in the public arena using only publicly available or accessible records without contact with the individual/s. 
  • Research involving naturalistic observation in public venues. 
  • Quality assurance studies, program evaluations, performance reviews, and testing within normal educational requirements if there is no research question involved. 
  • Research based on review of published/publicly reported literature. 
  • Research involving secondary use of data (Article 5.5) which is provided without any identifier or group of identifiers which would allow attribution of private information to an individual. 
  • Consulting, unless carried out under the auspices of the university. 

If you are unsure whether or not your project fits the TCPS2 definition of research, and/or whether or not your project requires ethics review, please contact the ICEHR at or 864-2861/2561.