Skip To Content

Athabasca University

Research Ethics

While there is an expectation that all Athabasca University researchers will carry out their work ethically, specific ethical review is only required in certain cases.

Research requiring ethics review

Ethics review is required for any research project involving human participants, human biological materials, or animals that is conducted by:

  • members of the Athabasca University community:
    • faculty
    • staff
    • research assistants/associates
    • students
    • post-doctoral fellows
    • visiting researchers
  • external researchers who:
    • collaborate with AU researchers
    • use AU resources
    • wish to access AU participants

These projects must receive prior written approval of the AU Research Ethics Board (REB), funded or not, and regardless of where the research is located.

Research Using Health Information Governed by the Health Information Act

Research that requires the collection of, or access to, health information that is protected under the Health Information Act, must be approved by a designated HREB in Alberta.

Animal Ethics

Research, teaching or testing that involves animals also requires ethical review, but this is a separate process managed by the University of Alberta.

Purpose of review

The review is designed to ensure researchers meet the 3 main principles of ethical research with human participants:

  1. Respect for persons
    • autonomy
    • voluntariness
    • informed choice
    • capacity
  2. Concern for welfare
    • risk in proportion to benefit
    • no unnecessary risks
    • impact on participants and their communities
  3. Justice
    • fair and equitable treatment
    • equal distribution of risks and benefits
    • protection of vulnerable populations
    • justifiable inclusion
    • managing power imbalances


There are some limited exemptions to REB review, where protection is available by other means.

Updated February 21 2019 by Research

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.