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Athabasca University

Institutional Permissions

If your research project involves staff or clients as participants, or uses an organization’s physical or human resources, you may need to request specific access to conduct your research. The questions and answers on this page will help clarify issues around institutional permissions.

If you require these supports from Athabasca University, they will be coordinated for you after final ethics approval. You will need to provide evidence of support for access/recruitment from the affected area.

Please note: Working for a company does not mean you automatically have access for research purposes. You will still need to seek permission from the executive level of your organization.


Support for research is required if you:

  • are using the physical resources of the organization (e.g., space for hosting interviews or focus groups)
  • are conducting research activities involving employees, volunteers, students or clients during the hours of the organization’s regular activities
  • need to access or use data that was previously generated for non-research purposes

Recruitment access is required if you need to access confidential lists to recruit participants within an organization (employees, volunteers, students or clients).

Support for research recruitment is required if you need the organization to distribute your research invitation or poster via non-public means (e.g., physical bulletin boards, email, mailboxes).

Common questions

How should institutional support and access be documented?

You will need written documentation from the executive level of the organization. It should:

  • describe specific permissions for:
    • using the organization’s systems and resources
    • accessing private information (e.g., non-public contact lists, proprietary information and private files)
  • clarify what recruitment or other research tasks the organization will perform on the researcher’s behalf (e.g., distribution of initial invitation or poster, collection of paper surveys)

You may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to access non-public lists and data.

Should I identify a host organization in publication?

In Canada, public and private organizations have legislated privacy protection and confidentiality responsibilities toward individual employees, volunteers, students and clients. The default is to not identify the source organization in publication. This provides a layer of confidentiality for participants as individuals and members of a group.

If you want to identify a host organization in publication, you should seek this approval at the same time you request support for research and access for recruitment. Your request to identify should be based on research design, and should offer additional privacy protections through data handling and reporting techniques.

If you are recruiting participants from an organization that will be identified in publication, you must disclose that information during the consent process.

Do I have to seek institutional support or permission every time I undertake research involving humans within an organization?

No, if you can recruit participants outside the organization’s premises or systems, and all data-gathering activities will take place off-site. Examples of recruiting outside of the organization’s premises include:

  • hanging a poster up in the coffee shop across the street
  • advertising in print or other media
  • e-mailing from a public list

If prospective participants qualify for recruitment because of their employment or service relationship with an organization, they should be informed whether or not the organization:

  • has been made aware of the research
  • supports the research

In situations involving critical research, prospective participants should be reminded to review their contractual responsibilities to the organization so they understand and are aware of any risks for potential harm to occur if their participation in the research were to become known by the organization.

Updated March 14 2018 by Research

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