Research ethics and safety: human participants

Research Ethics Board (REB)

The REB is responsible for ensuring University-wide understanding of, and compliance with, all applicable external and internal requirements. Prior to commencement of research and teaching activities involving the use of human participants, or human biological materials, the REB must review and approve the activities.

Research and teaching involving human participants

All research or teaching conducted under the auspices of UNBC involving the use of human participants, human tissue, human stem cells or data collected on human participants must conform to the UNBC Policy and Terms of Reference on Ethics Review of Research Involving Human Participants and must have the prior approval of the UNBC REB. In Canada, all human participant research is guided by the Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2 (2018)).

Research involving human participants, either directly or indirectly, even if non-invasive to the person, must be submitted for prior approval by the REB. This includes all research involving interviews, focus groups, aptitude testing, Internet surveys, telephone polls or psychological experiments.

Classroom projects involving research by students must be submitted by the instructor for REB approval prior to the semester of the course in order to ensure review and revisions are completed for inclusion of the project in the course syllabus. Faculty members who may be in doubt as to whether REB approval is necessary, must contact the Research Ethics Officer or Chair of the REB.

Research recruiting UNBC faculty, staff or students for participation in a study, or requiring irregular access to UNBC resources (such as UNBC records, staff time, room booking or IT Support) must obtain Institutional Approval through the Provost Office.

External researchers must also request a proportionate review of their study from the UNBC REB, in addition to obtaining Institutional Approval through the Provost Office. Please submit a copy of your home institution's REB approval, together with a copy of the final approved application and supporting documents, complete with any revisions, by email to External research studies are assessed for local considerations, and a response will be sent back to the researcher, as outlined in TCPS2, Article 8.3. Once UNBC REB Approval and UNBC Institutional Approval have both been obtained, the external researcher can proceed to engage with UNBC faculty, staff and students.

The UNBC Ethics Review of Research Involving Human Participants - Policy and Terms of Reference were developed with the support of the policies and terms of reference of Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria and University of British Columbia, and we thank them for their sharing of the helpful language we have used.

Process for submitting applications

Minimal risk applications

Research projects that meet the Tri-Council definition of minimal risk will be eligible for delegated review by the REB. Minimal risk applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, and will be reviewed by two REB Members and the Chair of the REB. Research Risk Assessment Guidelines setting out the minimal risk review process and the REB New application form are posted on the Office of Research and Innovation Forms page under Research Ethics & Safety: Human Participants.

Please allow two weeks from the submission deadline for a response from the REB.

Please note that during summer months we cannot guarantee a specific turn around time for REB response to any minimal risk applications submitted as they are reviewed upon the availability of REB members.

Above minimal risk applications

Please submit the completed REB new application form and supporting documents electronically to in accordance with the 2021 REB Above Minimal Risk Meeting Schedule and Application Due Dates. Applications above minimal risk will not be reviewed during the months of July or August. Please allow one week from the Meeting Date for a response from the REB.

Multi-jurisdictional applications

If your application is multi-jurisdictional, with two or more Research Ethics BC partners (REBC partners), and is to be processed as a harmonized research ethics review for the involved partner institutions, please complete an application through the Provincial Research Ethics Platform (PREP).  Information and resources can be found online at Research Ethics BC.

PREP entered hard launch on January 1, 2019. All new multi-jurisdictional applications involving REBC partners will only be processed through PREP.

Joint research projects involving the Northern Health Authority and UNBC are to be completed through PREP.

There are no procedural changes for non-REBC partners involved in a multi-jurisdictional protocol. Non-REBC partner institutions will still require their own institutional ethics application form to be submitted to their REB for investigators under their auspice.

Education and resources

Instructional videos on completing the REB new application form

TCPS 2 tutorial

The Panel on Research Ethics has developed an online tutorial, TCPS 2 Tutorial: Course on Research Ethics (CORE).  It was designed to support the Canadian research community's implementation of the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement for the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

Canadian Institute for Health Research

Canadian Institutes for Health Research have a number of publications on ethics such as Best Practices for Protecting Privacy in Health Research and Aboriginal Ethics Policy. For more information about ethics at CIHR, visit the CIHR website.

Northern Health

If you are conducting research in conjunction with Northern Health, please contact their Research Review Committee for information on their review processes.

REACH BC: Connecting volunteers with health researchers in BC

REACH BC is a joint initiative of the health authorities and university partners in BC, and connects volunteers with health researchers across BC. Researchers can post their studies to find interested participants across BC. The REACH BC platform is now live and accessible.

Data transfer

To transfer research data pertaining to research involving humans, it has been recommended by UNBC Information Technology Services that faculty, staff and students use Microsoft OneDrive.


Please refer to the information provided by UNBC Information Technology Services for Online Surveys.

The Province of British Columbia issued a directive in the Fall of 2014 to public sector organizations to refrain from using Fluid Surveys. Please refer to further information at this link.

Health and safety related to human participants

All staff, faculty and students of the UNBC community conducting research involving human participants must do so in accordance with the policies and regulations of the Safety and Risk Management Department.

For community-based research, please refer to the Safety Guide for Conducting Community-Based Research.

COVID-19 and research ethics

COVID-19 and research ethics compliance

Research Ethics Review for in-person research during the COVID-19 pandemic requires a Safe Research Plan (SRP) to accompany the completed Amendment/Renewal Application or New Application form being submitted to the REB. Please see the Safe Research Plan Guidelines for In-Person Research at UNBC during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and fillable Safe Research Plan Template. The approval process for the SRP is described in the Guidelines document, Appendix B.

Remote research activities continue to be recommended where possible for researchers seeking to conduct in-person research.

Researchers MUST also pay attention to the Public Health Officer's ongoing orders and updates for province-wide restrictions.

Registry of COVID-19 related research in BC

In order to have an accurate listing of COVID-19 related research in BC, UNBC has joined with other research institutions and agencies in compiling these studies in a publicly available registry. The collaborators include BC Academic Health Sciences Network (including Clinical Trials BC and Research Ethics BC), the Ministry of Health, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, and BC Centre for Disease Control. In support of this initiative, the the REB will be providing information about your study for publication in the inventory, including: Principal Investigator, study title and description.