Research Ethics: A Guide for Graduate Students

What types of research need an ethical review?

If your research involves animals, fish or invertebrates, you will need to study the Animal Care Committee webpage at There is an electronic submission system called Researcher Information System Ethics (or RISe) for applications.

If your research involves bacteria, viruses, plasmids, recombinant DNA, animal tissues or other biohazards, then go to the Biosafety Committee webpage at

Please see the section Ethical Issues in the Dissertation and Thesis Preparation section of this website.

Research Ethics Boards

If your research involves human subjects, human tissue, human stem cells or data collected on human subjects, you will need to submit an application to one of the UBC Research Ethics Boards (REBs). The homepage for all of UBC’s Research Ethics Boards is at

For research involving human subjects, either directly or indirectly, which are non-invasive to the person, an application should be sent to the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board (BREB). The BREB reviews all research involving interviews, focus groups, aptitude testing, internet surveys, telephone polls, or psychological experiments. Research using previously-collected personal information which is not in the public domain must also have an ethical review.

Applications that involve medical research such as clinical trials, epidemiological studies with blood or tissue samples, medical imaging, rehabilitation or exercise programs, genetic banking of tissues or human stem cell research should go to one of the Clinical Research Ethics Boards (CREBs). At UBC there are three research ethics boards for clinical research. Providence Health Care and BC Cancer Agency have site-specific UBC Research Ethics Boards. All other UBC, and UBC-affiliated, clinical research goes to the UBC Clinical REB.

How do I apply for an ethical review?

Download the application forms and information from the Office of Research Services' webpage at At present, submission is in the form of paper copies; the number of copies to submit varies according to the size of the Committee or Board. Please read the Guidance Notes and other information carefully. The Researcher Information System Ethics (RISE) will be extended to human ethics in 2005, so watch the ORS webpages for future developments related to e-submission.

Who is the Principal Investigator for research conducted by students?

For graduate thesis research, the student's supervisor is the Principal Investigator and takes ultimate responsibility for the ethical conduct of the research. Students may be named as co-investigators in the application, but this is not a requirement.