Research Ethics: A Guide for Graduate Students

What types of Projects require research ethics or other forms of review?

All approvals are processed through the electronic submission system called Research Information System (or RISe) for applications.

If your research involves animals, fish or invertebrates, go to the Animal Care and Use Program website.

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

If your research involves human participants, please visit the Office of Research Ethics website.

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

Research Ethics Boards

If your research involves human participants, human tissue, human stem cells or data collected on human participants, you will need to submit an application to one of the UBC Research Ethics Boards (REBs) through RISe. For detailed guidance go to the web pages for behavioural and clinical research.

For research involving human participants, 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, behavioural testing, internet surveys, phone interviews and surveys, and psychological experiments. Research using previously-collected personal information which is not in the public domain also requires research ethics review.

Applications that involve medical procedures such as clinical trials, epidemiological studies with blood or tissue samples, medical imaging, rehabilitation or exercise programs, genetic banking of tissues and human stem cell research will need to be submitted to a Clinical Research Ethics Board. UBC-affiliated clinical boards, in addition to the UBC-CREB, are BC Cancer Agency(BCAA), Children's and Women's (C&W), and Providence Health Care (PHC). 

Regardless of which REB will review your ethics application, all research is submitted through RISe.  This includes research ethics applications that require review from multiple REBs in BC. For information about multi-site (harmonized) ethics applications go to Research Ethics BC.

How do I Submit a research ethics Application?

You will need to be registered in RISe before you can complete an ethics application. For more information about registering, go to:
First time applicants should review the resources on the Ethics website, as this is where the most current guidance and resources are published. See for example the Tip Sheet for new researchers.

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. It is recommended that students be named as Co-investigator in the application as well as the Primary Contact.  This will ensure that the student is listed on the certificate of ethical approval. Other members of the student's review committee (if applicable) should also be listed in the ethics application as Co-investigators.