Human and animal ethical review process

While the majority of your time will be focused on your ethics review application, the research ethics process does not end there. This page provides an overview of the process from application to the end of your project.

Learn when research ethics review is required



All ethics applications must be submitted through the Research Portal. Please review the applicable instructions before beginning the application process:

Create your draft

You should create a draft of your long responses in Notepad or TextEdit, then copy and paste into the application form in the Research Portal. This will help ensure the portal won’t time out in the middle of typing a response. Don’t paste from a word processing program, as your text won’t appear the way you expect.

Use plain language and provide definitions for specialized terms or acronyms. Include citations and references in your responses. Further details are available in the Guidelines for Applicants.

Complete your application

Use the instructions below to complete your application (note: these are the same links from above). Remember to save often – at a minimum, after completing each tab.

Make sure you include all the necessary information, including related appendices, or your application may be returned. If you are a graduate student, you will find several templates for recruitment and consent documents in the Attachments tab – please be sure to use them.

If you have difficulties with your application, please contact the research ethics officer.


Board review

The Research Ethics Board meets once a month to review faculty applications and greater than minimal-risk student applications. You should receive a response no later than 1 week after the meeting. Faculty and staff applications that are minimal-risk may be reviewed by delegated review if timelines require it. Minimal-risk graduate student applications are reviewed through delegated review processes.

Applicants may find this guidancehelpful in determining the level of risk of their project and whether their projects may be reviewed by delegated or Full Board processes.

Please note there is no Research Ethics Board meeting in August.

Check the status of your application

You can check the status of your ethics application at any time through the Research Portal. Select Applications: Under Review from the Principal Investigator section. For a more detailed view, check the Logs tab of your application.



Research Ethics Board results are posted to the Research Portal; you will also be notified via email. You will receive 1 of 3 responses:

  • Approved – you can begin your research once you receive the Ethics Certification memo (unless other permissions/approvals are required).
  • Revisions required – you must submit revisions before you can begin your research.
  • Unable to approve – you cannot begin your research. You must submit a complete, revised proposal to be considered at the next Research Ethics Board meeting.


Revisions and resubmission

If you are asked to revise your application, you do so through the Research Portal.

  1. Find your application under Applications: Post-Review in the Principal Investigator section.
  2. Make your revisions in all capital letters (there is no formatting in the portal).
  3. Upload any new or revised documents in the Attachments tab.
  4. Save.
  5. Click the Resubmit button.



If you disagree with a Research Ethics Board decision, you may ask for it to be reconsidered. The board is obligated to honour this request. If after further review the Research Ethics Board still chooses to deny the application, you can file an appeal.

Appeals must be made in writing and must be received within  30 days of receiving the final decision. The appeal must be sent to the Research Ethics Office at

A Research Ethics Appeal Committee will then review the appeal on behalf of the university. Decisions of an Research Ethics Appeal Committee are final.

Read the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans Policy


After approval

You will receive an Ethics Certification memo by email. Once you have it, you can begin your research study (unless other permissions are required). However, there are a few things to keep in mind while your study is running.

If something changes

Sometimes you’ll need to change a research protocol during your study. If this happens, you must submit an Ethics Modification Event Form through the Research Portal.

If you encounter any unanticipated or adverse effects during your research project, you must report them to the Research Ethics Board through the Unanticipated Event Form in the Research Portal.

Learn how to submit event forms

If your project goes longer than a year

Ethical approval is granted for a period of 1 year. However, ethical approval must be maintained for the life of a research project involving human participants.

If your project is a multi-year project, or you are unable to complete your project within a year, you must submit a request to renew ethical approval to the Research Ethics Board. You can complete the Ethics Renewal Report Event Form through the Research Portal.

You will receive an email reminder as this milestone approaches. You will also see a reminder in the Research Portal.


How to submit event forms

If you need to submit a Ethics Modification Event Form, or an Unanticipated Event Form, you will first need to find your project in the Research Portal under Applications: Post-Review in the Principal Investigator section. Click the Events button to the left of the file to access the list of event forms.

Events form screenshot

You can then select the form you need and complete it. If you need to compose a detailed response, you may want to create it in Notepad or TextEdit first, then paste it into the portal.

If you need to submit an Ethics Renewal Report Form, you can find your project in either Applications: Post-Review or Reminders.


When your project is complete

Once your research project is finished, you must complete and submit a Ethics Final Report Event Form through the Research Portal. This will close your ethics file.

You will receive an email as this milestone approaches. You will also see a reminder in the Research Portal. Failure to submit a final report may affect a future application for ethical approval.

How to submit your final report

If you have received a reminder about your final report, you can follow the Reminders link in the Principal Investigator section of the Research Portal. If you haven’t received a reminder yet, you can still find your project in Applications: Post-Review. Click the Events button to the left of the file to access the list of event forms, then select Ethics Final Report Form from the list.

Events form screenshot

Animal ethics

All animal-based research, teaching and testing conducted by Athabasca University researchers is subject to the Animal Ethics Policy and Procedures.

Animal users must further act in accordance with the standards set by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, federal, provincial or municipal statues that may apply, as well as related policies and procedures.

Under an agreement with the University of Alberta (U of A), the U of A provides all animal-related services for Athabasca University researchers. This includes:

  • oversight of Athabasca University’s animal care and use program
  • use of University of Alberta facilities
  • animal care and husbandry

What does this mean?

If you’re doing research that involves animals, you must get ethics approval from the University of Alberta’s Biosciences Animal Care and Use Committee before your project starts. You do not apply for this approval through AU.

No animals shall be acquired, held or used for research at any Athabasca University facility.

How to apply

Animal Ethics applications are submitted through the University of Alberta’s Research Information Management Online system (ARISE), and researchers must follow its timelines, processes, and requirements.

Animal users are responsible for following:

Updated March 13, 2023 by Digital & Web Operations (