Review exemptions

There is some research that is exempt from Research Ethics Board review, where protections are available by other means.

Please note: This page is a general overview. For a more detailed discussion of exemptions, please see:

Researchers should also be aware that Research Ethics Board-exempt research may still be subject to Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) and Health Information Act. Please see Athabasca University’s Guidelines for Applicants for further details.

Exempt research

Research is exempt from Research Ethics Board review when it:

1. Relies exclusively on legally accessible and publicly available information such as:

  • existing stored documentary material, records or publications
  • registries of death
  • court judgments
  • public archives
  • press recordings
  • artistic installations
  • official publications
  • the Internet (only where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy)

2. Involves the observation of people in public places where:

  • there is no intervention or direct interaction
  • there is no reasonable expectation of privacy
  • dissemination of research results does not identify specific individuals

3. Relies exclusively on secondary use of anonymous information or anonymous human biological materials, as long as no identifiable information is generated from the results.

Learn more about secondary data use

Official notification

In some cases, you may need official notification that a research project is exempt from ethical review. If you need this documentation, please complete an Application for Ethics Exemption through the Research Portal by clicking APPLY NEW on the right-hand side of the page.

Research Portal home page screenshot

You can then select Application for Ethics Exemption from the list.

While some non-research activities use methods and techniques similar to those used in research, these activities don’t require Research Ethics Board (REB) review. They include:

  • activities used exclusively for assessment, management, or improvement purposes, such as:
    • quality assurance and quality improvement studies
    • program evaluation activities and performance reviews
    • testing within normal educational requirements
  • creative practice activities


If you are still unsure if your project qualifies for an exemption, email Provide the following information:

  • brief description of your project
  • its primary purpose
  • how it is being funded
  • the types of data to be used
  • how the data will be gathered
  • where and from whom will the data be gathered
  • why you think the project should be exempt (citing the supporting section of TCPS2)

Updated April 26, 2023 by Digital & Web Operations (