Peer Review for Scientific Merit

Who is this for?

Anyone planning to submit an animal use protocol (AUP) at the University of Toronto (U of T), including those in the following roles.

  • Professor, Faculty Member
  • Principal Investigator (PI) Assistant with My Research Animal Protocol (MRAP) privileges

What do I need before I can begin?

You plan to submit or have submitted an Animal Use Protocol (AUP).


The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) and the University Animal Care Committee (UACC) require that all research involving animals undergo the following two distinct and separate reviews and approvals prior to the use of animals.

  1. Peer review for scientific merit
  2. Ethics review by the Local Animal Care Committee (LACC)

Peer Review for Scientific Merit

Animals must only be used for research that has been found by independent, expert peers to have scientific merit. Studies funded by major external granting agencies (e.g. CIHR, NSERC, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, etc.) are considered to have undergone successful peer review during the granting process. Studies that are either not peer-reviewed as part of the granting process, or are internally funded, require peer review for scientific merit.

The University Peer Review Committee (PRC) will review all projects involving animal-based research unless one of the following exemptions is applicable.

  1. The funding agency from which funding is secured employs an accepted peer review process
  2. The proposed project is deemed to be an extension of, or supplementary to, a peer reviewed project (maximum of 2 years allowed beyond the expiry date of a peer-reviewed grant)
  3. Animals are used solely for teaching purposes. Please see Pedagogical Merit Review for Animal Use for more information
  4. The proposed pilot study (5 - 10 animals) is to develop or evaluate a new method within the context of a peer-reviewed research program

If the protocol fits any of these exemptions, the Principal Investigator (PI) must provide documentation to the Animal Ethics & Compliance Unit that clearly supports the exemption request. This information will be forwarded to the PRC. Exemption approval must be granted by the PRC before an Animal Use Protocol (AUP) can be reviewed and approved by the LACC.

If the protocol does not fit any exemption, the PI must submit a Research Summary that justifies the project from a scientific perspective to the Animal Ethics & Compliance Unit. The Research Summary (~3-5 pages) must include the following.

  1. Brief research background/rationale
  2. Objectives
  3. Hypotheses
  4. Methodological approach
  5. Significance of the research/potential contribution to scientific knowledge
  6. References

Please refer to the SOP for Peer Review of Scientific Merit and the PRC Terms of Reference for more information.

Ethics Review by the LACC

After Pedagogical Merit Review has been approved, an AUP must be submitted to the LACC for ethical review and approval. The following pages provide additional information.


Forms & Downloads


  • Identify AUPs requiring scientific merit review
  • Facilitate the peer review process between the PI, Peer Review Committee, and LACC

VPRI Contact


General Inquiries: Animal Ethics & Compliance Unit

Research Oversight & Compliance Office (ROCO)
(416) 978-2798