Activities Exempt from Human Ethics Review

What do I need before I can begin?

Read Chapter 2 of Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Consult with Research Oversight and Compliance Office, Human Research Ethics Program (ROCO-HREP) on the project to confirm that the activities described are not research and/or do not require Research Ethics Board (REB) review.

Activities Not Requiring Research Ethics Board (REB) Review

“Quality assurance and quality improvement (QA/QI) studies, program evaluation activities, and performance reviews, or testing within normal educational requirements when used exclusively for assessment, management or improvement purposes, do not constitute research...and do not fall within the scope of REB review.” ( Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – TCPS 2 Article 2.5)

Such activities may involve collecting identifiable and sensitive personal information and may require permissions from other offices at U of T or external organizations. It is the responsibility of the team conducting the activity to obtain all necessary permissions before the start of the activity.

Some projects that fall within the category of QA/QI or program evaluation may involve an element of research, necessitating REB review. To assist in the determination of whether a QA/QI project requires REB review, fill out the Quality Control/Assurance and Research Checklist form. The form may be submitted to the respective Research Ethics Manager for assessment; please see the VPRI Contacts section below.

Activities that are within ‘professional practice’ are exempt from research ethics review. Guidelines have been created by departments to assist University members in determining whether their proposed activity falls under that category.

Research Exempt from REB Review

A limited list of research activities may be exempt from REB review. These can be difficult to determine and a consult with ROCO-HREP should be considered.

The following list does not require REB review.

  1. Research that relies exclusively on information that is either of the following
    1. Publicly available through a mechanism set out by legislation or regulation and that is protected by law (e.g. Statistics Canada files)
    2. In the public domain and the individuals to whom the information refers have no reasonable expectation of privacy (non-intrusive, does not involve direct interaction between the researcher and individuals through the Internet)
  2. Research involving observation of people in public places where any of the following are true
    1. It does not involve any intervention staged by the researcher, or direct interaction with the individuals or groups
    2. Individuals or groups targeted for observation have no reasonable expectation of privacy
    3. Any dissemination of research results does not allow identification of specific individuals
  3. Research that relies exclusively on secondary use of anonymous information or ‘anonymous’ human biological materials, so long as the process of data linkage or recording or disseminating of results does not generate identifiable information. In this circumstance, ‘anonymous’ means that direct identifiers were never collected
  4. Reflective Practice* / Professional Development activities that involve others (e.g. colleagues, students and supervisors) to solicit information that can be used for self-evaluation and growth, provided no information about these other individuals is made public or identifiable
  5. Standard Professional Practice that may involve research-like activities that are within acceptable standard practice of the respective profession. Typically, professional ethics codes cover these activities

* “Examining one’s situation, behavior, practices, effectiveness, and accomplishments by asking: What am I doing and why? The self-evaluation that follows involves active, persistent, and careful consideration, speculation, and contemplation of the practitioner's beliefs and knowledge and leads to professional development, growth, and greater understanding of self and the profession.” Valverde, L (1982). The self-evolving supervisor. In T. Sergiovanni (Ed) Supervision of teaching (p 81 - 89). Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Forms & Downloads


  • Consult with researchers to determine whether the project requires REB review
  • Review the complete Quality Control/Assurance and Research Checklist form

VPRI Contact


Dean Sharpe

Research Ethics Manager, Social Sciences, Humanities & Education
Research Oversight & Compliance Office (ROCO)
(416) 978-5585


Daniel Gyewu

Research Ethics Manager, Health Sciences
Research Oversight & Compliance Office (ROCO)
(416) 978-3165


Other Resources