The requirement for ethics certifications for all research projects flows from the Institutional Agreement among the Tri-Agencies and the Universities: the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions. As a signatory to this Institutional Agreement, the University of Alberta (UofA) has committed to upholding the standards and procedures for ethical research set out therein. All research must also be compatible with the UofA's Research Policy.
The Research Services Office (RSO) is required to verify that the appropriate certification approvals (human, animal, biohazards, and stem cells) have been obtained, when required, prior to the release of research funding. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to determine which approvals (if any) are applicable to his or her research projects and to communicate this information to the RSO.
Human, Animal Approvals and Release of Funds
Human and animal ethics certifications are obtained through the Research Ethics Office (REO) and must be maintained for the duration of the research activities involving animals or human. RSO staff must check for current and relevant certifications on all "active files"; or files that require action by the RSO. These include (but are not limited to) new and renewing research projects as well as amendments such as end-date extensions, project holder changes, donation deposits, budget adjustments, agreement modifications, and so on.
Sometimes the first months or years of a grant do not involve human participant or animal use. Preparing (and reviewing) a complete ethics application during this phase of the project may be impossible. The release of funds process enables researchers to access their funding pending preparation and approval of a fully developed ethics application. Access to the funds budgeted for up to one year of the project are available via a request for a Release of Funds through the REO.
A file cannot move into the final processing queue to be processed until all ethics requirements have been fulfilled (i.e., requirements confirmed and appropriate documentation received). Wait times on active files increase significantly when certifications are not handled in a proactive manner.
All PIs, students or fellows who have been awarded funding for a biological or medical research project must apply for biohazards approval from the Biosafety Officers at the Department of Environment, Health and Safety via the Hazard Managements Unit. The biohazards review process is designed to ensure that all biological or medical research occurring on campus adheres to established biosafety regulations and guidelines.
Funding for projects will only be released by the RSO upon receipt of a Letter of Biohazards Approval from the Biosafety Officers. Approval letters are sent via email and are specific to each research project. The study title and the RSO project number will be cited in body of the letter. Once granted, approval lasts for the duration of the project unless changes are made to the biohazardous materials used in the project or major changes are made to the project's experimental plan.
A Laboratory Biosafety Registry may be confused with biohazard approval. Copies of a research group's Laboratory Biosafety Registry are not required by the RSO, nor is a Registry a substitute for the Letter of Biohazards Approval that comes by email from the Biosafety Officers.
Ethics Approval Not Required
If a project does not require ethics approval or certification, the RSO needs to keep confirmation of this in the project file. This confirmation is often the signed grant application which indicates that project does not involve human participants, animal use or biohazards. The PI's declaration with respect to ethics would also be captured on the Request for New Application/Proposal/Project or Amendment Request via the Researcher Home Page. Instructions can be found in the Guide to Researcher Home Page.
If none of the above have been submitted, the PI should send email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting the relevant project number attesting to the fact that the proposed research does not involve biohazards, animal use or human participants. Where applicable, this email should be sent as soon as the PI receives confirmation of an award. The only time that a confirmation is not required is for salary or stipend only awards.