Apply for a Research Licence

All research in the Northwest Territories (NWT) must be licensed. This includes work in the physical, social, health and biological sciences, as well as in traditional knowledge, and applies for all researchers, including government agencies and NWT organizations. Through the licensing application review and approval process, information about your work is shared with northern residents.

The intent of the research regulatory processes is to help mitigate the potential risk of harm to the natural, social, and cultural environments of the NWT. Many of these processes include provisions to ensure that local communities are well informed of upcoming research projects and that these projects follow best practices.

A research licence will not be issued if appropriate communication with the community has not taken place. The level of involvement with community organizations will depend on the size, type, scope, location, and potential impact of the study.

Before applying for a scientific research licence

  • Review Doing Research in the Northwest Territories Guide to determine what the licensing requirements are for your project. All research in the NWT requires a licence or permit from at least one of the following:
  • From the Guide, determine which region(s) or land claim area(s) you will be working in and begin communication with communities and Indigenous Governments to receive feedback and support for your research project.
  • Familiarize yourself with the region/area as the Indigenous, municipal and territorial governments may have identified regional research priorities and your work may compliment existing research efforts.
  • Review the Knowledge Agenda and Community Research Priorities. 
  • Search our database of licensed research projects to familiarize yourself with past and current research initiatives and discuss your project idea with representatives in the region.
  • Ensure your research location is only within the NWT. If it is to take place in Nunavut or Yukon in addition to the NWT, you will also have to apply to the regulatory institutions of the appropriate territory.

If you are planning to do research in the NWT, it is your responsibility to ensure that communications, with relevant communities, has occurred and research licensing is obtained before you begin.

Applying for a scientific research licence

  • You are advised to submit your licensing application and related documents at least three months prior to the planned start date of fieldwork, to ensure adequate time for review and feedback by NWT community organizations, and for you to address any questions or concerns raised during the review process.
  • Start an online application through Portal to Online Licensing Applications for Research (POLAR) (the cost of applications is $200 CAD)

This system allows you to register, input your contact information and detailed project description, and make changes where necessary before submitting an application.

Once issued, a copy of the licence document package will be sent to the registered email address.

Scientific research licence application steps

  • Create an account or login to POLAR to start an online application.
  • The online form has a section for including attachments such as maps; ethical review applications, community consultation records, or other supporting documents (Note that map files should be contained to 2 MB in size or smaller).
  • Keep the text sections as brief summaries (approximately 200 words or less) and keep the “objectives” and “methods and activities” sections as plain-language as possible; researchers can add detailed project information as attachments. This keeps the application itself streamlined for an easier review by communities. 
  • Submit the $200 CAD application processing fee to Scientific Services Office. Payment can be made within the online system by credit or debit card.
  • Once submitted, the application is reviewed. If there are questions that need answering or other clarification required before it can be accepted, those questions are sent to the researcher and the application is returned to an edit mode within the online system.
  • Once it is accepted, the application is distributed to associated NWT Community Organizations for review and feedback. If there are any concerns or comments submitted to the Scientific Services Office, these are promptly forwarded to the researcher so that they may follow up with the organization to address the concern or comment. Records of communication should be uploaded in POLAR, for addition to the application file, as these are an important part of the licensing decision.

For further information, please refer to the Doing Research in the Northwest Territories Guide.