Ethics regulation for human-subject research has been established for about 20 years in Brazil. However, compliance with this regulation is controversial for non-biomedical sciences, particularly for human and social sciences, the source of a recent debate at the National Commission for Research Ethics. We hypothesized that for these fields, formal requirements for compliance with HSR regulation in graduate programs, responsible for the greatest share of Brazilian science, would be small in number. We analyzed institutional documents from 171 graduate programs at six prestigious Brazilian universities in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the states that fund most of the science conducted in Brazil. Among these programs, 149 were in HSS. The results suggest that non-compliance with standard regulation seems to be the rule in most of these programs. The data may reflect not only a resistance from scientists in these fields to comply with standard regulations for ethics in HSR but also a disciplinary tradition that seems prevalent when it comes to research ethics in HSR. However, recent encounters between Brazilian biomedical and non-biomedical scientists for debates over ethics in HSR point to a changing culture in the approach to research ethics in the country.