All research projects in the Department of Computer Science involving human participation must undergo formal ethical review. This includes funded and unfunded staff research projects, projects undertaken as part of taught undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and projects undertaken by research students.
'Human participation' includes direct data collection from participants (e.g. using questionnaires, interviews, observations or physiological measures) and using identifiable personal data from individual records. Secondary analysis of anonymised data that has been previously published or otherwise disseminated does not require ethical approval.
The form of ethics review required depends on the nature of the research and the level of risk involved. The department has its own ethics committee, the CSREC, which can provide ethical review and approval for much of the research that is undertaken in the department. However, certain kinds of research are outside the remit of the CSREC and must be reviewed by either City's Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC) or by an appropriate external ethics committee (such as NRES). Approval must be obtained before the research can commence; it cannot be granted retrospectively.
The following sections explain the composition and procedures of the CSREC and set out the arrangements in the Department of Computer Science for ethical review and approval of research involving human participants and/or their data.
The Department of Computer Science Research Ethics Committee (CSREC) is responsible for considering the ethical implications of research conducted by staff and students in the department. The CSREC has delegated authority from City, University of London's Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC) to approve ethics applications for certain kinds of research and reports to the SREC about its activities.
The composition of the CSREC is:
- 5 members of academic staff
- 1 research student
- 2 external members
All undergraduate and postgraduate students undertaking their final project must consider the ethical aspects of their work and ensure that they comply with ethical guidelines.
An Ethics Review Form must be completed and attached to all project definition/proposal documents.
The research ethics form has two components:
- Part A is a checklist that must be completed by all students. The checklist determines whether or not the project requires ethics approval and, if so, where to apply for approval.
- Part B is an application for ethics approval of low-risk projects: only those students whose projects require a proportionate review for low-risk research need to complete this part.
All staff and research students wishing to undertake research involving human participation must apply to an ethics committee for approval.
There are two levels of approval provided by the CSREC:
Proportionate review of low-risk research.
If a project is believed to be low-risk, a member of staff or research student can apply for a proportionate review using the Ethics Proportionate Review Application form. The form has two parts: part A is a checklist to determine that the research is low-risk and part B is the application form. Completed forms should be submitted to the Chair of the CSREC by email. The Chair will register the application and assign it to a designated reviewer in the CSREC for consideration and a decision. The decision will be either to approve, to request minor amendments or to reject; in most cases, a reject decision will be accompanied by a recommendation to submit a full ethics application to an appropriate REC. The checklist can also be used as a guide as to where approval should be sought.
If research to be undertaken by a member of staff or research student does not satisfy the low-risk criteria, a full ethics application can be submitted to the CSREC (see below).
If research involving human participation is not deemed to be low-risk, a full application should be submitted to the CSREC or other appropriate ethics committee. Applications to the CSREC should be made using the Senate REC form.
The CSREC reviews applications electronically as and when they are submitted. Applications submitted to the Chair will be circulated to all other members of the committee for comments and a recommendation. The response to the applicant will be one of the following:
- Approve as submitted.
- Request minor amendments / clarifications (to be approved by Chair's action)
- Request major amendments (to be reviewed again by the CSREC)
- Refer to the Senate REC or other external REC
If an undergraduate or taught postgraduate student wishes to amend a project that has ethics approval from the supervisor, they should check part A of the Ethics Review Form to see if anything has changed and discuss with the project supervisor.
If an undergraduate or taught postgraduate wishes to amend a project that already has ethical approval from the CSREC, an amendment form must be submitted by email to the Chair.
If a research student or member of academic staff wishes to amend a project that has ethical approval from the CSREC, an amendment form must be submitted by email to the Chair.
Amendment forms submitted to the Chair will be considered by Chair's action. However, if the chair considers that the amendment is major, the applicant may be asked to resubmit their application for review by the whole committee.