Department of Computer Science
  1. Adaptive Computing Systems
  2. Machine Learning
  3. giCentre
  4. Human Computer Interaction Design
  5. Software Reliability
  6. Research Ethics
  7. Data Science
Department of Computer Science

Research Ethics

Research Governance

All research projects in the Department of Computer Science (CS) or the Department of Library and Information Science (LIS) that involve human participation must undergo formal ethical review. This includes research undertaken by staff and students in their capacity as members of City, University of London, irrespective of whether the research is funded and or the source of any funding. It includes research undertaken as part of taught undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and projects undertaken by research students. It also applies to research carried out in CS and LIS by persons visiting the Department (e.g. visiting staff, visiting researchers etc.).

‘Human participation’ covers direct data collection from people. This can result from many different methods, including surveys, interviews, observation, video, photography and physiological measurement. It also includes using personal identifiable data from individual records such as case notes and large data sets from which individuals may be identified.
Secondary analysis of anonymised data that is published or otherwise disseminated does not require ethical approval. Analysis of routinely collected anonymised data that does not contain personal information and through which individuals cannot be identified does not need approval either, as long as permission has been given by the data owner. Literature reviews or reviews of published or otherwise disseminated material do not require ethical approval.

The Computer Science Research Ethics Committee (CSREC) handles ethical review of low and medium risk research activity for both departments. Approval for high-risk projects must be sought from either the University’s Senate REC or an appropriate external ethics committee.

The CSREC handles low risk research by a proportionate review process. Medium risk research is handled by a full application to the CSREC.

There are separate proportionate review processes –

  • one for staff and research students (section 3),
  • one for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate taught (PGT) students

Approval must be obtained before the research can commence - it cannot be granted retrospectively.

The following sections and associated documents explain the composition and procedures of the CSREC and set out the arrangements in CS and LIS for ethical review and approval of research involving human participants and/or their data.

This framework was developed from the CSREC Research Governance documentation produced by Stephanie Wilson and colleagues. Their important contributions are acknowledged. Updates have been made in light of changes to research governance processes at City, University of London, with revisions agreed through discussion with members of City’s SREC and advice from Research & Enterprise. It is reviewed every two years, with the terms of reference considered by the committee on an annual basis.

Jason Dykes, Simone Stumpf, David Bawden
November 2017

CSREC - Terms of Reference

The CSREC has delegated power of authority from the Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC).

Its terms of reference align with the delegated authority conferred by SREC and are:

  1. To consider the ethical implications of research carried out in the Departments of Computer Science and Library and Information Science. Specifically, to consider research involving human participants, research involving identifiable personal data and research that may entail risk to the researcher.
  2. To review and approve low-risk research ethics applications through a proportionate process of peer review.
  3. To review and approve other research ethics applications that are deemed to lie within the remit of the CSREC through full application to the CSREC.
  4. The CSREC is not responsible for considering the ethics of research that falls within the categories considered to be of “potential higher risk” by the SREC Framework for Delegated Authority. This includes, but is not limited to: research that falls under the auspices of the NHS Research Ethics Service; research that involves participants who fall under the auspices of the Mental Capacity Act; research that involves participants who fall under the auspices of the Criminal Justice System; research involving animals, obscene or illegal material, sensitive subjects, intrusive procedures, the administration of drugs or other substances, participants who are unable to provide informed consent, the researcher travelling to countries where there is an active travel warning from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
  5. To consider and approve amendments to research that has been previously approved by the CSREC.
  6. To make available application forms, guidelines and background documentation to staff and students in the departments.
  7. To advise staff and students in the departments on research ethics and the process for obtaining ethical approval for research.
  8. To report to the Senate REC on the activities of the CSREC as required – records of all decisions, conditions and correspondence will be retained. Minutes of all decisions and any meetings will be submitted to SREC.

Composition

The CSREC consists of a Chair, a member of academic staff from each research centre in the Department of Computer Science, a member of academic staff from the Department of Library and Information Science, at least one research student from the Departments and two external members.

Appointment to CSREC is made by the Head of Department and will normally be for a period of two years and rarely for more than three years. One member of CSREC is designated as responsible for handling the proportionate review process for staff and research students; this responsibility rotates on a yearly basis.

The Chair of the CSREC is responsible for coordinating applications made to CSREC in line with CSREC policies and procedures, for maintaining records of the work of the CSREC, for reporting to the Board of Studies and the Senate REC. The Deputy Chair takes on such responsibilities in the Chair’s absence or where a conflict of interested is deemed to occur.

The Chair and Deputy Chair are responsible for knowledge transfer as the committee develops expertise and a case history.

Membership is as follows - effective from 15/09/2017:

First name Second nameDeptRCRole From (Sept) To (Sept) Role at City
Jason Dykes CS giCentre Chair 2017 2019 Professor
Simone Stumpf CS HCID Deputy; Prop Review 2014 2018 Senior Lecturer
Tillman Weyde CS ML   2017   Lecturer
David Bawden LIS LIS   2015 2019 Professor
Nikos Komninos CS CSR   2017   Lecturer
Johannes Liem CS giCentre PhD 2016 2019 Research Student
Maria Krotsiani CS CeNACS   2017   Post-doc
Anna Ramberg R&E   Ext 2014   Senate REC
  VACANT    Ext 2017   Another School

Composition of the committee is reviewed each year with a need to balance expertise, continuity, the need for new perspectives and workload.

Ethical approval for staff and research students

Proportionate Review Applications to CSREC: Staff and Research Students

Staff and research students wishing to apply for a proportionate review of low-risk research must complete the Ethics Checklist in the 'Ethics Proportionate Review Application' form to establish that the research is low-risk.

Applications are then submitted using the 'Low Risk Application for Approval of Research Involving Human Participants'.

The completed form along with all necessary attachments should be submitted electronically to the Chair of the CSREC. The Chair will register the application and pass it on to the member currently designated as responsible for proportionate review for consideration and a decision. In cases where the member coordinating proportionate review has a conflict of interest an alternative lead reviewer will be selected by the Chair. This lead will be responsible for reviewing the application and responding to the applicant. To ensure that all proportionate review applications are considered by at least two members of the CSREC, the Chair will also comment on the application or ask a second member of the committee to do so, again ensuring that any conflicts of interest are avoided. These additional comments are passed back to the lead reviewer for consideration prior to the decision and communication with the applicant.

The decision will be one of the following:


a. Approve as submitted

b. Request minor amendments (to be approved by the lead reviewer within a given time-scale).

c. Reject

In most cases, a reject decision will be accompanied by a recommendation to submit a full ethics application to an appropriate REC.

Full Applications to CSREC: Staff and Research Students

The CSREC handles ethical review of medium risk research undertaken by staff and research students via a "full application" process. Any member of staff or research student who is unsure about the level of ethical review required, or where they should apply, should complete the checklist in the proportionate review form.

Full applications to the CSREC should be made by completing the Senate REC's "Application for Approval of Research Involving Human Participants" form available from the University’s pages on Research Ethics: https://www.city.ac.uk/research/research-and-enterprise/research-ethics.

Applicants should also use the templates for information sheets and consent forms that are available on these pages. Completed applications should be submitted electronically to the Chair of the CSREC.

The Chair, or a designated lead reviewer invited by the Chair, will register the application and circulate it to all members of the committee. The Chair, or designated lead, and two other members of the committee will be assigned to review and provide a recommendation for each application. These reviewers must not have conflicts with the applicant. Other members of the committee may also comment if they wish to do so. The lead reviewer will synthesise all responses from members and respond to the applicant.

The recommendation will be one of the following:


a. Approve as submitted

b. Request minor amendments (to be completed by a specified date and approved by Chair's action)

c. Request major amendments (to be reviewed again by the CSREC)

d. Refer to the Senate REC or other external REC

e. Reject

Ethics approval for UG and taught PG students

Undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate taught (PGT) students are required to consider the ethical aspects of their work and to ensure that they comply with ethical guidelines.

Proportionate Review Applications: UG and PGT Projects

All UG and PGT students undertaking their final project are required to complete the CSREC “Ethics Review Form: BSc, MSc and MA Projects“ and attach it to their project definition document or research proposal.

There are two components to the form. Part A is an ethics checklist that identifies whether a project requires approval from an ethics committee and, if so, where to apply. All students must complete this part. Part B is an application for proportionate review for low risk projects: only those students whose projects require a proportionate review for low risk research should complete this part. Supervisors are required to consider whether the student has completed the ethics checklist correctly and are delegated to sign-off low risk projects. This is likely to be a provisional approval in the first instance with final versions of the documentation that describes the study fully requiring subsequent approval by the supervisor. Supervisors should seek advice from the Chair of the CSREC if they are uncertain about authorizing the ethics form. If a project does not comply with the criteria for a low-risk project, the student must submit a full ethics application to either the CSREC, the Senate REC or an external ethics committee.

Full Applications: UG and PGT Projects

If the ethics checklist indicates that a full application to the CSREC is required, UG and PGT students should follow the processes set out above for staff and research students

Timings, amendments and other information

Recruiting City Staff and Students

Any researcher wishing to recruit participants because they are staff or students of City, University of London (e.g. because they are taking a specific module or are enrolled on a specific programme) must seek prior approval from the Head of Department or Programme Director of the programme concerned.

Applications to an External REC or Senate REC

If an application is submitted to an external REC or the Senate REC, applicants must also notify the Chair of the CSREC of the submission, the verdict and any approval acquired.

Amending a Project

If an applicant wishes to amend a project that has already been approved by the CSREC, an amendment form must be submitted to the Chair. The form should be submitted electronically to the Chair of the CSREC. Approval must be obtained before the research can commence.

Amendments will be considered by the 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.

Adverse Events or Untoward Incidents

Applicants are required to inform their supervisor (in the case of students), the CSREC Chair and the Secretary of the SREC at the earliest opportunity if any breaches of ethical approval take place or if an adverse event occurs during the research. These might include: harm to a participant, a breach of confidentiality, a complaint by a participant or other untoward incident.

Timings

To address the need for a timely response to applications, the CSREC reviews applications electronically as and when they are submitted. The CSREC has a target of 3 weeks for an initial response to applications made through proportionate review and 4 weeks for full applications. Applicants should plan for this when making their submission. This target may not be achievable during holiday periods or busy times of year. Note that this is not the time for final approval as re-submission may be required during the process of peer review.