Commenting in The Lancet Psychiatry, City academics discuss the balance of involving, whilst protecting, vulnerable people in research during the pandemic.

By Mr Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer), Published

Led by academics from the Violence and Society Centre at City, University of London, the comment piece, ‘Risk, responsibility, and choice in research ethics’ was published last week in journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.

In the piece, the authors argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the decision making of research ethics committees, which decide whether and how research projects with vulnerable groups may go ahead, citing an increase in risk aversion at this time.

They cite how public involvement in research dropped after the onset of the pandemic, and how only a very few, general population studies about violence, abuse, or self-harm have been allowed to proceed. They go on to discuss the importance of getting the balance right of involving, whilst protecting vulnerable people taking part in mental health research under the conditions of the pandemic.

The authors suggest that there is now a large gap in our understanding of these issues, widening as the pandemic continues, and ultimately ask how the voices of these groups will be ever heard and their needs addressed, if not through the appropriate research involving them.

The Lancet Psychiatry has also published its own Editorial reflecting on and supporting arguments raised in the comment piece.

It also interviewed three of the authors for an 11-minute podcast entitled ‘Protection or Paternalism’.

The interviewees were:

  • Sally McManus of the Violence and Society Centre and Senior Lecture in Health, School of Health & Psychological Sciences at City, University of London.

    Listen to Ms McManus respond to the question: ‘What is the situation right now, and how has it impacted the type of research that is being approved?’ (Between 1:15- 4:35)
  • Jennie Parker, Lived Experience Researcher at City, University of London

    Listen to Ms Parker respond to the question: ‘How should we shift things taking into account the lived experience perspective?’ (Between 4:36-6:17)
  • Dr Sarah Markham, Visiting Researcher at King's College, University of London

    Listen to Dr Markham answer the question: ‘What do think the ethics review panel should be thinking about when they make decisions?’ (Between 6:22-9:33)

Find out more

Listen to The Lancet Psychiatry Podcast: Protection or Paternalism

Read the Comment piece, ‘Risk, responsibility, and choice in research ethics’ in the journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.

Read the Editorial piece, ‘Protectionism or Paternalism’, in the journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.

Visit the homepage of the Violence and Society Centre at City, University of London.

Visit the homepage of the School of Health & Psychological Sciences at City, University of London

Getting Support 

For people who may be affected by the content and themes of this article, a list of organisations from which to seek support in the UK:

Women’s Aid

A grassroots federation working together to provide life-saving services in England and build a future where domestic abuse is not tolerated. Links to sister organisations in Scotland


UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good.


For Women and Children. Against Domestic Violence.

Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Standing Together

Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse is a national charity bringing communities together to end domestic abuse.


Working to end domestic abuse. Leading the development of safe, effective work with perpetrators, male victims and young people using violence and abuse


We are the only UK-based, umbrella women's organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and Minoritised women and girls i.e. women which are defined in policy terms as Black and 'Minority Ethnic' (BME).


We support LGBT+ people who have experienced abuse and violence


Whatever you’re facing, a Samaritan will face it with you. We’re here, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.

Call: 116 123 for free from any UK mobile phone network or landline provider (restrictions may be in place on landlines from some offices, organisations and care homes).