Guidance and resources for ethics applications
Essential resources for researchers preparing a research ethics application can be found below.
If you are a student undertaking research involving human participants or identifiable personal data you need to seek ethics approval for your study following the same guidelines as staff, with the following exceptions:
- The principal investigator on your project will always be your supervisor. This is because the supervisor is a City staff member and is responsible for the conduct of the research.
- Your application has to be signed off by your supervisor on Research Ethic Online. The supervisor will be selected from a list of City academics on the system. If you have more than one supervisor, the application will be routed to your first supervisor for sign-off.
- Your supervisor will submit your application to the relevant research ethics committee.
Under GDPR, it is important that you tell research participants in the participant information sheet that their personal data may be used to inform a larger study or will be re-use as part of additional studies.
You may test your survey or interview questions without applying for ethics approval as long as you are not collecting data. This could for instance involve testing that questions are appropriate and understandable for a certain age group.
If people taking part in your research are to be offered any payment or incentive to do so over and above appropriate expenses, you must explain this in your application. Any form of payment or incentive to take part will need to be clearly explained in the participant information sheet.
Note that payments to participant should be prorated and not be contingent upon completion of the study by the participants. Any payment or incentive should not be linked to the risk involved in the research; however, it could be linked to the discomfort or burden of participating.
City has a series of conditions and policies on the usage of all computers and networks including office based and stand-alone systems.
It should be noted that these conditions form part of City’s conditions of employment and student regulations; breach of these regulations, particularly in relation to Data Protection and obscenity, may lead to disciplinary action. The more serious breaches may be considered under gross misconduct. All users should be aware that by registering with IT Services you have agreed to abide by IT Services’ "conditions of use" and the JANET "acceptable use policy". These conditions should be reviewed by users from time to time.
City recognises that staff and students may conduct research which involves the use of websites containing obscene materials. If you are intending to undertake such a project, you will need to submit an registration form on Research Ethics Online by selecting 'Start a new research ethics application or register a project'.
If your research involves recruiting participants online, engaging in conversations in online chatrooms or using other methods of online communication, or content analysis, for instance using posts from forums or other types of social media, approval must be sought through and you must answer 'Yes' to the question 'Does the project involve human participnats' on Research Ethics Online.
If you are planning to use a transcription service to transcribe your data, you should include information about the intention to use a transcription service in your application and details about data protection clauses in the contract City has with them.
These must describe the measures the service has in place to protect the confidentiality and security of the research data both in transit and whilst held by them, providing clear instructions about the return and/or destruction of the research data once it has been transcribed and declaration from the transcribing service that the research data will not be used for any other purpose, and, that they will comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)/data protection legislation; please include copies of the contract with your application.
In the participant information sheet you need to include information about the use of a transcription service and that a contract is in place which includes data protection clauses.
For further information about transcription services, please contact the Procurement team.
Research where consent is not possible
City requires that written or verbally-recorded (oral) consent should be obtained wherever possible. However, it is recognised that there are some rare instances when it will not be possible or appropriate to ask for consent.
This may include, for instance, research into illegal/criminal activities, corruption, conflict research, victims groups, or research taking place in non-western jurisdictions where insisting on written consent would adversely affect the relationship with the potential participant and even prevent them from participating in the research.
In such instances the applicant should clearly justify and address this in the application to the research ethics committee. A decision can then be made as to whether it is appropriate, in the context of the research and the population, not to ask for written or to verbally-record consent.
Note that if ethical approval for unconsented research has not been given by a Research Ethical Committee, for instance because the population being recruited was not thought to be averse to signing a consent form, the potential participant should not be included in the study.
What is verbal (oral) consent?
An oral consent process is where researcher and participant have a conversation to give information and obtain consent. There is no paper form to sign, but a record of verabal consent should be kept by the researcher. (See also section above Research where consent is not possible)
- Where literacy is a problem;
- Where there are cultural or political concerns with signing contract-like documents;
- Where either the researcher and/or the participant could be put at risk by existence of a paper record;
- With elite participants such as prominent public figures;
- Where time for consent is limited.
Risk and Insurance
It is a requirement that at least an initial assessment of risk be undertaken for all research and if necessary a more detailed risk assessment be carried out. Please contact the Health & Safety Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) for advice on risk assessments and/or how to complete it.
Ethical approval MUST be obtained before any research involving human participants is undertaken. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary procedures being instigated, and you will not be covered by City’s indemnity if you do not have approval in place. It may also result in the degree not being awarded or the data not being published in a peer review journal.
If your research involves any of the following:
- Children under the age of 5 years;
- Clinical trials / intervention testing;
- Over 500 participants (including online surveys);
- Specifically recruiting pregnant women or women in labour; and/or
- Excluding information collected via questionnaires (either paper based or online), any part of the research is taking place outside the UK
The Office for Human Research Protections collates a list annually with listing of over 1,000 laws, regulations, and guidelines on human subjects protections in over 100 countries and from several international organisations; a list is available here.
When organising meetings and interviews both on and off site, think about your personal safety. Try to conduct these in public places and within office hours as much as possible. If interviewing offsite, go to interviews in pairs, if possible. If not then it becomes essential that you consider personal safety.
If your research will take place at a time or in a place that could potentially put you at risk (e.g. research taking place in a participant's home) you will need to provide information to the research ethics committee reviewing your study about what steps you are taking to ensure your personal safety. It is recommended that you review the institutional lone working procedure and follow the outlined procedure.
Opt-in consent is City’s preferred approach. Opt-out is problematic where no response is assumed as opt-out as this approach does not reflect a conscious decision by those invited to accept or decline an invitation to participate in research. Requests for opt-out consent will only be considered in exceptional cases and a full explanation should be provided.
Staff and students undertaking research that involves children or vulnerable adults need to ensure they comply with City’s Safeguarding policy https://www.city.ac.uk/_media/intranet-site/documents/prevent/Safeguarding-at-City-April-2017_FINAL.pdf as well as the relevant legislation. They are also required to obtain a Disclosure and Barring (DBS) enhanced disclosure check. Further guidance on DBS checks is available from Human Resources who will undertake checks for staff.
Further Guidance on research involving vulnerable groups: