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  1. Guidance and resources
  2. Ethics FAQs

Ethics FAQs

Who needs to apply for ethics approval?

All research involving human participants or identifiable personal data has some ethical implications. Even if the research is low risk, issues such as data protection, confidentiality and anonymity need to be considered. There is also a widening body of professional and legal requirements with which research projects must comply.

Ethical approval must be obtained before the research commences.

City's indemnity will not cover research without approval and failure to obtain approval may also result in disciplinary procedures being instigated.

Please note that there are no exceptions, exclusions, retrospective approval or blanket permissions.

Who is the Principal Investigator

In the case of a staff member conducting research, that staff member is the Principal Investigator.

In the case of students, whilst the student may be the principal researcher, for the purposes of the institution the supervisor must act as the Principal Investigator and must sign as such on the application form. This is because the supervisor is a City staff member (usually) and must sign the application to undertake responsibility for the conduct of the research.

Where do I need to apply?

In the first instance you will need to follow the guidelines and policies provided by your Department/ Division / School. Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC) will only deal with applications from Schools without local Research Ethics Committees, instances where a local Research Ethics Committee refers an application to SREC in accordance with agreed local policies and procedures, or where the risk to the research participants and/or the researchers or the sensitivity of the project is particularly high.

Note that applications submitted to SREC for convenience (e.g. more suitable deadlines or missing a local deadline) will not be accepted.

Where do I apply for approval to conduct research in Schools?

Projects which involve the recruitment of School staff and/or students require approval by the School you intend to recruit from. This ensures that the same group of staff or students are not repeatedly contacted to become involved in research projects.

Principal investigators should not contact students or staff directly. Approval should be sought from the relevant Dean(s) of School(s), Head(s) of Department(s) and/or Programme Director from which you are recruiting.

Your request should include a brief summary outlining which students or staff you wish to recruit, information of which REC has approved the study and why you are seeking to recruit this particular population, including details of the particular recruitment method.

Note that in some areas of City, permission to recruit staff/students is not needed. For information about the arrangements in your School/Department, please contact your local research ethics committee.

I am an external researcher wishing to recruit staff and/or students from City

Researchers wishing to recruit staff or students from City, University of London will need to submit a request to the Senate Research Ethics Committee Secretary. This includes City staff and/or students who have obtained approval from a research ethics committee external to the institution.

Read guidelines for how to apply for approval to recruit staff and/or students

What should I submit with the application?

Most applications will require a participant information sheet and a consent form. Copies of questionnaires and interview questions to be used in connection with the research must be provided to the Committee with your application. For informal interviews a one-page summary of discussion topics should be provided. If letters of permission from organisations are necessary, copies of these should be attached.

Templates for the participant information sheet and consent form are available

If your research includes personal data that will be shared with third parties e.g. transcription services or partners, you should include copies of any contracts, data sharing or confidentiality agreements you have with them.

Can I get ethical clearance to use data I have already collected?

Retrospective approval of research protocols cannot be given. Any data collected before approval has been gain cannot be used.

Can I seek ethics approval after conducting the research?

Retrospective approval of research protocols cannot be given. If you collect data before you have gain approval, you will not be able to use that data. Additionally, you will not be covered by City’s indemnity insurance. Failure to obtain approval may also result in disciplinary procedures being instigated.

I have already conducted some interviews but I haven't sought ethics clearance. What should I do?

Retrospective approval of research protocols cannot be given. You will not be able to use the collected data.

I am a student and I am only interview one or two people. Do I need ethics approval?

Yes. All research involving human participants or identifiable personal information has some ethical implications. Even if the research is low risk, issues such as data protection, confidentiality and anonymity need to be considered. Ethical approval must be obtained before any research involving human participants or identifiable personal data is undertaken.

My research involves NHS patients. Where do I apply for approval?

If the study will recruit patients and/or relatives or carers through the NHS, or access their medical records or personal details, approval from the Health Research Authority (HRA) will be required. Guidance on how to make an application can be found online, the application form here, and information about the HRA assessment here.

You can use the HRA decision tool to establish if you require HRA REC approval.

I am planning to use the Amazon MTurk platform to carry out my research, are there any ethical issues I should consider when offering financial incentives for feedback?

This platform is widely used for consumer and psychology research and it’s quite common to see studies with MTurk experiments in many issues of prestigious psychology and marketing journals. It is often regarded as a platform to collect high quality data rapidly and inexpensively.

In determining the exact compensation, it is important to factor the minimum wage requirements of the UK. That is, to consider average time required for completing the task and offer a compensation proportionately.

I have already obtained approval from another institution. Do I need to apply to City too?

If you have obtained ethics approval from another institution, for example if you re transferring a project from a previous place of work/study, you will usually not be required to reapply for ethics approval, but a simpler process ratifying the approval from the other institution will take place.

Please note that this is not the same as ethical approval – your response will not be submitted for additional review.

The application form asks if I have undertaken a risk assessment. Do I need to undertake one?

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 ( for advice on risk assessments and/or how to complete it.

Do I need ethical approval for a pilot or feasibility study?

If you are collecting data to inform a larger study you will need to apply for ethics approval. If the findings of the pilot / feasibility study will determine how the main study is managed, it is recommended that a separate application is submitted for that part of the study.

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.

Who should I contact if I have questions?

In the first instance, you will should contact your Department/ Division / School. If you are a student you may also wish to speak to your supervisor.

Where can I access forms and templates?