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  1. Research ethics
  2. Do I need ethics approval?
    1. Ethical approval of research
    2. Principles of research ethics

Do I need ethics approval?

In addition to the scientific rigour of a project and the conduct of the researchers, an important aspect of research integrity concerns the ethical issues, in particular safeguarding any participants.

Research ethics

City is committed to ensuring that all research involving human participants or  personal data is conducted in a way that protects the rights, privacy and welfare of participants, and minimises risk to participants, researchers, and the institution. While City recognises there are differences between disciplines, all research should be guided by the principle that human participants, animals and the environment must be protected from harm.

City's Research Ethics Committees are concerned with all aspects of the ethics of research involving human participants and personal data carried out in the institution or under the auspices of the institution, by its Schools, staff or students.

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.

City's Research Ethics Committees provide assistance to academic and other staff and students through the provision of compliance and policy advice and approval of research protocols with ethical implications. City operates a framework of delegated authority, with some local committees in Departments/Divisions/Schools, all reporting to the Senate Research Ethics Committee.

It should be noted that while research ethics committees are not normally charged with reviewing the design and methodology of research projects, they must sometimes consider elements of these in order to assess the risks and benefits of a project. If a study design does not adequately attain the stated aim of the investigation, then no benefit can be anticipated from conducting the study, and there is therefore no justification for inconveniencing people or potentially placing them at risk.

Read about research projects involving animals

Guidance for student applicants (and supervisors)

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 responsibility 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.

Pilot and feasibility studies

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.

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.