Ethical approval of research
The consideration of whether planned research has any ethical implications and addressing any issues arising are key aspects of good practice in research. Staff and students should also be aware that City’s insurance and indemnity cover will not address issues arising from research where necessary ethical approval has not been obtained.
The importance of the ethical approval of research
It is vital that ethical approval is sought where required and that staff and students abide by the terms of any approval given. No research participant should be recruited or contacted until all necessary approval has been obtained.
For example, if consent is not properly obtained from research participants (vulnerable or otherwise), or if data protection and record keeping requirements are not properly addressed, damage to participants and/or possible litigation could ensue. Similarly, if issues relating to researcher or participant safety are not adequately addressed, serious problems may arise.
Examples of research which has implications requiring ethical approval include in particular:
- any data collection that involves an individual such as questionnaires, interviews, clinical trials or direct observation
- research on any of the following, including the use of questionnaires and surveys: children (those under 18), those unable to give informed consent, minority groups, vulnerable categories, pregnant women or women in labour and persons with a physical or mental disability
- studying illegal activities
- any research involving collection of personal information whether directly from individuals or via individual records
- research on human tissue or involving a direct physical intervention.
- research involving animals
Staff undertaking research which includes any of the above areas will need to submit their research proposals for approval at either Department/Division/School or institutional level according to the delegations framework agreed by the Senate Research Ethics Committee.
For students undertaking research which has ethical implications, approval usually needs to be sought in the first instance at School, Divisional or Department level in line with School policy, details of which should be published in course handbooks and on these webpages. Dependent on the nature of the research it may be necessary for institutional level approval to be obtained.
Consideration should also be given to any issues arising as the research develops which may trigger ethical concerns, whether these involve ethical issues which were not initially predicted or a change in the research leading to a variation to the basis on which ethical approval may initially have been given. In such cases further guidance should be sought to establish whether an amendment or re-approval is necessary. If any untoward events occur during the research (whether directly related or associated) or if the study is stopped or abandoned, this should also be reported; information on which is detailed under City's guidance on the ethics approval process.
Service evaluation and audits
Service evaluation is undertaken to explore the value of a service and identify both positive factors of the service as well as areas that might need further development. This will involve both those who use the service and those who deliver it. Audits usually entail assessing a service against predetermined criteria with a view to improving or changing a service. Whilst these do not usually require ethical approval you will need to seek this if you wish to publish this evaluation in any journal.