Ethical approval: resources for applicants

All research involving human participants, whether undertaken by the University's staff or students, must undergo an ethics review and ethical approval must be obtained before it commences. ‘Human participants’ are defined as including living human beings, human beings who have recently died (cadavers, human remains and body parts), embryos and foetuses, human tissue and bodily fluids, and personal data and records (such as, but not restricted to medical, genetic, financial, personnel, criminal or administrative records and test results including scholastic achievements).

Before you begin the application process please ensure you have consulted the guidelines for ethical approval. 

  • Guidelines for ethical approval of research involving human participants (.pdf)
    This document sets out the University requirements, including the protection and rights of participants and our requirements for informed consent.
  • The Moodle course Research Involving Human Participants provides an overview of the responsibilities researchers have when conducting research involving human participants.  It also outlines the ethical considerations of such research. Completion of this course is recommended before commencing an application for ethical approval for the first time

Research must not commence until written approval has been received. This should be borne in mind when setting a start date for the project. Ethical approval cannot be granted retrospectively and failure to obtain ethical approval prior to data collection will mean that these data cannot be used.

Application review processes

University ethics review and application

HRA ethics review

If your project involves NHS participants it may require a review through the Health Research Authority (HRA). Any application to the HRA will need to be authorised by the Research Governance and Planning Manager so it is important that you to contact the Research Governance Team, as soon as possible so we can provide you with help and advice about the process.

There are various bodies that may or may not need to review your application depending on the project to be undertaken and the participants involved. In addition, if your research requires a review by one of UK Health Departments’ Research Ethics Service Committees, you will not need to seek a full ethics review through the University’s review processes.

The following points may help you to get started:

  • Projects involving the NHS may be classified by the University as research but may not be so classified by the HRA, e.g. service evaluations and audits. The HRA will only review a project defined as research by the HRA, please refer to the HRA Decision Tool. In cases where the project has not been defined as research by the HRA, ethical approval will need to be sought through the University’s ethics review processes (see University Ethics Review tab).
  • Whatever approvals are required through the HRA you will need to develop this in the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) and, once formally authorised, electronically submit the form and supporting documents. There is comprehensive question-specific guidance available and it is essential that you follow this closely.
  • But do not forget you should not develop NHS applications until you have discussed this with the unit in which you wish to undertake the research

Resources

MoD ethics review

Does your research involve the Ministry of Defence or serving members of the military? If so, you will need to make an application to MoDREC.

Please contact the research governance team (reo-governance@essex.ac.uk) at an early stage if such an application is required.

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REO Research Governance Team