Frequently asked questions

Answers to popular questions about research ethics applications. Please also see our FAQs specific to student research projects and FAQs on research in the NHS.

This is my first application for ethical approval – where do I start?

For general information on when you need to apply for ethical approval, who to contact, and how to prepare an application, members of staff should contact your Faculty Research Ethics Committee (FREC) Chair or Secretary.

Students should refer to the separate students research FAQs.

If you are not a member of a Faculty (for example, you work in a UWE Bristol Professional Service), please contact Leigh Taylor (FREC Officer).

Under what circumstances do I need to apply for ethical approval for my research?

All research involving human participants, their tissue and/or data must be subject to research ethics scrutiny by the University's Research Ethics Sub-Committee (RESC) or one of its Faculty Research Ethics Committees (FRECs).

If your research falls within the scope of the Health Research Authority's UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research, there are special requirements relating to Ethics (see guidance) and NHS Research FAQs.

How long will my application take?

You are advised to prepare research ethics applications early as, depending on the time of year and availability of Committee members, the processes and procedures of scrutiny can take up to six weeks to complete. An application through the NHS Research Ethics Committee system may take longer than this.

What is meant by 'informed consent'?

Informed consent is an ethical requirement of the research process. Potential research participants should be given sufficient information about a study, in a format they understand, to enable them to exercise their right to make an informed decision whether or not to participate in a research study. View guidance on consent forms.

What is the difference between passive and active consent?

Active consent requires a research study participant (or their representative, e.g. a parent in the case of research on minors) to sign and return a form agreeing to participate in the research. Under passive consent, information and a consent form are provided and the ‘participant’ (or their representative) must actively refuse to participate in the research.

The lack of an objection is deemed to be consent. Put simply, if you don’t say 'no', it means that you are saying 'yes'! This is considered by some to be ethically questionable.

What do I need to include on a Participant Information Sheet?

A Participant Information Sheet should give potential recruits to a research study sufficient information to make a decision as to whether or not they wish to take part in the research. It should be written in language that could easily be understood by any person. View guidance on preparing a Participant Information Sheet.

I am working with human tissue - do I need to get ethical approval for my research?

All research using human tissue requires ethical approval. Human tissue is defined as material that has come from a human body and consists of, or includes, human cells. View policies and procedures for human tissue research.

Do I need to encrypt my research data?

If you are dealing with personal data or sensitive personal data (SPD) and there is a need to store the data or transfer it outside of the UWE Bristol secure servers, then encryption must be used. See the guidance on data protection on the staff intranet (UWE Bristol log in required) and Data Protection Protocol 4 - Encryption.

Do I need ethics approval if I am collecting data via the internet?

If your research involves human participation, then it must be subjected to research ethics scrutiny by the RESC or one of the FRECs in the same way as research by interview or questionnaire. Further guidance can be found at UK Data Archive.

Do I need to get ethical approval before I submit my bid for funding?

Before applying for a research grant, you should always check the terms and conditions applied by research funders. Some require ethical approval prior to application; most make ethical approval a condition of the award once offered.

How do I complete the ethics section on my EU proposal?

All proposals received by the Commission must describe the ethical, safety and socio-economic issues raised by the research proposed and how they will be addressed. The EU provides guidance on ethical review.

Who needs a DBS check?

The aim of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is to help protect children and vulnerable adults to support organisations recruiting people into positions of trust.

Students undertaking research as part of their programme of study/research students whose work involves one-to-one or other unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults will usually need to be DBS checked.

If you require a DBS check, please contact Vicky Nash or Marisa Downham in the Graduate School.

Staff undertaking research work which involves one-to-one or other unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults will usually be checked. The need for a check should be identified by the researcher and manager on the basis of the nature of the activity involved. However, Research Ethics Committees may make recommendations regarding DBS checks for projects they review, in line with the University's policy. Members of staff requiring DBS checks should contact HR.

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