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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who should submit a Human Research Ethics (HRE) form?

    Everyone undertaking a project that includes a research aspect, including all final year projects, research projects and projects that involve a developing a system, or a systems analysis or design aspect. This includes all projects that involve developing a system where people are asked to test the system, or research on humans is part of the requirements analysis for systems analysis or design. It includes students (undergraduates and taught postgraduates as well as research students) and also includes research associates and all other members of staff.
  2. What do I have to do to undergo the ethical review of my project?

    You need to download the appropriate form from here and fill it in. The researcher (student or member of staff) fills in the first page and then discusses it with his or her supervisor or line manager.

    The appropriate documentation (e.g. consent letter, research arrangements, etc) should be included with the HRE submission.
  3. Are there research projects that do not need to be reviewed?

    In principle the review is only necessary for research involving human beings. However, this may be the case even if you do not work directly with humans, for example by using archived data. It should be good standard to fill in a form for every research project, even if no ethical issues are to be expected.
  4. When should I submit the Human Research Ethics form?

    For undergraduate student projects, they should be submitted and discussed with the Terms of Reference. Ethical evaluation is an integral part of research and supervisors should not accept TOR without Human Research Ethics forms.

    Undergraduate students engaged in projects where no explicit TOR is required (i.e. HND projects), should consult their module notes regarding the submission of the Human Research Ethics form.

    Research Students need to submit their HRE form together with their registration.

    Members of staff must have undergone ethical review before they submit proposals to funding bodies.
  5. How do I know what category my project will fall into?

    This decision should be made by the supervisor / line manager. Guidelines for the decision are:

    Outcome 1: only possible if no interaction with human beings is possible and no identifiable data of individuals is used.

    Outcome 2: outcome where students interview individuals, do surveys, observe, participate with adults who understand the research and realise they can withdraw their participation. Supervisor must make sure that the appropriate boxes on page 2 are ticked and that the student actually knows how to address the ethical concerns.

    Outcome 3: research with vulnerable people, people who may not understand the research and their role. Examples could be children, patients in hospitals, people with mental disabilities etc. Also applies to research into illegal activities or research that could produce risk or injury. The student / researcher must find ways to address these problems and the supervisor must be convinced that they have been addressed satisfactorily.

     Outcome 4: ethically problematic research where the problems could not be addressed in a satisfactory way.
  6. What do I do if my project seems to lie between two categories?

    When in doubt, choose the higher evaluation.
  7. What happens with the HRE form once it has been filled in and agreed by the supervisor?

    7.1 If the supervisor decides on evaluation 1 or 2, s/he registers this decision in the appropriate channels (R drive, spreadsheet, module leader,…) The form remains with the supervisor

    7.2 If the supervisor evaluates the project as a 3, then the HRE form (HREF) is forwarded to the Chair of the Faculty Human Research Ethics Committee (FHREC) for information. The entire form should be forwarded to the Faculty Office, who will pass it on to the Chair of the Committee.

    7.3 If the project is evaluated as a 4, then no further research is to be undertaken until the ethical issues are resolved. The supervisor/line manager contacts the Chair of the FHREC to help with further decisions.
  8. How do I deal with minor ethical issues (category 2) that are likely to arise when I do a survey or interview people?

    It is important that your respondents are aware of the research they participate in and understand the consequences. They must consent to the use of the data they provide. On the Human Research Ethics website you can find sample letters that can be used to document consent. If these are not applicable to your research, you need to discuss the way forward with your supervisor. In the case of anonymous surveys it may be enough to explain the research on the survey itself and submission of the survey can be counted as consent.

    As a standard of good project work, it is assumed that you discuss any letters, surveys, questionnaires, case study protocols, interview guidelines etc. with your supervisor before administering them. This should help flag up potential ethical issues.

    Sample Consent Letter 
  9. What happens if I do not submit a Human Research Ethics form?

    For undergraduate students this is a sign of bad project management and will result in the subtraction of marks for the management of their research project and/or other penalties as described in your module notes.

    For research students, if this is not submitted then their application to register will not be approved.

    Members of staff must be aware that the funding bodies require ethical evaluation. Projects may be rejected if no ethical approval was sought and some funding bodies may even blacklist the entire university if they find projects were not evaluated. Since it is University policy to require Human Research Ethics approval, failure to seek it may lead to disciplinary proceedings against staff.
  10. What if my research requires the use of human tissue?

    Any research using human tissue falls under the Human Tissue Act and thus raises a number of issues that need to be addressed. The Faculty of Health and Life Sciences have a dedicated unit that can give detailed advice on this. The Chair of the Faculty Human Research Committee should be notified of any such project as early as possible to ensure that no problems arise in the approval of the ethics form.

  11. Are there special regulations that apply when I do research on or with the UK government?

    The UK government has issued special guidelines for government social research ethics which anybody researching government should consult and adhere to the GSR Code - Professional standards and guidance for GSR members.

 
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