By Catherine Fieulleteau, Ethics Integrity Manager, Graduate School
UEL is committed to preserving the dignity, rights, safety and wellbeing of research participants and as such it is a mandatory requirement of the University that formal ethical approval, from the appropriate Research Ethics Committee, is granted before research with human participants or human data commences. All research conducted by staff, postgraduate and undergraduate research students, including those from collaborating Institutions, are required to obtain ethical approval for research involving human participants.
Many publications will now no longer accept results of research studies for dissemination where ethical approval has not been obtained. As such, evidence of ethical approval will nearly always be required in order for researchers to publish findings within the broader community. In addition, it is now widely accepted that funding bodies, including research councils, will not grant financial support for research projects that have not received ethical approval.
Please be aware that the University does not grant retrospective ethical approval. Research conducted without ethical approval constitutes research misconduct and the researcher may be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
UEL conducts high quality, innovative research and is guided by the principles and standards outlined in The Concordat to Support Research Integrity 2012: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Documents/2012/TheConcordatToSupportResearchIntegrity.pdf and the University’s Code of Practice: http://www.uel.ac.uk/gradschool/currentstudents/library/. The University adheres to its responsibility to promote and support the highest standard of rigour, integrity and honesty, in all aspects of research:
UEL is committed to supporting The Concordat to Support Research Integrity and adheres to the Concordat’s five commitments:
- maintaining the highest standards of rigour and integrity in all aspects of research
- ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards
- supporting a research environment that is underpinned by a culture of integrity and based on good governance, best practice, and support for the development of researchers
- using transparent, robust and fair practices to deal with allegations of misconduct should they arise
- working together to strengthen the integrity of research and to reviewing progress regularly and openly
The signatories of the Concordat include:
- Department of Employment and Learning
- Higher Education Funding Council for England
- Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
- National Institute for Health Research
- Research Councils UK
- Scottish funding Council
- Universities UK
- Welcome Trust
Research involving the following requires ethical approval:
- Human participants – including simple, anonymous questionnaires, interviewing professionals at their place of work, focus groups, observations and taught courses/practical’s.
- Human data, personal and/or sensitive data – even if anonymised, may require ethical approval.
- Research on animals.
- Research that raises social and environmental issues.
Process of applying for ethical approval
The University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) reviews applications for ethical approval from staff and postgraduate researchers. For information please see: http://www.uel.ac.uk/gradschool/ethics/. School Research Ethics Committees (SRECs) review applications for ethical approval from taught Masters and undergraduate students. For the names of SREC Chairs see: http://www.uel.ac.uk/gradschool/ethics/membership/
UREC and SREC procedures for ethical approval differ.
- Applications made to UREC are required to use the UREC application form and template recruitment documents see: http://www.uel.ac.uk/gradschool/ethics/
- One hard, ink-signed copy of the full application, including recruitment documents should be submitted to Catherine Fieulleteau, Ethics Integrity Manager, Docklands Campus, EB 1.43.
- One electronic copy of the full application form in PDF format should be emailed to email@example.com.
- UREC will not accept applications that do not bear an ink-signed signature.
SRECs may have a simpler, condensed version of the research ethics application form.
- Recruitment documents are still required. All applications should include an Information Sheet and a Consent Form, where applicable.
- Each SREC has its own procedures for granting ethical approval. Consult the appropriate SREC Chair for guidance.
For both UREC and SREC, any amendments to approved applications, however minor, must be submitted to the relevant research ethics committee for approval.
Research requiring NHS approval
NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECS) review research involving:
- Patients, users of the NHS and their carers.
- Patients who fall under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
- Research governed by Human Tissue Act 2004
- Social Care Research Ethics Committees review all social care research funded by the Department of Health, and applies to users of the social care system.
Please see: http://www.nres.nhs.uk/.
Responsibilities of staff and students
- Academic staff members involved in the supervision and development of other researchers must be aware of their responsibilities and ensure that they have the necessary training, time and resources to carry out that role. Academic staff should request support, if required.
- Comply with legal and ethical requirements when conducting or collaborating in research in other countries. Both UK and the legislation of the other countries must be observed.
- Research staff and students, at all levels, are expected to comply with all legal, ethical and other requirements or guidelines that apply to research. Researchers may also have to satisfy the criteria of professional bodies or funders.
- Researchers should be aware of and keep actively up-to-date with research integrity issues.
UEL provides training and guidance on research integrity and research ethics to all staff and students: http://www.uel.ac.uk/gradschool/ethics/researchintegrityandresearchethicstraining/.
- Online Research Integrity Modules supplied by Epigeum Ltd are available to all staff and students. The Modules are accessed via Moodle using the normal UEL username and log in. The Research Integrity Modules are a suite of user-friendly, interactive training guides that provide guidance on good research practice and practical advice on solving research integrity and research ethics issues researchers may encounter. The Modules support and encourage researchers to achieve the necessary skills to foster a culture of honesty in their research; understand their responsibilities and obligations; meet the criteria required for several funding bodies and complete the ethics process. The Modules are tailored for each discipline and can be accessed online off campus.
New PGR students
Please note, it is mandatory for all new PGR students, including taught Masters students, to complete the Research Integrity Modules. New PGR students will be unable to register their research project if they have not completed the Modules. There is an after study quiz at the end of the Modules. PGR students must obtain a pass mark of 75%. A certificate of completion will automatically generate upon achieving the required grade. PGR students should print their certificate and submit the document with their research proposal.
- Catherine Fieulleteau holds weekly drop in sessions for all academic staff, supervisors responsible for supporting research students, and all students who would like guidance and advice on research involving human participants and human data. Drop in sessions are held on the following days and times:
- Stratford Campus: Thursdays 11-12. Arthur Edwards Building, Room AE 4.11.
- Docklands Campus: Fridays 11-12. East Building, Room EB 1.43.
- Telephone number 0208 223 6683
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- UEL welcomes external training on research integrity and research ethics. The Association for Research Ethics (AfRE) held a training session for UREC Committee members earlier in the year. AfRE will be conducting a further session on research integrity and research ethics on 3rd December 2014 for SREC Committee members. UEL researchers are welcome to attend. If you are interested in attending the training session please email Catherine Fieulleteau: email@example.com.
- The Chair of UREC runs bi-annual PGR and staff training sessions on research integrity and research ethics. In addition, training sessions are held throughout the Academic year. Please see the research ethics webpage, ReDS blog, inFocus and SREC Chairs for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.