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Ethical Approval for Research

POLIS adheres to University policies on research standards, including the Policy on the Ethics of Research Involving Human Participants and Personal Data.

Your Supervisor is the first point of contact when thinking about ethical issues in your research, but further information is available through the links below –

The Research Operations Office website on Ethics in Research gives details of how ethical approval is managed within the University.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (HSS REC) reviews complex or high-risk ethics issues in research projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences or cognate areas. All research involving vulnerable adults or participants under 18 will be referred to the HSS REC after consideration by the Department’s Research Committee.


Insurance

In some instances, researchers may be asked to provide proof that they and their research is covered by the University Insurance. To receive confirmation of this, researchers should contact Victoria.Hollamby@admin.cam.ac.uk to discuss the process.

 


How to Apply for Ethical Approval

*PhD students should not seek ethical approval until they have completed their first year registration exercise.* 

Step 1: Consult the relevant guidance and write your research proposal (see Thinking about Ethics, below).

Step 2: Select the correct application form and return it to your Course Administrator (see Which form do I need, below) after consultation with your Supervisor, in advance of the start of your planned research at least a week in advance of the Research Committee (dates listed below). 

Research Committee Meetings

18th October 2016

29th November 2016

31st January 2017

7th March 2017

25th April 2017

30th May 2017

 


Thinking about Ethics

When planning your research and before you complete the application form, you may wish to consult the following guidance –

When ethical approval is required - this document is drawn from the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics and lists some of the many types of research which require ethical approval. The full ESRC Framework for Research Ethics is available online and is a very useful tool for researchers.

The Cambridge University Skills Portal has a series of online research skills courses for students and staff; each course takes only half an hour. Ethics 1: Good Research Practice and Ethics 2: Working with Human subjects are particularly relevant.

Points to consider when planning your research – a list of areas you will need to have explored when planning your research, writing your proposal and submitting your application for ethical approval.

An example research proposal – an example proposal from the ESRC Framework with ethical considerations included.

The Data Protection Act - a guide to the principles and how you should ensure you protect personal data you have gathered/are using for your research.  


Thinking about Risk

Keeping yourself safe is also an important ethical consideration, for everyone involved in a study.

As part of your ethics application, you need to conduct a risk assessment (the final page of the application form) and assess the risks involved in your research and how you will mitigate them. 

The Ethics Guidebook has a useful page on Risks to Researchers which we recommend that you read through. It highlights five important dimensions - 

  • risk of physical threat or abuse;
  • risk of psychological trauma, as a result of actual or threatened violence or the nature of what is disclosed during the interaction;
  • risk of being in a comprising situation, in which there might be accusations of improper behaviour;
  • increased exposure to risks of everyday life and social interaction, such as road accidents and infectious illness; and 
  • risk of causing psychological or physical harm to others.

The Social Research Association also has a Safety Code of Practice which we recommend that you consult as well. 


Which form do I need?

The procedure you need to follow depends on whether your research involves certain types of data, or participants, and whether the participants are adults, vulnerable adults or under 18.

Each procedure is listed below, and summarised in the flowchart.

If your research involves Adult participants

You will need Ethical Approval from your Supervisor, with review by the Research Committee.

You must submit the (A) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents (listed on the form) to your Course Administrator.

If your research involves Vulnerable Adult participants

You will need Ethical Approval from your Supervisor, the Research Committee and the HSS REC.

You must submit the (VA) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents (listed on the form) to your Course Administrator.

You may also need to apply for ethical approval from any relevant external committee.

If your research involves participants under the age of 18

You will need Ethical Approval from your Supervisor, the Research Committee and the HSS REC.

You must submit the (U18) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents (listed on the form) to your Course Administrator.

You should also read the additional Guidance for participants under 18

If your research involves access to personal, controlled or confidential data

You will need Ethical Approval from your Supervisor, with review by the Research Committee.

You must submit the (DATA) Application for Ethical Approval Form and the required documents (listed on the form) to your Course Administrator.

If your research does not involve participants or use personal, controlled or confidential data

You should not need ethical approval but should submit the Ethics Confirmation Form to your Course Administrator.

 Flowchart