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Ethical Approval

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

All members of the Department conducting research  must apply for ethical approval from the Ethics Committee, or in the case of students, confirm with their supervisor whether ethical approval is not required.

Generally, any research involving human participants or access to sensitive data will require ethical approval in advance.

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 Ethics Committee.


How to Apply for Ethical Approval

Staff

Staff need to complete the application form found here - www.polis.cam.ac.uk/application-for-ethical-approval-for-researchers  - before the research commences. This should preferably be done before a research application is submitted, in order to allow time for any feedback from ethics commitee to be incorporated.

If you have any questions about this process and the documents required, please contact .

Undergraduates

Undergraduate students writing a dissertation involving participants or using personal data will need to seek ethical approval from the Ethics Committee.  

Please note that Undergraduate students conducting interviews/focus groups will need to be supervised and you must provide the details of this person when you complete the form.

Please download and complete the Undergraduate Ethical Approval Form and return it to the Undergraduate Secretary, who will forward it to the Director of Undergraduate Education to be signed. Once approved, forms will be sent to the Ethics Committee for review and approval.  

Graduates

MPhil students should follow the procedures outlined on this page - Ethical Approval for MPhil students. 

PhD students should follow the procedures outlined on this page - Ethical Approval for PhD students. 


GDPR Compliance

All researchers conducting studies with human participants must ensure that their participant information documents are compliant with the new GDPR legislation.

If you are unsure of whether your participant information sheet will be sufficient, please complete and include the following additional Privacy Notice template with your participant information sheet- GDPR Privacy Template.

Alternatively, you can include a link to direct your participants to the University's standard GDPR policy.

If you have any questions about GDPR compliance, please contact .


Thinking about Risk

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

Students who are applying for Leave to Work Away need to both apply for Ethical Approval and to conduct a risk assessment to assess the potential risks involved in your research and how you will mitigate them. 

The Risk Assesment form for MPhil and PhD students can be found with the Graduate Student Resources.

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.