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Ethics Committee

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All research involving human subjects or human subject data must undergo an ethical review before respondents are recruited and fieldwork commences. Research undertaken within the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work is generally reviewed by one of two ethical committees.

  • If your research is in the field of health/social care, involves health/social care services users, patients or staff, needs to access service user/patient/ staff data, or involves taking tissue samples or testing medical interventions, your project will most likely require an ethical opinion from an HSC Research Ethics Committee. Full details of the application process, including guidance for applicants and details of the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS), can be found on the Office for Research Ethics Committee (ORECNI).
  • All other human subject research undertaken within the school is reviewed by the School Research Ethics Committee (SREC).

Research Governance

The ethical review of research sits within a broader research governance framework. Research governance is about having a range of regulations, principles and standards of good practice to maintain the integrity of the research conducted within the University. Governance and integrity are essential to ensuring that the rights of research participants are safeguarded, that researchers have considered their own vulnerabilities when undertaking the research and risks to themselves and research participant are managed. Further details on the University’s Research Governance Framework can be found here. These pages also provided further details on such topics as indemnity, sponsorship, peer review, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and the HSC R&D Application Gateway.

School Research Ethics Committee (SREC)

The remit of SREC is to ensure that all research carried by students and staff under the auspices of the School of Sociology, Social Policy, and Social Work (SSPSW) has undergone ethical scrutiny and has gained approval prior to commencement.

Committee Members (2015/6)

Dirk Schubotz (Chair)

Paula Devine

Eileen Gray (Secretary)

Eoin Flaherty

Veronique Altglas

David Hayes

Michelle Butler

Kathy Higgins

Emma Calvert

Cheryl Lawther

Anne Campbell

Siobhan McAlister

Nicola Carr (sabbatical)

Audrey Roulston

Gemma Carney

Andy Percy

Mike Corman

Elizabeth Martin (PGR)

Marie-Louise Corr

Grainne Boyle (PGR)

Teresa Degenhardt

Sarah Lawrence (PGR)

Please contact the committee chair or secretary should you have any questions regarding an ethics application.

Scheduled Meetings 2015/6

  • 30 September 2015
  • 2 December 2015
  • 27 January 2016
  • 2 March 2016
  • 27 April 2016
  • 29 June 2016

Guiding Principles

  • All school staff involved in the collection of primary data or the analysis of secondary data (either as the Principal Investigator of a research study or the supervisor of UG of PG student research) are responsible for ensuring that ethical approval has been granted prior to commencement of the research (i.e. you have received confirmation from the Chair or Vice Chair of SREC stating that the study has been approved by SREC).
  • No delay to the research process should be caused by SREC procedures, unless approval is not given.
  • Feedback from SREC will be sensitive and constructive, especially if a problem prevents approval and will indicate how the proposal could be improved to secure approval. The committee is only able to reach one of three decisions when reviewing applications: full approval, approval with minor amendments, and return to researcher for serious amendment.
  • Proposals that involve out-of-the-ordinary processes/circumstances or that cannot be processed because of disagreement within the Committee are reviewed by the Head of School and School Management Board. Where appropriate they may be referred to QUB Central Research Committee or OREC (out-of-the-ordinary processes or circumstances might include working with vulnerable people or children on sensitive topics, using deception or exposing participants or researchers to potential harm);
  • All business transacted by the Committee is strictly confidential.

Ethical considerations

The ethical issues that should be considered for each application include:

  • Requirements for participant information
  • Risks and benefits to participants
  • Kind of consent sought (informed, active, passive, consent/ascent)
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Participant compensation
  • Conflict of interest
  • Researcher safety

Guidelines and application forms

Guidelines on applying for ethical approval (Staff/PGR/PGT). This is a short summary of the ethical application process. It also contains Word versions of all the various forms.

Ethics Review Flow Chart.  This flowchart aims to help Principal Investigators (PI) decide whether the research requires ethical approval and if so, the appropriate ethics committee and documentation required.

Applicant’s check list (Staff/PGR/PGT).  This provides a checklist of the documents usually submitted as part of an ethics application.

Which committee should review my application?

Investigators Checklist (Gov2 Form). This form will help Principal Investigators decide if the research requires ethical approval, and if so, which ethics committee has jurisdiction over your research (i.e., SREC or ORECNI). This form must be submitted as part of all ethics applications. 

Does my research require peer review?

Peer Review Flow chart. This document provides an overview of the peer review processes recommended by the School Research Ethics Committee.

Peer Review (Gov1). This form must be completed and submitted with all ethics applications, except in the case where the full peer review is necessary (see below). 

Full Peer Review Form (Gov4). If a study requires ORECNI approval and has not undergone a formal Peer Review then the PI will need to obtain two full peer reviews using the Gov4 form. For SREC studies submission of a full peer review form (Gov4) is not essential, the submission of completed Gov 1 summary forms (x2) is sufficient. However, if peer reviewers wishes to provide more detailed feedback to a PI, or if PI require a more detailed review and feedback, reviewers may use the Gov4 form even when the study is to be reviewed by SREC.

What else do I need to submit as part of my ethics application?

Staff and PGR/PGT Application Form (standard). This application form should be completed when requiring ethical review of a staff or PGR/PGT study.

Staff and PGR/PGT Application Form (annotated). This version of the Staff/PGR application form contains advice on how to complete the document, in particular what is expected within each section and when it is appropriate to skip sections.

Staff and PGR/PGT Application Form (secondary analysis). This application form should be completed when requiring ethical review of a staff or PGR/PGT study involving secondary analysis only.

Undergraduate research project ethics applications

The application process is slightly different for undergraduates based in the SSPSW. You need to complete the Research Ethics Approval Form. UG students should submit this form along with a summary of their methodology and a discussion of the ethical issues involved in their study (please see the UG dissertation module guide for further details). Your supervisor should also complete Gov1 (evidence of peer review) and Gov2 (PI checklist) forms.

Sample documentation

Sample Participant Information and Consent Form

Sample Verbal Consent Form