HAPP Research Ethics Committee
What do research ethics procedures apply to?
All projects involving the collection or use of data from or about living individuals are subject to research ethics consideration and procedures. The School Research Ethics Committee (SREC) considers research ethics issues and applications. It operates under the overall guidance of the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC). The School Ethics Committee is concerned with the application of research ethics for all the research projects undertaken within the School. It has particular expertise in the human and social areas often studied by the disciplines within the School.
The Chair and members of the School Ethics Committee can be contacted for advice on particular projects.
- Dr Timofey Agarin (Chair)
- Prof Fiona Magowan (S1) Dr Paulo Sousa (S2) (Anthropology Representative)
- Professor John Garry, Dr Heather Johnson, Dr Ronit Berger Hobson (Politics Representatives)
- Dr Kieran Connell (History Representative)
- Dr Rebecca Bamford (Philosophy Representative)
- Dr Michael Potter (External Layperson)
The SREC conducts the review of ethics applications virtually in the intervals between meetings, retaining all documentation for audit and reporting purposes. The SREC meets at least once each academic semester, to review and update the procedures, policies and processes. It ensures that all documentation and considerations are kept up to date. It also submits an annual report to the University Research Ethics Committee.
The chair of the Research Ethics Committee sits on the School Research Committee. They report on ethical issues to the School Research Committee, which follows principles of equity and confidentiality. It must also deal with applications in acceptable time. SREC practice is governed by considerations of currency, rapidity, comprehensiveness, and confidentiality.
The approach to research ethics in the School rests on the basis that ethical considerations are fundamental for integrity of research. This means that, from the inception of research projects, ethical issues ought to be considered and integrated into research design and practice, in a deep and substantive manner. The focus is upon serious substantive consideration of ethical issues.
A complementary principle is that issues around ethical review of proposed research should be resolved at the appropriate level of responsibility, only being referred upwards when there are concerned which cannot be resolved at that level. This means that
- Staff projects are directly reviewed by the School Ethics Committee.
- Student projects would normally (although not always) be resolved by discussion between the supervisor and the student, and forwarded for additional review to the Chair of the SREC if these involve human participants or information about human participants.
Research projects would characteristically be generated by staff or by postgraduate research or taught students, as well as in limited number of cases, by undergraduate students working under close supervision of staff. Staff members, or staff and their student, should then consider the ethical issues involved in the project, focussing upon substantive issues and assisted by standard documentation. The normal expectation would be that staff projects may have to be referred to the School Research Ethics Committee (and possibly to the Faculty and/or University Research Ethics Committee), but that ethical issues for student projects would be resolved by dialogue between the supervisor and student, reported to the Chair of SREC.
In summary, then, the procedure for staff members’ research projects is to translate the substantive consideration of ethical issues which has informed the project from its inception, into the requisite form. For staff projects, then, the Research Ethics Application Form should be completed. The purpose of considering and completing these forms is to ensure the integrity of research across the School and its compliance with the School’s own, as well as University’s principles of research. If researchers are unsure they can informally approach the Chair of SREC for initial guidance.
Research Ethics Application Process
We encourage you to approach the application for ethical clearance as an opportunity to showcase your research; the form asks you to present your aims, objectives, research design and methods of data collection in clear terms. It is not a tickbox exercise.
In the 2020/21 academic year we have already seen that colleagues applying via this procedure have appreciated an opportunity to clarify their research aims, assess the appropriateness of their chosen method of data collection and selection procedures for their research aims, and have reflected on the impact these might have on their research subjects before beginning the fieldwork. We have already heard that this saved researchers considerable time when screening the field, doing fieldwork and assessing the information before they went into the field.
Who is involved in the Ethical Review Process?
Your application should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org noting that it is an Research Ethics Application in the subject line. It is first reviewed by the Assistant to the Chair of the SREC to check if it meets all the requirements and if all the necessary supporting documentation has been submitted. If anything is missing at this stage you will usually be asked to provide further information before your application can be sent on to the Chair for provisional review. Please help us to speed up the review process by ensuring you fill out the ethics application form as comprehensively and accurately as possible and that you submit all the required documents from the outset.
Once your application has been received by the Chair and checked for consistency, it will be sent for review. Most applications undergo expedited review which means that they are considered to involve no more than minimal risks that are outweighed by benefits. Such applications are usually reviewed by two reviewers.
Applications that involve more than a minimal level of risk or that involve vulnerable subjects (e.g. children, prisoners, pregnant women, mentally disabled persons, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons) require full review, involving the full SREC. Please refer to the Glossary on page 12 of the Policy on the Ethical Approval of Research for a full list of which groups are considered vulnerable by QUB; it is worth highlighting that one’s own students also fall into this category.
Once the initial review has been completed, the Chair will contact you with feedback. In most cases, you will be asked to provide some further clarification and/or make changes to your application before it can be approved. Please respond as quickly as possible to keep your application moving through the review process.
- How long does the ethical review process take?
Normally, a review should be completed within 10 working days, though current exceptional working conditions may slow this down. This does not include the time taken by the applicant to make revisions to the paperwork in response to committee feedback (we will normally give you a suggested timeframe for responding to requests for revisions to keep the process on track).
- How is ethical approval communicated? Is there anything else I need to do once approval is in place?
Once the committee is satisfied with your application you will receive a formal approval statement for the project concerned from the SREC. Please read the message carefully as it often would include the requirements in relation to the conduct of the project. For all projects involving fieldwork, we strongly recommend to add any research project involving human participants, their material or data to the University’s Insurance Database, which is accessible through QOL under ‘My Research’. Supervisors (as Principal Supervisors) must also add their students’ projects to this database. It is your responsibility to abide by all regulations in relation to data handling and storage.
Applicants are also reminded of the need to notify the SREC of any substantial changes to the research protocol, before these can be implemented.
- What should I do if my project changes whilst underway, or runs over the original time period specified?
Applicants must notify the SREC of any substantial changes to the research protocol, before these can be implemented. These need to be reviewed and approved by the committee in the normal way. Such changes might include research methods used, number or nature of participants, duration of project, etc.. We have developed an Amendment Request Form for this purpose which is available in the Ethics Forms folder and should be submitted to email@example.com to the Assistant to the Chair by email as outlined above. Amended versions of participant information sheets/consent forms/any other supporting documentation must also be supplied if relevant.
Submitting your application
Submitting your application
You can access the form in SharePoint under Forms & Regulations:
Once you complete the form, you should review the document before submitting it together with all attachments to the Assistant of the SREC Chair for consideration.
Throughout the application process, you will need to submit three additional files
- Description of Research Procedures;
- Sample of your interview questions, or in case you have not prepared a final version of it, a sufficiently detailed draft;
- Consent Form (template is a part of the application package in the form above).
- Description of Research Procedures
You have to annex a separate description of the research procedures for distinct methods of data collection involved in your research (e.g., a description of the interview procedure and description of your focus groups procedure). We are looking to see that your methods of data collection, particularly those involving human participants, are legitimate in the light of your research aims, are appropriate in the context of the research design, and have been chosen after systematic exclusion of other methods of data collection (eg secondary data analysis).
You are required to attach a detailed description of each of the procedures of your research (e.g., if the research involves a questionnaire, explain the rational for the use of the questionnaire). If you are undertaking work with vulnerable groups, please do consider justifying this in your description; if you are planning to work with children, please ensure you include an additional description outlining procedures of participant selection and reflecting on process of accessing parental consent.
- Interview Schedule/Observation Scheme
You have to annex a separate lists of questions you intend to ask of your research subjects. (e.g., a list of interview questions, if your research involves interviews). If at the time of submitting your application for ethical approval you do not have the final version of questions (e.g., you may not have the final version of the interview schedule, or phrasing of interview questions), you have to provide at least a good sketch of the procedure (e.g., of the types of questions that will be used in the interview).
There may be components of your methodology that don’t need ethical approval (e.g., interpretative analysis of publically available information, access to and referencing freely accessible sources, meetings with individuals to assess the background information for your research aims). You don’t need to annex a description of these components.
- Consent Form
You will find the template for your Consent Form at the end of the template document; you will need to amend the details of your project/names of investigators and submit it as part of the consolidated word document. All your submitted details should be collated together and the Participant Information Sheet should be updated with the information from the individual sections in the form. REC will retain these documents for the record and accountability.
Your submitted form will have several parts to it, including Participant Information Sheet with the adjoined Consent Form; you will need to supply these as one file to your research subjects before commencing the interview/fieldwork.
We encourage you to read over the empty template to have a clear view of what needs to go into which form – you will also see at the end of this template document which sections from the form will be automatically transposed into Participant Information Sheet.
If you are a staff member or a PhD student, completing this form will initiate the process of formal ethical review. Other things being equal, first-year PhD students should submit the form only after differentiation, when the details of their research design are completely finalized.
If you are a BA or MA student, you will need to complete this form and it will be passed on to your supervisor (and/or module convenor) to confirm that all the information is correct and truthful. Supervisors (and/or module convenors) have three options open to them, which they will need to indicate on this form.
- If they think the research poses little risk and does not need further evaluation, they should explicitly indicate to the Chair of the School REC that this is the case. In this option, the School REC will just retain the application without pursuing a process of formal ethical review.
- If, by contrast, they are of the opinion that the research has implications for research integrity, they shall explicitly indicate that the application should go through the process of formal ethical review: expedited or full review. In this option, the Chair of the School REC will pursue the normal process of formal ethical review. All research collecting data in relation to or involving human participants will require an expedited review, whereas research dealing with vulnerable participants will undergo full review.
Further Information and Helpful Links
You will also find it helpful to consult the following documents to ensure all the information you will have provided is in line with the QUB and HAPP regulations on Research Integrity and Ethical Guidelines in Research.
There is a comprehensive list of answer to the most frequent questions, which you can access here
You can access relevant university policies here. Please do pay specific attention to these policies:
- QUB Policy and Principles on the Ethical Approval of Research
- Research Involving Human Participants During the COVID 19 Pandemic
Our Guidanance to Navigating Research Ethics Application
- General Data Protection Regulation & Research Ethics
- Guidance for Undertaking Research during Covid-19
- Ethics of Online Research
- Data Privacy
You can access essential documents and forms from the HAPP SharePoint/Research/Research Ethics, here
This information is accessible by HAPP Staff only.
Students who require an Ethics Form should access HAP4000 on Canvas under relevant level.
- HAPP Research Ethics Application Form
- HAPP Photography and Video Recording Consent Form
- HAPP Application for Amendment to an Approved Research Application
- Enhanced Disclosure for Research with Human Participants
You might find useful the Ethics Review Training and comprehensive outline of requirements in online training exercise prepared by the School of Social Science, Education and Social Work, AHSS:
- Link to training for applications for ethical clearance of research: http://edu.qub.ac.uk/ssesw/ethics_review/#/
- An introduction to Ethics in Research can be accessed here https://sway.office.com/ENCiMsfn2HMtFdI0?ref=Link