All research involving human participants and/or human tissues requires ethical approval by the University's Research Ethics Sub-Committee (RESC) or one of the Faculty Research Ethics Committees (FRECs).

Ethical research is honest, rigorous, transparent, respectful and protects participants.

Participants are a valuable part of the research process and not merely a means of accessing data. Ethical review provides protection for participants, and also helps to protect the researcher. By obtaining ethical approval the researcher is demonstrating that they have adhered to the accepted ethical standards of a genuine research study.

Participants have the right to know who has access to their data and what is being done with it. If ethical approval has not been obtained, the individual researcher bears personal responsibility for any claims that may be made.

Research funders will generally only fund research that has ethical approval, and many publishers will not accept for publication results of research that was not ethically approved.

Principles of good ethical research

  • Voluntary, and informed, participation – free from coercion or undue influence
  • Worthwhile, and providing value that outweighs any risk or harm
  • Respect for the rights and dignity of participants, including confidentiality and anonymity
  • Conducted with integrity and transparency
  • Independent (and any conflicts of interest or partiality made explicit)
  • Clear definition of lines of responsibility and accountability

All universities are required to have a research ethics framework with which all researchers must comply, and ethical approval is needed for all research undertaken by university staff and students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) wherever research and related activities involves human participants or raises ethical issues. Ethical issues should be considered early on in the planning process and approval must be obtained before any primary data collection for the project begins.

All academic staff engaged in research, both externally grant-funded or undertaken as part of their internally allocated workload, are required to complete the University's online Research Ethics training module (requires a UWE Bristol staff login).

Applying for ethical approval