Applying for ethical approval

The University's ethics application process for students and staff, approval pathways, and forms.

If you are conducting research involving human participants, and/or their tissue or data, you should follow the appropriate route indicated below:

ethical approval flow chart

How to apply

Complete the application form (DOC), providing the following:

  • Project details, including dates for activity requiring ethical approval
  • Funding arrangements
  • Research questions and methodology
  • Participants – recruitment, sample size, how you’ll contact them, inform them about the study, and get their consent to participate (and withdraw if they choose to do so), how you’ll deal with issues that may arise
  • How you’ll collect store and dispose of your research data
  • Whether you’ll be carrying out your research overseas, and any implications
  • Whether your research is deemed to be security sensitive
  • How you’ll disseminate your research findings

What documentation do you need to provide?

You are required to provide the following details:

  • Research proposal or project design
  • Participant information sheet and consent form, including a UWE Bristol privacy notice
  • Questionnaire/survey
  • External ethics approval and any supporting documentation (if appropriate)

When do you need to apply?

You must allow six weeks for your application to be processed. Please note, over the summer and the Christmas and Easter vacations, your application may take up to eight weeks when scrutineers are not available to review applications.

How will your application be reviewed?

Applications are logged by the Research Ethics Administrative team, and sent out to members of the Ethics Committees for scrutiny. Comments are collated and then passed to the Ethics Committee Chairs to make a decision on approval. Often further work or clarification is needed before full approval can be given (make sure you factor this into your timetable).

You cannot start collecting data until you have full ethical approval for that activity.

Potential outcomes of an ethics application are:

  • full approval
  • approval with conditions
  • revise and resubmit
  • not approved.

You will be given feedback to help you to make your application better. It is very unusual for an application to be ‘not approved’.

Once you have ethical approval:

  • Make sure that what you do is only what you have been given approval to do.
  • If you haven't got consent from your participants to share your data or use in ways not specified in your consent form, you can't do it!

Are you GDPR compliant?

The NHS and other research ethics committees

If your research project involves NHS patients, service users, organs, tissue, data or other bodily material, or is to be conducted on NHS property, please refer to our Health and Social Care research page.

If you have ethical approval from another external research ethics committee, for example from another Higher Education Institution, you will need to email this to your FREC or to RESC for ratification at researchethics@uwe.ac.uk.

Amendments

If things change, you need to let the Committee know, and may need to apply for further approval, for example changes to participant groups, protocols, or extensions. You can do this by completing an amendment form (DOC). This can generally be processed quite quickly.

Urgent approval in exceptional circumstances

If you need an urgent decision on your application, a special request for exceptional approval can be made by contacting the Research Ethics Administrative team at researchethics@uwe.ac.uk (Tel: +44 (0)117 32 81167). This option is only available to staff and not to undergraduate, postgraduate taught or postgraduate research students, and cannot be used to support a retrospective ethical approval.

If a project has multiple methods of data collection that do not require fast approval, then the researcher should request urgent processing only for the relevant part.

The researcher must accept that there are no guarantees that an urgent decision can be made by their deadline. It is dependent on the capacity of others.

If the application is of poor quality, then it will cease to be treated as urgent.

You will need to complete a short form (available from the Research Ethics Administrative team: researchethics@uwe.ac.uk) to explain why your application cannot be processed within the standard timescale). This form will need to be signed off by the RESC/FREC Chair.

The RESC/FREC reserves the right to delay processing urgent applications if the necessary administrative and scrutiny resources are not available to reach a decision with the urgency requested.