Some types of research will need ethical approval before it can begin.  Access to further guidance on the University processes for obtaining ethical approval of research can be found in the links below.

For research staff and students seeking further infomation in relation to undertaking research during the Covid-19 pandemic, please refer to the Research FAQs and the guidance on Restarting Research with Human Volunteers

 

How to Seek Ethical Approval for your Research

Research staff and students at the University of Aberdeen must assess whether formal ethical approval is required for their proposed research.

There are ethics committees for each broad research area and governance arrangements for researchers whose work requires NHS approval or permissions under Home Office regulations animals (for example under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act Amended 2012).

If your work involves NHS staff, data, patients, tissue, resources or facilities, you may need to apply to the local NHS Research and Development (R&D) department for access permission. Further information on gaining approvals or contacts for further advice are available from the following link: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/medical/researchgovernance/clinicalresearch/

Each of the Schools have an ethical review process in place and researchers, where appropriate, should submit their proposed research to one of the following Boards for ethical review.

  • Research Governance for Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition (Clinical/NHS related studies)
  • The School of Biological Sciences

Some areas of research are governed by external legislation and/or external regulatory requirements and where this is the case, specific governance and ethical review arrangements are in place. This applies to (for example) clinical research and research involving the use of animals (under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act Amended 2012).

Further Information

Further information on the University’s framework for ethical review is available in the Research Governance Handbook.

Do I need ethical approval for my research?

Guidance has been produced by the research ethics and governance committees to help establish whether formal ethical approval is required for a research proposal. This can be accessed via the discipline sections below. The checklists of questions are not exhaustive – they aim to cover most areas of research and disciplines, focusing on studies that involve human participants. If you need further clarification on whether your proposed research project needs ethical approval, please contact the relevant research ethics and governance lead for your area:

Guidance from Professional Associations
Discipline Association and Guidance Document
Accountancy European Accounting Association
Anthropology Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth: Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice
Computing Science

British Computer Society - Code of Conduct

Association for Computing Machinery - Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Criminology British Society of Criminology: Statement of Ethics for Researchers in the Field of Criminology
Economics

Royal Economics Society

European Economic Association

American Economic Association

Education British Educational Research Association: Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research
Engineering Joint Statement of Ethical Principles: Royal Academic of Engineering and the Engineering Council
Geography American Association of Geographers: Statement on Professional Ethics
History Oral History Society of the UK: Ethical Guidelines
Law (socio-legal) Socio-Legal Studies Association: Statement of Principles of Ethical Research
Management Academy of Management: Code of Ethics
Mathematics American Mathematical Society: Policy Statement on Ethical Guidelines
Politics Political Studies Association: Guidelines for Good Professional Conduct (PDF)
Psychology

British Psychological Society: Ethics and Standards

British Psychological Society: Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated research (PDF)

Real Estate Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
Social Research Social Research Association: Ethical Guidelines
Sociology The British Sociological Association: Statement of Ethical Practice (PDF)
Third Sector Research Scotland's Third Sector Research Forum (TSRF) Guide to applying ethical research principles
Visual Research ESRC National Centre for Research Methods Review Paper: Visual Ethics - Ethical Issues in Visual Research (PDF)

 

Arts, Social Sciences and Business

The Policy and Procedure for Ethical Review of Research (Committee for Research Ethics & Governance in Arts, Social Sciences & Business) is available here.

When considering an application for ethical review, researchers should first consider this checklist which provides useful information on possible ethical considerations during research activity. 

Ethical approval should be sought as early in the research proposal process as possible, and certainly before the research commences.

Note that where an application for ethical review is received, except where a full Committee review is required, a decision will normally be made within seven to fourteen working days (subject to operational requirements and potential delays outwith term-time.

Researchers are responsible for obtaining ethical approval for research projects regardless of whether the project is externally funded and whether ethical approval is mandated by the funders.  Colleagues are required to undergo formal ethical review and gain approval for each defined research project, and, on a biennial basis, for ongoing research activity where:

  • Research (including public engagement) involves human subjects (or their remains).
  • There are any issues which they feel might raise any ethical concerns during proposed research activity (for example, potential conflicts of interest; the use of artefacts; environmental impact; financial inducements for subjects). 
  • Research activity might involve the sharing of data or confidential information beyond the initial consent given (including where research relies solely on secondary data).

Ethical Review Process

Staff and postgraduate research students can apply for ethical approval of research activity through the electronic review process on SharePoint.

Undergraduate students and taught postgraduate students from within the School can apply for ethical approval of research activity by downloading and completing the ethics application form.

Any queries should be directed to the appropriate School Ethics Officer in the first instance.  The current list of School Ethics Officers is available on the associated Ethics Committee webpage

NHS Management Permission

If your work involves NHS staff, data, patients, tissue, resources or facilities, or participants who do not have the capacity to consent to participate, then you should contact researchgovernance@abdn.ac.uk in the first instance for advice.

Further information on gaining ethical approval and contacts for further advice are available from the following link: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/medical/researchgovernance/clinicalresearch/

Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition

For more information on SERB, please click on the links below

Background

As part of the requirements for research governance, the University of Aberdeen requires that approval from a research ethics committee is required for all research involving human participants or biological samples. The School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition Ethics Review Board (SERB) has been established to ensure that all research carried out by staff and students is reviewed by an appropriate ethics committee.

Some projects will fall under the remit of NHS Research Ethics Committee, Psychology or Rowett. 

SERB accepts projects for review where
  1. The study is 'research'.
    Research is defined by the University as "a process of systematic enquiry leading to new insights which contribute to a body of knowledge, effectively shared". Research is discriminated from audit or service evaluation by whether it is designed to generate knowledge beyond local circumstances that can be applied more generally. For practical purposes, this tends to mean that research studies are those designed to generate knowledge that may be published. Please refer to the ethical review flow chart for further guidance.
  2. The principal investigator is a member of staff within SMMSN.
  3. Please consult the University of Aberdeen Research Governance handbook. You may also find it useful to consult the flow chart above. If you think you don't need ethical approval or need further information, contact the SERB chair.

The local NHS ethics review service is called The North of Scotland Research Ethics Service. For information about NOSRES, meeting dates and closing dates, please visit the North of Scotland Research Ethics Service page on the NHS Grampian website.

Applying to SERB – some general points

Please refer to this document before starting your application.

Applications

  • Login to make or revise an application, or to review applications as a committee member

Key contacts

Resources

The following Participant Information Sheet (PIS) and Consent form are provided for guidance only and there may be reasons why these forms are not applicable to your study. The same applies to the exemplar form for obtaining peer review.

Physical Sciences and Engineering
Staff and PGR Research Projects

All staff and PGR research projects should be ethically assessed by the researcher to identify whether there is a need for formal ethical approval, using the self-assessment process detailed below. 

Ethical approval should be sought as early in the research proposal process as possible, and certainly before the research commences. For externally funded projects, the applicant should complete the self-assessment Ethical Review Checklist (Annex A) as described below to determine whether further ethical review will be required.  This should be done before the proposal is submitted to the Head of School and Research & Innovation (R&I) for first review - see also the   

If further review is required then, depending on the funding body's rules, full approval may not be needed at the application stage, but the applicant must obtain it before the research commences.  Any application for external funding should include a signed declaration that the applicant has understood his/her obligations under the institutional Research Ethics Framework and, where appropriate, the RCUK requirements. This is included on the grant application cover sheet.  

The ethical review process has two stages:

1.Self-Assessment
The Principal investigator shall determine by self-assessment if the research is requires formal ethical approval, using the Ethical Review Checklist (Annex A).  If the answer to any of the questions is YES, the project must be reviewed according to this Ethical Review and Approval Policy by completing the Ethics Review and Approval Form (Annex B).

Please note the following types of research are handled using different processes.

  • Research involving NHS staff, patients, facilities and premises is subject to ethical review by the NHS North of Scotland Research Ethics Service (NOSRES) (see www.nhsgrampian.org).  This includes research involving individuals when their status as NHS staff or patients is relevant to the research, even when a medical condition is not the subject of the research.
  • Research involving animal and biological materials is subject to Home Office regulations. Forms and guidance can be obtained from the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition or the School of Biological Sciences. Please also refer to the University's Statement on the Use of Animals in Research (downloadable from the Policy Zone).
  • Research involving adults who do not have the capacity to consent is subject to NHS ethical review procedures (www.nhsgrampian.org).
  • If collection of genetic resources (organisms, microorganisms, DNA, RNA, proteins, small molecules) from signatories to the Convention on Biodiversity/Nagoya Protocol is involved, then a relevant agreement must be in place before this can begin. This agreement must provide prior informed consent with mutually agreed terms and the must be in keeping with the Convention on Biodiversity/Nagoya Protocol and be obtained via the national focal point of the provider country. A statement to this effect must be included in grant applications that intend to make such collection.

2. Full Ethical Review and Approval
Once completed, the Ethical Review form will be forwarded to the Ethics Board.

The application will be forwarded to the School representative on the Ethics Board for consideration. In the event of a conflict of interest, or a particular specialist piece of research, this will be forwarded to a delegated alternative.

Proposals demonstrating potentially complex ethical issues will be reviewed by the Ethics Board. Some projects may require additional advice from the University Data Protection Officer, or on intellectual property issues by colleagues in Research & Innovation.

The University is required to report on ethical review activity. Therefore it is important that all reviews are directed to the Clerk of the Ethics Board (copsethics@abdn.ac.uk).

A response will normally be provided to the applicant within 7-14 days, although very complex proposals may take longer. Most reviews will be undertaken by circulation to appropriate reviewers within the University. The outcome of the review will be communicated to you by the Clerk of the Ethics Board as soon as practicable.

Taught Postgraduate and Undergraduate Research Projects

The University is responsible for all research activities undertaken at the institution.  As a result, the University must also be satisfied that research undertaken by students is also in compliance with these ethics procedures.  Ethical approval should be sought as
early in the research proposal process as possible, and before any research activity is undertaken.

ALL taught postgraduate students and Undergraduate Honours students preparing research projects must follow the steps below prior to the commencement of the research project.

1. Self-Assessment
Complete the Ethical Review Checklist (Annex A).  Once completed you should hand it into to your research/dissertation supervisor.  If the answer to any of the questions is YES, the research project needs further ethical review, as described below.  The project cannot begin until approval has been granted. 

Please note the following important exceptions to this process:

  • Research involving NHS staff, patients, facilities and premises is subject to ethical review by the NHS North of Scotland Research Ethics Service (NOSRES) (see www.nhsgrampian.org).  This includes research involving individuals when their status as NHS staff or patients is relevant to the research, even when a medical condition is not the subject of the research.
  • Research involving animal and biological materials is subject to Home Office regulations. Forms and guidance can be obtained from the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition or the School of Biological Sciences. Please also refer to the University's Statement on the Use of Animals in Research (downloadable from the Policy Zone).
  • Research involving adults who do not have the capacity to consent is subject to NHS ethical review procedures (www.nhsgrampian.org).
  • If collection of genetic resources (organisms, microorganisms, DNA, RNA, proteins, small molecules) from signatories to the Convention on Biodiversity/Nagoya Protocol is involved, then a relevant agreement must be in place before this can begin. This agreement must provide prior informed consent with mutually agreed terms and the must be in keeping with the Convention on Biodiversity/Nagoya Protocol and be obtained via the national focal point of the provider country. A statement to this effect must be included in grant applications that intend to make such collection.

2. Ethical Review and Approval
These projects will be ethically reviewed within the School; the precise nature of the review process depends on the discipline. Students should consult their supervisor and/or Programme Co-ordinator for details, or their School Ethics Officer   The current list of School Ethics Officers is available on the associated Ethics Committee webpage (i.e. follow this weblink, then scroll down the webpage and click on the banner 'Committees for Research Ethics and Governance' and click on 'Physical Sciences and Engineering').

Ethics Review Policy & Approval Documents

Please ensure you are using the most up-to-date version by always downloading from below.

Useful Links

Internal

External

Psychology

All experiments conducted in the School of Psychology or by researchers based in the School require ethical agreement in order to protect volunteers' interests and to ensure that the highest possible standards are adhered to.

Further information on the application process for ethical review of research can be obtained here.

Rowett Institute

Staff and students associated with the Rowett Institute can access further guidance on the ethical review process via the Rowett Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are uploaded to the Institute's document management system, Q-Pulse. 

Further information on the ethical review process can be obtained from Mr Gary Cooper, Quality Manager, Rowett Institute.

School of Biological Sciences

Staff and student research projects must be submitted for ethical review where the nature of the proposed research activity requires ethical approval.  For example,

  • projects involving research on animal and biological materials (e.g. ASPA regulated procedures, genetic material subject to the Nagoya Protocol), or
  • projects involving human participants (e.g. interviews, workshops, focus groups)

Ethical approval should be sought as early in the research process as possible, and certainly before the research commences. 

Note: the above list of criteria for ethical review is not exhaustive.  For further advice on whether your proposed research will require ethical approval, or to submit an ethics application, contact Ana Payo-Payo .