The University has implemented a new research ethics approval system - Worktribe Ethics. This online platform provides a single end-to-end solution for development, submission, review and approval of research ethics applications. The system was rolled out to each Ethics Board and their applicants during session 2022/3, in liaison with the Ethics Chairs.
The system is used for:
- All ethics applications except for (i) research involving the use of animals under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act Amended 2021 and (ii) clinical research, which will continue to be processed using the existing systems.
With the exception of applicants to the Psychology and SERB (PGT) Ethics Boards, undergraduate and taught postgraduate students will not use this system and should continue with their School's ethics application process.
Worktribe Ethics has been implemented by the following University Ethics Boards:
Engineering / Geosciences / Natural & Computing Sciences
Staff / Supervisors / PGRs
|Rowett Institute||Rowett Institute||
Staff / Supervisors / PGRs
Business / DHPA / Education / LLMVC / Law / Social Science
Staff / Supervisors / PGRs
Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition
Staff / Supervisors /PGRs / PGTs
Staff / Supervisors / PGRs
Staff / Supervisors / PGRs (UGs and PGTs to be included from session 2023/24 onwards)
Worktribe Ethics access is restricted to those who need to use the system.
Please consult the appropriate Ethics Board guidance for applicants before you commence your Worktribe Ethics application.
Sign into Worktribe at https://uoa.worktribe.com (University username and password will be required)
Users should be aware that actions within the system are automatically logged and are auditable.
Important Note: the development of an ethics application should be regarded as an iterative process that should commence during project planning. It is essential that researchers consider the ethical implications of their planned methodology at an early stage, and in consultation with the relevant Ethics Board/Committee guidance.
Notification to applicants - Christmas closure: If you are currently preparing an application for submission to the Worktribe Ethics process, please be aware that the University will close on Friday 22 December and will re-open on Monday 08 January 2024.
- Demonstration videos and supporting material
These demonstration videos were made by the project team in autumn 2022. They demonstrate how to use the Worktribe Ethics system and allow familiarisation.
Create an Ethics Application video - Duration: around 17 minutes
Supervisor Review Stage video - Duration: around 9 minutes
Ethics Application Initial Triage Stage video - Duration: around 10 minutes
Ethics Application Review Stage video - Duration: around 8 minutes
Ethics Application Final Triage Stage video - Duration: around 5 minutes
Ethics Application (Approved) - Applicant View video - Duration: around 2 minutes
Here is a guidance document with screenshots showing what an applicant will see if an ethics application has been either approved ("Favourable Opinion") or alternatively, if an application has been returned to them for revision and resubmission to the Worktribe Ethics process.
- Guidance on Preparing Your Application
The following generic guidance has been prepared for all researchers from the University of Aberdeen regarding the University's expectations for how applicants should address particular question sets within the Worktribe Ethics application.
Your Ethics Board/Committee may provide more specific guidance.
How early should I start my application?
Applications to the Worktribe Ethics process should only be submitted once the system has been adopted by the associated Ethics Board (see the roll-out schedule).
Once the system has gone live for your Ethics Board, then the earlier the better. You can save as you draft your application as there are a number of issues you will need to consider and respond to. Don’t forget to allow time for reviews and approval as well.
Do all projects need Ethical Approval?
No, not all projects will need ethical approval and there is a checklist for your discipline that will guide you through whether one is required.
Do I have to complete all the information in one sitting?
No, as long as you have answered the first screen of questions and saved you can then return to your application in Worktribe at any time to make changes before you submit.
Can I edit a project once I have submitted it for approval?
No. Once submitted, it becomes ‘View only’. Your Ethics Triage person can make minor changes on your behalf or can return to you if more extensive changes are required. There are other times the application can be amended by yourself before approval. For example, a reviewer requests a change or an ethics committee require a change.
I am co-investigator on a project where the principal investigator is based at another institution. Do both institutions have to give ethical approval?
Not normally, however we must be confident that the principal investigator's institution has comparable ethics approval processes. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance.
Does Worktribe assign a unique number to each ethics application?
Yes, it does assign a unique ID to each application, and we can search the system using this ID.
What if my ethical issue is not directly addressed by any of the Worktribe Ethics question sets?
On the Scope tab, the question ‘Does the proposed research raise any ethical issues or risk of reputational damage that are not covered above?’ can be used to provide further details of any ethical issues raised by your project that aren’t addressed in any of the other questions.
Do all applicants have to answer the question about peer review? What is meant by ‘peer review’?
This is a mandatory question and must be answered by all applicants. For the purposes of our application process, please tick ‘yes’ to this question only if the application has undergone formal peer review by an external or internal panel. For all other ethics applications, tick ‘no’ and enter ‘n/a’ in the text box. We do not require the upload of any evidence around peer review.
What level of detail is required for the question on how the research will be conducted in a way that ensures its quality and integrity? This is a mandatory question and must be answered by all applicants. It is asking for confirmation that applicants are aware of (and will abide by) the standards of good research conduct. As a minimum, a short statement should be provided to confirm that the applicant has completed the mandatory online training courses (available on MyAberdeen) on Research Integrity and on Research Ethics & Governance. Further to this, the response should confirm that the relevant University policies and procedures (e.g. the Research Governance Handbook, Data Management Policy, Data Protection Policy etc) have been consulted and will be adhered to within the research project. Where appropriate, reference could also be made to adherence to discipline-specifc guidance on good research practice, and where e.g. further advice has been sought from the University's Digital Research team (email@example.com) on research data management, and/or the Data Protection Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) on e.g. data protection issues in human participant research. What level of detail is required for questions around the location of the research? Do we really need to provide the names of buildings, room numbers etc?
The system prompts for a level of detail that is not always required. When answering this question, please bear in mind the implications of choosing the location of the research, for example, whether the location is on public or private premises, and whether the location poses any particular risks to participants or researchers
The application needs to contain sufficient information for the reviewers to form a judgement on whether any risks to participants and researchers have been considered and addressed sufficiently. For example, it may not be possible at the time of application to provide an exact location (i.e building, room number) for an interview or activity, but we would expect applicants to address travel to and from the anticipated venues, accessibility issues and personal safety.
For interviews/activities that take place on campus, in most cases, no further details will be required.
For interviews/activities that take place in other public places, please state an address if that is possible or location (e.g. Union Square Aberdeen).
For interviews/activities that take place in private or residential settings, please provide a location (where possible) and consider any ethical issues that may arise from that. Where the location(s) are not yet known, please describe the likely private locations collectively (e.g ‘premises of participating organisations’)
For field work, please provide a broad description of the area in which the research will take place – reviewers do not require details of exact sample sites, or the location of traps etc, but they will need to know where the site(s) are located, whether access or personal safety (due to, for example, remoteness or location in a particular area within a city) are an issue, and whether any special consideration may apply around access, for example, for sites that are protected as part of a National Park or that are culturally or spiritually sensitive
There is a separate question about permissions around locations which invites the upload of permissions or approvals where these are available.
What are hazardous or controlled substances?
Hazardous substances are any those substances posing a risk to human or environmental health. This could be e.g. substances or mixtures with the potential to cause harm if they are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact, or are absorbed through the skin (as defined by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), substances such as Persistent Organic Pollutants, radioactive substances, and similar. We advise to contact your respective lab technician/manager to help identify which substances classify as hazardous.
Controlled substances are those whose possession and use are regulated by the government, e.g. drugs regulated under the misuse of drugs legislation.
Does the Data Management Tab replace a Data Management Plan?
The Data Management Tab will need to be filled out by all projects that do not only work with secondary data that is curated specifically for general public access. However, it does not replace the Data Management Plan (DMP) that might be required by specific funders and projects. More information about DMP requirements can be found on the Data Management webpage.
How many reviews does my application need?
It will depend upon the risk assigned to your application and each board has flexibility regarding number of reviews requested. On average a low risk application will require 2 reviews and a high risk up to 5 or a full board review.
Who will be doing the reviews?
While we have changed the platform for submission and processing of applications, the policy and guidance put in place by the Ethics Boards will remain in place. Applications will be assigned for review to members of the Ethics Board associated with your School. The reviewers will remain anonymous to the applicant.
How will I know my application has been approved?
You will receive an email notification as well as being able to see a notification in Worktribe. You can also use the menu in Worktribe to look at your applications and what stage they are at in the review process.
The application status 'Favourable Opinion' indicates that your application has been approved, whilst the application status 'Revision' will require you to revise and resubmit your application (and the comments provided will explain the required changes).
Can I delete an application?
No. If for any reason you want to delete an application, please email email@example.com with the details and reason.
Does Worktribe retain previous versions of my ethics application?
If you are required to revise and resubmit your application, the system will log the time and date of your re-submission as version number 'X'. It does not save copies of any previous versions of your application. The system will only retain the most recent version of your application.
I have created an ethics application and want to submit the same (or a similar) ethics application to a different funder. Can I do this?
No. You are unable to copy/duplicate a previous or existing application due to the complexity of the question sets.
How secure are documents uploaded to Worktribe’s Documents tab?
Worktribe is ISO 27001 certificated. This is an internationally recognised best practice framework for information security management systems (ISMS). Essentially, it means Worktribe is able to securely handle confidential information, with controls in place to identify and reduce any risks to this information.
Worktribe also complies with all GDPR requirements.
Login to Worktribe is strictly controlled by the University with all users having to authenticate via Shibboleth. Once signed in, further permissions within the system enable additional control of proposal elements.
What is the process in Worktribe? I can’t log into Worktribe – what do I do?
Please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
I am a PhD student but also hold a contract as an employee / I am a member of staff but am also enrolled as a PhD student at the University. Which account should I use for my ethics application?
If your ethics application arises out of your PhD studies, then please log in to Worktribe Ethics using your student account. PGR students often hold temporary services accounts that may expire before the end of their studies and may make it difficult to access any applications/approvals.
If the ethics application arises out of research undertaken as part of your employment contract, then your staff account should be used.
What is the role of the student Supervisor in the Worktribe Ethics process?
All ethics applications submitted by students in Worktribe will be submitted to the supervisor for initial review to ensure that the application has been appropriately completed before submission to the formal ethical review process.
The supervisor will be notified via an automated email message when an applicant creates an ethics application on the system, and will be able to access the draft application (and comment on it) during this initial stage. The supervisor will also be notified via email once the application has been reviewed and either (1) returned to the student as either approved ('Favourable Opinion') or (2) if the application has been returned to the student for further revision and resubmission.
Can external Co-Is or supervisors access the system?
For now, the system is accessible only to those who have an @abdn.ac.uk e-mail address.
Do we need to recreate applications in Worktribe for ethics approvals obtained under the previous systems? What should we do if amendments are required?
Applications made and approved through a previous system don’t need to be recreated for new approval in Worktribe. Please check your Board guidance for further information if you wish to make an amendment to an ethics application that received approval prior to the introduction of the Worktribe Ethics application process.
Can we link multiple ethics applications to a single funded project in Worktribe?
Yes, we can link multiple ethics applications to one project recorded in Worktribe i.e. the funded projects created under the ‘Projects’ module (Research Award Management System). Where a linked ethics application exists, the project record in Worktribe displays an ‘Ethics’ tab which provides details of all linked ethics applications and their approval status.
Can we store completed consent forms in Worktribe alongside other documentation related to the ethics approval?
Worktribe allows for the storage of documents related to the ethics application within the document tab. However, Worktribe is not a repository for research related paperwork. Copies of completed consent forms (and any other associated research documentation) should be stored alongside any other research data in the specific data storage for research projects made available by IT Services: Data Storage & Archiving | StaffNet | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)
- User Guides
These user guides were created by Worktribe using a demonstration system. This means that what you see in the University system may be slightly different from the screenshots in the guides - for example, you might not see as many menus. This does not affect the written guidance nor the functionality of the system.
- Download the General guide (Revised July 2022)
This document provides a general overview of the Worktribe interface and summarises common activities that you may use. For example: signing in, menus and basic navigation, notifications and comments, searching, viewing a record and editing a record.
Ethics Users’ Guide
- Download the Ethics Users’ guide (Revised July 2022)
This document provides a step-by-step guide to using the Ethics module.
- Support and Feedback
If you have any questions regarding this project and the new system please contact the Worktribe Ethics team (email@example.com)