Bournemouth University (BU) is committed to promoting and upholding the highest quality academic and ethical standards in all its activities. All research undertaken by BU staff and students must have ethical approval. Please ensure you consult the Research Ethics Code of Practice and gain ethical approval before commencing research.
BU recognises the importance of maintaining public confidence in the ethical quality of research conducted by staff and students of the University. The purpose of ethical approval within BU is threefold:
- This reflects BU’s commitment to good ethical practice, as a principle in itself and as a means of maintaining public confidence in the work undertaken by staff and students of the University;
- The provisions for ethical approval assists researchers and supervisors undertaking research to identify appropriate issues and address these in the development of research proposals;
- The approval process itself acts as a safeguard to researchers and supervisors who can be confident of the ethical propriety of their project once it has been approved.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Login to the Online Ethics Checklist using your University credentials and click on ‘Create’ to begin the ethics checklist.
A document outlining the questions on the ethics checklist is available here.
WHAT IS THE ETHICAL REVIEW AND APPROVAL PROCESS?
The ethical review and approval process varies depending on the researchers status (taught student, PGR, staff) as well as the level of risk indicated. Click on your appropriate status link below for detail on the process.
Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught
Research ethics applications for undergraduate and postgraduate (Taught) are initially reviewed and approved by the named supervisor (minimal risk applications) or approved by Faculty Ethics Programme Teams (above minimal risk applications). If a Supervisor receives an ‘above minimal risk‘ application to review, they should forward onto the Ethics Programme Team for review and approval. If a decision cannot be made by the Programme Team, applications should be forwarded to the Research Ethics Panel via the Research Governance Adviser (Ethics Filter).
- Guidance for Supervisors on how to use Cohort for the review and approval of ug/pgt student checklists (low risk) can be found here.
- Guidance for Ethics Programme Teams on how to use Cohort for the review and approval of ug/pgt students checklists (high risk) can be found here.
Minimal Risk Applications: Research ethics applications for postgraduate researchers are reviewed by the named supervisor to ensure good quality of application (which also includes a review of the participant information sheet/participant agreement form if applicable). Once the Supervisor is happy with the application, the Supervisor will forward onto an appropriate Faculty Ethics Champion for approval. The Ethics Champion will undertake a final review and APPROVE the Research ethics application.
- Guidance for Ethics Champions on how to use Cohort for the review and approval of pgr (low risk) checklists can be found here.
- Guidance for Supervisors on how to use cohort for the review of prg checklists can be found here.
Above Minimal Risk Applications: Research Ethics applications are reviewed by the named supervisor to ensure good quality of application (which also includes a review of the participant information sheet/participant agreement form if applicable). Once the Supervisor is happy with the application, the Supervisor will forward onto the Research Ethics Panel (via the EthicsFilter) for approval (see link below ‘above minimal risk‘ for more details).
- For above minimal risk applications, the Postgraduate Research Student (PGR) will be invited to attend Panel and they must be accompanied by a member of the Supervisory Team. If a member of the Supervisor Team cannot be present, then the application will be deferred until the next Research Ethics Panel. This should be factored in when planning research activities.
The ethical review and approval process provides alternative routes for the approval of proposals, dependent on the level of risk presented. Click on the link below for more information on what constitutes above minimal risk.
Occasionally, research projects may be subject to external drivers which create a greater urgency for approval. Typically, research involving the public and private sector may be subject to time sensitive funding obligations and therefore make expedited review of ethics necessary. Such proposals require a detailed evidence based justification, such as:
- The need to coordinate data gathering with researchers or organisations external to BU;
- An unforeseen or unpredicted change in the accessibility of the participant group;
- Additional demands or deadline requirements of funding organisations;
- The need to complete the study within an accelerated time frame;
- Contractual requirements;
- The proposed research is critical to BU’s strategic vision.
The Ethics Filter will determine when processing a proposal identified as above minimal risk, which has an attached case for expedited review, whether this is warranted. Processing applications for expedited ethical approval requires additional resource; therefore, the Ethics Panels will not accept requests where these factors are not clearly evident. Those cases for expedited review will be sent to the Chair and the proposal will be allocated to selected members of the Research Ethics Panel.
RESEARCH ETHICS PANELS (REP)
The REPs are responsible on behalf of the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) to review and approve research ethics applications from postgraduate researchers (above minimal risk applications) and academic staff to ensure best ethical practice is adhered to in research activities. The REP Terms of Reference can be accessed here. Please note the deadline for submissions noted against each 2016/17 meeting date listed in the linked documents below.
- Science, Technology & Health Research Ethics Panel
- Science Technology Health Research Ethics Panel Membership 2016
- Science, Technology & Health Panel meeting dates 2016-17
- Social Sciences & Humanities Research Ethics Panel
- Social Sciences & HumanitiesResearch Ethics Panel Membership 2016
- Social Science and Humanities Panel meeting dates 2016-17
UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ETHICS COMMITTEE (UREC)
UREC is responsible on behalf of Senate to promote best ethical practice in relation to research and research-related activities. Additionally, UREC is responsible for the over-arching university-wide research ethics policies and procedures. UREC considers ethical issues related to research and research-related activities brought to its attention by the Research Ethics Panels, researchers and the wider university community. UREC is also responsible for constructing and maintaining the Research Ethics Code of Practice which informs local practices and procedures across the University. UREC Terms of Reference can be accessed here. UREC comprises both staff and independent lay members and meets termly.
NHS ETHICAL APPROVAL
Research involving the NHS, including patients, carers or data must gain ethical approval from the NHS Health Research Authority (HRA). Application for HRA Approval/HRA REC is via the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS). If you unsure whether your research requires HRA Approval/NHS REC, the NHS have provided a useful decision tool which determines whether or not approval is required. The Dorset Research Consortium is available for support and guidance.
The Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care (v2, 2005) states broad principles of good research governance in health and social care. Research which falls within the scope of the Research Governance Framework requires a research Sponsor. Formal confirmation of sponsorship must be obtained prior to an application for Host Organisation (e.g. NHS Trust, Social Care) or NHS REC approval. If the BU Resercher has an associated NHS contract, the NHS Trust or third party should be approached to take the role of Sponsor. In all other cases (including BU students/PGRs), BU will act as Sponsor; the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for obtaining approval for BU Sponsorship provides detail of this.
TRAINING AND GUIDANCE
Bournemouth University offers several avenues for research ethics training:
- The Research Ethics e-module – in order to access this training, login to myBU and click on ‘Research Ethics’ under the ‘My Communities’ tab. All Staff/Students undertaking Research at BU must complete Ethics 1: Good Research Practice. Those working with Human Participants should also complete Ethics 2.
- RKE Development Framework – Legal, BU Sponsorship & Governance Workshop – contact Staff Development
- PGR Development Workshops (Ethics: Ethical value, practice and standards and Research ethics approval process at BU) – contact the Graduate School
- Doctoral Supervision – contact the Graduate School
- Experienced Supervisory Development – contact the Graduate School
- One-on-one or group-specific training available on request – contact Research Ethics
USEFUL DOCUMENTS/TOP TIPS
- Research Ethics Code of Practice
- Online Ethics Checklist – What to Expect (This useful guide provides an overview of the questions the checklist will prompt you to answer)
The following are templates for use to modify according to the circumstances of a research project:
Here are some top tips for completing an ethics checklist:
- The summary should be no more than 500 words (include details on background methodology, participant sample/recruitment and research outputs). Please do not attach a copy of the full research protocol or research proposal. (Applies to Staff/Postgraduate Researcher Submissions). If your work involves human participants, only address the questions highlighted by the checklist (500 word limit summary). If your research involves the use of animals, or research aboard, address these issues within the checklist (500 word limit summary). If you decide to attach a separate word document to the checklist to address the issues raised by the checklist, please stick within the word limit referred to above. Undergraduate/Postgraduate Taught Students should seek guidance from their Tutor/Supervisor whether a full research protocol or proposal is required.
- If you intend conducting interviews – please make sure your attach a Participant Information Sheet and Participant Agreement Form, any recruitment adverts, draft interview, observation schedules or debrief information sheets. If you’re conducting a survey, attach a copy of the questions.
- See link above for guidance on ‘how to prepare your participant information sheet‘ and sample participant agreement form which should be adapted to meet the needs of your project.
- Gatekeepers. If you need to use a gatekeeper to access participants, please confirm who the Gatekeeper is and their involvement. The Researcher should obtain a written agreement from the Gatekeeper, making sure their role & responsibilities are clearly understood and the Gatekeeper supports the research. Confirmation needs to be agreed before data collection commences.
- Referral Services. If it is explicit in your participant information that you intend to refer participants to third party referral services e.g. the Samaritans, the third party referral service should be informed of the planned research activity before the data collection starts; this is both courteous and professional. Confirmation should be made clear within the summary boxes when completing the checklist.
- It is not necessary when conducting survey/questionnaires for a separate participant information sheet or participant agreement form. A questionnaire should start with a shortened version of the PI Sheet (preamble) to include brief details such as:
- The purpose of the research/questionnaire
- Who is being asked to participate?
- Do I have to take part?
- How long will it take to complete?
- Will my taking part be kept confidential?
- How will this benefit me?
- Consent – A separate participant agreement form is not required for questionnaires because consent is implied by the Participant completing the questionnaire. Reference to this should be mentioned in the preamble e.g. “By completing the questionnaire you are consenting to take part in this research study.”
- A simple withdrawal statement e.g. “Participants can withdraw at any time, simply by closing the browser page. Please note that once you have completed and submitted the questionnaire we are not able to remove your anonymised responses from the study“
- Contact for further information: Provide an email address as a minimum. For student projects, also include the email address of the tutor/supervisor
- Who to contact in case of complaint – a contact of an independent senior member of academic staff, normally the Deputy Dean for Research & Professional Practice should be provided. There is is now a central ‘research governance’ email address which should be used rather than the DDRPP’s BU email address which is email@example.com.
OTHER USEFUL DOCUMENTS
- Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Guidance
- Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research
- Ethics Guidelines for Research with Children and Young People
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Obtaining Approval for BU Sponsorship (Required for NHS/HRA ethics approval)
- Research Ethics Supplementary Guide For Reference by Researchers Undertaking Journalism and Media Production Projects
Useful links on the anonymisation of data and the use of anonymised data:
- Guidance from the UK Data Service:
- Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office:
If you have any further questions regarding research ethics at Bournemouth University, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any issues you would like to raise about research ethics at BU, or to make a formal complaint, please email email@example.com