Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is guidance available on the consent that is required in order to publish any results obtained from interviews (in this case as part of a student project)?
A: The issue of publication of material whether it was anonymised or not should be part of the initial informed consent process and documentation. The guarantee of confidentiality is usually (but not always) an important pre-requisite to interview participation.
The few circumstances where this might not be the case are where the interview participants are powerful figures who are willing or even desire to go on the record, or when one is dealing with statements that have previously been made in a public document or forum. In terms of publications, if consent was not explicitly obtained during the original research to publish interview data, participants should be re-contacted and permission obtained.
If the participants agree to the publication of interview data, certain issues may need to be considered. These include:
- Anonymisation of participants;
- Is there a willingness for participants to form part of aggregated transcripts, i.e. blend a few different transcripts together to make a 'fictionalised' but representative transcript?
- If there is reluctance on behalf of the participant to agree to the publication of transcript data,
then only broad statements should be made and no direct quotes be used.
The emphasis throughout should be placed on respecting the privacy of participants and siding in favour of that even when it undermines academic ideals. See Informed Consent.
Q: Should research projects involving questionnaires and other surveys be reviewed by an ethics committee?
A: Before conducting such research projects, the following should be considered:
- method of recruitment;
- the consent process (ensuring that the participants fully understand what is expected of them, how the information will be used etc);
- the protection of the interests of participants (they should not be disadvantaged by taking part in the research);
- participant confidentiality and Data Protection.
The researcher should also consider the potential harms such participants might encounter (physical or psychological harms, threats to privacy, reputation, issues of discrimination, etc). Essentially, if the research involves human subjects, it should go through ethics review.
Q: Should ethical approval be sought from a School Research Ethics Committee or via an NHS Research Ethics Committee (LREC/MREC)?
A: Essentially, any research project involving patients, staff, information or premises of the National Health Service (NHS) must undergo ethical review by an LREC/MREC All other research involving human subjects or data should go through the School Research Ethics Committee (SREC).
Q: Is formal ethics review needed for student research projects?
A: At the undergraduate and Masters level for small short term projects, it may be appropriate for supervisors to take responsibility for ethics review and sign off that the research meets ethical and academic standards - this should be discussed with the School Ethics Officer and documentation provided to the SREC since there may be ethical procedures in place. For more substantial and advanced research (e.g. at the Masters or Doctoral level), research proposals should pass through formal ethics review as would be the case for research conducted by the School's academic and contract research staff.
Q: If a research project involves researchers from different Schools, how should the proposal be reviewed?
A: Assuming the research is not clinical/NHS-based, it would be most appropriate for the project leader to submit the proposal to his/her SREC.
Q: What ethical review route should researchers take when they are based in multidisciplinary Centres or Institutes?
A: All Centres and Institutes (apart from MEC which has been approved by the University as an autonomous centre) are directly associated with a School and should therefore use either their own School’s Research Ethics Committee or an appropriate alternative (e.g. another SREC or an LREC/MREC for clinical research).
Q: Is NHS R & D approval when recruiting medical professionals for questionnaire-based research if they are identified and recruited from a commercial database rather than through an NHS Trust?
A: If this is clearly research and the subjects are NHS employees who are being questioned on their professional role, the project would need REC approval. However, if this is being done by a central team without local collaborators on the sites, this would only need MREC approval and would not need Site Specific Assessment (SSA) at all other sites.
A project would not need R & D approval based on the following assumptions:
- That the medical professionals appear on the database of their own choosing and that they have agreed to be contacted for research purposes.
- That these medical professionals would be doing the study of their own volition and in their own time (ie not in NHS working hours). There would therefore be no impact on the Trusts themselves.
The purpose of R&D approval is to check the scientific validity of the study and to ensure that it would not put any exceptional burden on Trust facilities and employees. If this is not a study being carried out in a Trust per se then R & D approval would not be required.
Q: Does the University use animals in its research?
A: Yes, please see our public statement.