Research ethics review for staff

  • Any research study involving human participants should be formally reviewed by the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC).

    Speak to your Department/Faculty Research Ethics Officer (REO) to establish procedures for ethics review in the Faculty. Applicants must go through Faculty procedures and the REO will sign off the application to be submitted to UREC. Version numbers should be added to the documentation and updated each time amendments are made and agreed.

    Full review by UREC

    Download and complete the University Research Ethics Committee form (E2U). The current version is dated January 2018 and must be used. Applications made on an older version of the E2U form will result in the application being returned to the research team. Included with the E2U form must be any supporting documentation for the study, such as participant information sheets, consent forms, questionnaires, surveys, permission to recruit, posters, recruitment text, etc.

    The Committee has a multi-disciplinary membership that includes academic researchers across all Faculties and non-research lay members from within and outside the University so please do think about the content of the form. The lay description should be just that, so it can be understood by all; avoid jargon that is understood only in a specific discipline. Research methodologies should be well set out so the Committee can easily understand the techniques and ascertain who within the research team will be responsible for different phases.

    UREC meets 12 times a year from September to July and the meeting and deadline dates are available on the UREC website; these dates are set for the full year and must be strictly adhered to. Allow plenty of time for the application to be reviewed at Faculty / Directorate level before it is submitted to UREC for full review.

    In order for the committee to review research studies requiring ethics approval effectively, a maximum of 12 applications will be considered at each meeting.

    Due to leave and other commitments UREC does not review applications during August. Applications should be received in good time for the July meeting or they will be held back until the first meeting in September. Exceptions will be made for consultancy projects where there is a very short funding timescale.

    Applications will be allocated for review on a 'first come, first served basis' and will only be confirmed on receipt of the full, signed documentation to the UREC Administrator. Once the limit has been reached, any further applications will be carried forward to the next meeting.

    Please refer to the Code of Practice for Research Ethics for Research Involving Human Participants and to the University Research Ethics Committee to promote good practice and to conduct formal ethics review of research.


    Light touch review

    Some staff studies may be reviewed via the ‘light touch’ procedure.This is a shorter tick box form for research that may be reviewed by a light-touch method once the initial checklist has been completed to determine if it is appropriate. It is available to staff carrying out studies that address minimally sensitive topics, entail minimal intrusion or disruption and involve participants who would not be considered vulnerable in the context of the research - NB: it is for the Research Ethics Officer, not the researcher, to decide whether the proposal is appropriate for a light touch review 

    Types of research activity that fall into the light touch category could include:

    • Research where volunteers are asked only about their professional roles and/or job experience and which does not require their employer's permission to interview them on business premises.
    • Research that involves the use of an anonymous, self-completion questionnaire, or the completion of a standard survey that has no ethical implications (e.g. a transport survey).
    • Research that replicates a previous study that was approved by UREC. The Chair of UREC may give permission for the original study design to be extended on receipt of a light touch form.

    If you are still unsure about how to proceed please contact, in the first instance, your Research Ethics Officer, who will offer guidance and sign off the submission of either a light touch review or E2U form where appropriate.


    Expedited review

    Expedited review is a 'fast track' route to ethics review and approval which may be necessary and appropriate in some circumstances. These include:

    • Approved consultancy studies with a short timeframe for data collection;
    • A requirement to complete the research within a short time;
    • A requirement to co-ordinate data collection with other researchers in external institutions.

    Expedited review creates additional administrative work and places additional demands on members of UREC. It should be used only when required by contractual demands and not as compensation for poor planning on the part of researchers. Applications are made on the UREC E2U form and must be signed off by your Research Ethics Officer before being sent to the UREC Administrator.


    External Research Ethics Committees

    Researchers at Oxford Brookes University who wish to recruit participants through another organisation or institution may be asked to submit their proposal for ethics review through that organisation's Research Ethics Committee. This is most likely when researchers wish to carry out research in the NHS (including patients, staff or carers) or Social Services and is governed by the requirements of the Department of Health, or when research is undertaken, funded or sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, or when Oxford Brookes is not the lead institution.

    Staff whose studies involve recruitment of patients, carers or staff through the NHS will need to obtain ethics approval from a recognised NHS Research Ethics Committee. Where this is the case, a separate application to UREC is not required; however the application should be reviewed and approved by the Health and Life Sciences Faculty Research Ethics Committee (FREC) before going on for NHS or R&D approval. Once the study has been given full approval from the NHS REC a copy of the approval letter should be sent to the UREC Administrator for University records.

    The Health Research Authority (HRA), works with colleagues to maintain a UK-wide system of ethical review that protects the safety, dignity and well being of research participants, whilst facilitating and promoting ethical research within the NHS. Applications are made online through the Central Booking Service (CBS).

    Research that takes place in the context of the NHS or social care services in England must have a sponsor. Usually, the sponsor will be one of the organisations taking the lead for particular aspects of the arrangements for the study. Further details are available.

    Applying for ethics approval via the HRA

    Research involving human participants either undertaken, funded or sponsored by the Ministry of Defence must be reviewed by the Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee (MODREC)


    Approval from an external REC

    If the study has been given approval from another REC, for example at another institution, and the researcher wishes to recruit participants from Oxford Brookes, the applicant does not need to go through the full review process again rather the application can be approved via Chair's action. A copy of the application to the original REC together with supporting documents plus a copy of the full approval letter from the committee should be forwarded to the UREC Administrator. If the researcher is not recruiting potential participants from Oxford Brookes just a copy of the approval letter is required.


    When is ethics review by UREC not required?

    Ethics review is not required when data collection is not for ‘research’ and when the involvement of human beings is not that of ‘participants’. Use this checklist to determine whether the research needs to come to UREC, please speak to your Faculty Research Ethics Officer if you are in any doubt.

    Please note, this process is only for use by staff, PhD students are required to submit a full application to UREC for any studies involving the participation of humans in their study.