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Sunday 13 October

Research Ethics

If you require any of the booklets or other course materials in an alternative format (e.g. Braille, large print, audio or electronic) please give us as much notice as possible and no less than 2 weeks to allow us time to make the necessary arrangements.

Why does research require ethical approval?

Research requires ethical approval for a variety of reasons, including:

  • the need to consider ethical issues is likely to help you think about the stages of your research more carefully
  • to help ensure that the rights and welfare of participants have been considered
  • to protect your rights as a researcher to carry out legitimate investigations
  • in order that you are insured to carry the study out
  • to meet the requirements of funding bodies
  • because refereed journals increasingly require evidence of ethical approval before they will publish your work.

Research ethical review is required at Anglia Ruskin for all research involving human participants and also other types of research including relating to animals and habitats, human tissue and risking damaging or disturbing artefacts.

How do I go about getting ethical approval?

All those wishing to conduct research (undergraduate, masters, doctorate and staff) must complete the Stage 1 Research Ethics Application Form or Stage 1 Research Ethics Application Form involving Animals and Habitats and then follow the procedure according to the category (GREEN, YELLOW, RED, PURPLE) your research falls under.

Please refer to the Question Specific Advice for the Stage 1 Research Ethics Application Form or Question Specific Advice for the Stage 1 Research Ethics Application Form (Animals and Habitats).

Please also refer to our Ethics Policy, Code of Practice - Applying for Ethical Approval and Data Protection Policy

Pilot studies: You will need to obtain ethical approval for pilot studies and then for any subsequent amendments you want to make following this.

Amendments: You will also need to obtain ethical approval for any amendments to your study.

Retrospective approval: Please note that this approval system is not retrospective.

GDPR and Data Protection Act (2018)

If your research will involve personal data and will take place in the European Economic Area (EEA) or you will be bringing your personal research data back into the EEA, you must comply with the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR). If your research will take place in the UK or involve bringing personal research data back to the UK, you must also comply with the Data Protection Act (2018).

The EEA includes EU member states and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. GDPR allows for EU member states to make their own laws on certain aspects of GDPR and areas of Privacy law which GDPR does not cover. Therefore, in the UK, we must comply both with GDPR and the Data Protection Act (2018). Other countries in the EEA may have additional data protection legislation as well as the GDPR.

The below guidance relates to research under UK law and GDPR across the EEA (but does not cover any additional national law); therefore for any projects in other countries in the EEA, researchers must ensure they are aware of any comply with any additional data protection legislation.

For research taking place in countries outside the EEA, researchers must ensure they are aware of and comply with data protection legislation.

If you have any queries regarding this guidance, please contact David Humphreys, our Data Protection Officer, at

Research involving human tissue or samples 

If your research involves human tissue or samples, it is likely to fall under the Human Tissue Act (2004). You will need to check this with Dr Matt Bristow (Dept. of Psychology) in the first instance. ARU can only review research that falls under the Human Tissue Act (2004), if it falls under our Research Licence from the Human Tissue Authority. Otherwise, it can only be legally reviewed by an NHS Research Ethics Committee. Please see Section 6.7 of the Code of Practice - Applying for Ethical Approval for further information.

Research with people over 16 years old who are unable to consent

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) supports and protects people who may be unable to make some decisions.

If you're planning on carrying out research with people over 16 years old who are unable to consent, you will need to comply with the Mental Capacity Act (2005). Please note that the Mental Capacity Act (2005) emphasises supporting people to be able to consent if possible. The Mental Capacity Act (2005) can cover people with long term conditions such as dementia or learning disabilities and also short term conditions such as the effects of alcohol or shock. If your research falls under this Act, it can only legally be reviewed by a recognised research ethics committee. This is an NHS Research Ethics Committee, the National (NHS)Social Care Research Ethics Committee or the Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee. Please refer to Section 6.2 of the Code of Practice - Applying for Ethical Approval.

University ethics committees are not recognised committees under the MCA and, therefore, cannot approve studies falling under the act. If a study is not approved by a recognised Research Ethics Committee (REC) and a participant in the study loses capacity then they cannot continue, and must be withdrawn, from the study.

The Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice offers practical guidance:

External Ethical Approval

There will be certain types of research e.g. NHS, where you will need to apply to their Committee(s) for approval. For more information, please read the Stage 1 Research Ethics Application Form, the Question-Specific Advice for Research Ethics Application Form Stage 1 (Section 24) and Chapter 3 of the Code of Practice for Applying for Ethical Approval

For more information about NHS approval, please also refer to the following documents to see whether you will need an NHS Research Passport:

Other approvals or permissions needed

As well as ethical approval, you need to consider whether you need other types of approval or permissions. Please note it's your responsibility to ensure that you have these, if required, as the ethics committee is not responsible for checking on your behalf. Please note our risk assessment and insurance processes do not apply to all our Associate Colleges who are expected to have their own arrangements. For information about who and what we insure, visit our Insurance Information page.

Please refer to Chapter 3 of the Code of Practice for Applying for Ethical Approval for further information.

Types of approval/permissions include:

If you think your research may result in intellectual property (IP), please speak to your Supervisor or Line Manager before you start your project and refer to our IP policy and guidance

Applying for Ethical Approval

Research Integrity

All research activity must be conducted in an appropriate and responsible manner. View our research integrity page for relevant information.

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