Standard risk review
Following extensive development and user testing, the online ethics application system in Sussex Direct for applying to the BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee, has been adapted to include a separate review pathway for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught student research projects judged as posing minimal risks.
BSMS’s new standard risk pathway will launch in Sussex Direct on 6 July, bringing the Medical School in line with all Cross-School Research Ethics Committees operating across the University of Sussex.
The ethics application system, within Sussex Direct, will now identify Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught student projects which are deemed standard risk, using an in-built risk assessment checklist. It has been deliberately designed to introduce quicker turnaround of ethical review for student projects presenting fewer risks to participants.
Expedited review for these projects will occur via the School Research Ethics Officers (SREOs), a new role at BSMS which is jointly fulfilled by Dr Trevor Welland and Ceri Butler in the Department of Medical Education.
In parallel, the applicant’s Supervisor will become an integral part of the reviewing process, first confirming online endorsement for their student’s application prior to submission to the SREO for ethical review. The system will generate emails to alert staff that an application requires their review.
Professor Val Jenkins, Chair of the BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee commented: “This has been an extensive undertaking for BSMS RGEC, but one which we trust will make the process for applicable projects a lot swifter and also more efficient for students and their supervisors. A special thanks goes to Caroline Brooks for her indefatigable efforts to see this to fruition.”
It's hoped that the new process will be viewed as a positive development for the Medical School. Professor Malcolm Reed, Dean of BSMS, added: “The new process not only aligns BSMS with the University of Sussex's Cross-School Research Ethics Committees, but with many other universities by implementing stratified ethical review and more user friendly processes for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught student research, whilst ensuring our students learn about the importance of ethics and ethical principles in research. I am very grateful to Professor Jenkins and the team for implementing this change under challenging circumstances and also to the ethics committee as a whole for all the work they do to ensure that our research is undertaken under the highest ethical standards appropriate for each individual project.”
All ethics applications (Staff, Postgraduate Research Student, Postgraduate Taught Student and Undergraduate Student) should continue to be made using the online ethics application system in Sussex Direct, which is available here.
The review pathway for Staff, Postgraduate Research and Postgraduate Taught projects conducted overseas remains unchanged and via the Research Governance and Ethics Committee.
Applicant guidance is included with the online form and will be available on the BSMS website’s Governance and Ethics pages, but further advice and support is available from Caroline Brooks, BSMS Research Integrity Ethics and Governance Administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Download the Standard Operating Procedures guide here >
Download the Risk Rating Filter Checklist here >
A note to Supervisors
Supervisors of UG IRP students and PGT dissertation students will need to be aware of the new process, since it directly applies to students under their supervision. Key points to highlight:
- Supervisors will become fully integrated into the ethics review process for their student’s project.
- In practical terms, while the student’s application will continue to be submitted for ethics review via the online system in Sussex Direct, it will first be submitted to their Supervisor for initial review and authorisation (which will also occur in Sussex Direct). Once the Supervisor has authorised the application, it is then transferred by the Supervisor to a School Research Ethics Officer for secondary review, decision and sign-off.
- For UG IRP students, BSMS expect the student to submit the ethics application. Previously, some IRP Supervisors have submitted an ethics application on behalf of a student(s), usually well in advance of a student being allocated to the project, and before the student’s identity is known. However, with the introduction of the standard risk process, the responsibility for submitting the ethics application lies with the student and becomes an essential part of a student’s training in research.
- Supervisors need to ensure that they have arranged access to the online ethics review application system in Sussex Direct, in advance of their student’s ethics submission. Access requires a University of Sussex ITS account linked to a BSMS email address. For BSMS faculty Supervisors this will already be in place. However, clinical supervisors of UG IRP projects will need to arrange access well in advance (it’s anticipated that they will first require an Honorary contract in order to be entitled to a BSMS email address), or, alternatively, will need to ensure that a member of BSMS faculty can act as second Supervisor for the purposes of ethics review.
- A suite of support materials is available – notably this includes a new Applicant Checklist, which covers the supplementary documents required for different types of study, as well as tips for submitting a robust application. Also a Supervisors Checklist, to support Supervisors with reviewing and confidently authorising their student’s application.
- Students and their Supervisors can expect a quicker turnaround of an ethics review decision. From a students’ perspective, although the application process itself will be much the same, (it continues to be via Sussex Direct and the same documentation is required) the process of review has become more responsive. UG IRP and PGT students will no longer need to book their application in for review at a scheduled RGEC meeting. (Once their Supervisor has authorised their application in Sussex Direct, the School Research Ethics Officer aims to turn around an ethics decision within 10 working days).
Download the checklist tool for supervisors here >