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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Research Ethics

BSMS > Research > Support and governance > Governance and ethics

Research Ethics

The University of Sussex is committed to promoting and upholding the highest quality academic and ethical standards in all its activities. The University's research governance and ethics policies and procedures recognise the importance of addressing ethical matters, while supporting the achievement of its collective research objectives.

All primary research involving human subjects, animals and human tissue and data, or which raises ethical issues (such as potential risk of harm to participants and/or researchers, or information and/or data that might identify individuals for example) will require some form of ethics review. The specific ethics review process will depend upon the nature of your project. 

The BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee (RGEC) is responsible for reviewing applications from BSMS staff and students conducting non-clinical health related research involving healthy volunteers. Applications to RGEC are submitted via the online ethics review application system in Sussex Direct

View sUSSEX direct here > 

Clinical research involving NHS patients, their data or tissue, service users, or staff requires University Sponsorship and application to the Health Research Authority (HRA) for HRA Approval. Detailed advice and guidance on applying to the HRA can be found on the HRA website.

View the HRA website here > 

If human tissue is to be collected, processed and/or stored, 'Working with human tissue' offers guidance on how to proceed. 

In all instances, it is a fundamental principle that the process of ethics review should be careful and rigorous but at all times transparent, proportionate and supportive. Ethics review should support researchers of all levels to develop excellent research and ethical research practice.

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How to apply for research ethics review at BSMS

All BSMS staff and students are required to apply for ethics review and approval via the appropriate pathway for their study before commencing primary research.  

Much of the research undertaken at BSMS requires specialist ethics review via the Health Research Authority (HRA) and Sponsorship by the University of Sussex (see the Sponsorship section below and on the University website). 

For other non-clinical health-related research, the Medical School’s Research Governance and Ethics Committee (RGEC) operates devolved ethics and governance review under the auspices of the University of Sussex University Research Ethics and Integrity Committee (REIC). The Committee is supported by the University’s policies, Code of Practice for Research, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and research misconduct procedure.  BSMS staff and students conducting non-clinical research projects involving human participants either directly (e.g. being interviewed, or answering questionnaires) and/or indirectly (such as accessing personal data) should apply for review via the Research Governance and Ethics Committee.  

From July 2020, ethics review at BSMS will also entail an assessment of the level of risk associated with student projects to ensure the review process is proportionate. See the standard risk review process via the link below for further details.

Find out how to apply for a research ethics review >

COVID-19 updates for applicants and researchers

For RGEC applicants

The BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee (RGEC) will continue to operate. However, the Committee will now solely conduct its business online with immediate effect. 

While all physical meetings of the Committee and Sub-Panel are now suspended, the RGEC will operate virtually, conducting online review of all applications submitted.

In order to continue to offer an ethical review service with the least disruption for applicants, the RGEC will continue to maintain the existing schedule of monthly review. To achieve this: 

  • Scheduled Committee and Sub-Panel meeting dates publicised to applicants will now serve as an operational deadline by which Committee and Sub-Panel review is submitted. 
  • Applicants should continue to book in their applications (and substantial amendments) for review at a specific ‘meeting’ via Sussex Direct and to submit their application by the respective meeting deadline. 
  • It may be possible, to arrange a separate virtual discussion with the Chair, Deputy Chair and Secretary, either for complex re-submissions, or for new applications posing significant logistical concerns which would best be talked through. However, this is by prior agreement and on receipt of a strong justification:   

We hope that this approach offers the least disruption to service for all applicants. Thank you.

For researchers

For the latest information on undergraduate, postgraduate (taught and research degrees) and staff research following the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit our dedicated webpage.

COVID-19 information for researchers >

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External requests for access to BSMS students for research purposes

If you are a researcher from an external institution enquiring about involving our medical students in a research project, please contact Caroline Brooks, BSMS Research Integrity, Ethics and Governance Administrator, on

Make sure you provide a set of the study documentation for review, including study protocol, consent forms, participant information sheets and any questionnaires or materials used in the study.

Evidence of ethical approval obtained from your institution is essential and should be included with your submitted documents. The request will then be assessed by senior academic staff in the BSMS Department of Medical Education to ensure there is no conflict between the study and existing BSMS research and timetabling as well as undue burden to the student cohort to be recruited. Full review by the BSMS Research Governance Ethics Committee may be required.

Applicants will be informed of the review outcome by email. Please allow at least two weeks for an initial decision to be returned and be aware there may be instances in which further information will be required before approval can be granted. Conditions may also be stipulated as part of the approval.

University sponsorship

If you are a member of staff or a student who is undertaking research involving patients or the administration of a controlled substance to healthy volunteers, a sponsor will be required.

Read more about university sponsorship >