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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Does My Research Require Ethics Approval?

BSMS > Research > Support and governance > RGEC hub > Does My Research Require Ethics Approval?

Does My Research Require Ethics Approval?

All research led by BSMS staff and students involving healthy human participants, the collection or use of their biomaterial, or data requires ethics approval. The Medical School is committed to ensuring that its research involving human volunteers is conducted in a way that respects the dignity, rights, and welfare of participants, and minimises risks, including to researchers and the reputations of the Universities.

If your study involves one of the following, formal ethics review will be needed:

  • Direct or indirect participation of human volunteers: 
    • For example, via online questionnaires, interviews or focus groups, experimental interventions, or observational studies.
  • Research collecting or using human biomaterial (anything that originates from a human) including: 
    • Cells; 
    • Tissues; 
    • Organs;
    • Bodily fluids (e.g. blood, plasma, spinal fluid); secretions and excretions (e.g. breath, urine); 
    • Outgrowths (e.g. hair, nail, teeth).
  • Research collecting or involving the inclusion of data about individuals: 
    • Primary data originating from people. For example, anonymously completed questionnaires or identifiable interview data.
    • Use of secondary data, which originated from or is about individuals, which was initially provided for other purposes (e.g. other research projects or organisational datasets). 
    • Activity requiring access to information or data that could identify individuals.

I am new to Research Ethics – where do I start?

BSMS staff and students who are unsure whether their project necessitates research ethics approval and require further advice can refer to our decision tools:

Ethics Review Decision Making Tool (Does My Project Require Research Ethics Review?): Helps to determine the ethics and governance approvals needed for your project and whether the BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee is suitable to undertake a review. 

View it here >

‘Which Research Ethics Committee?’ Diagram: Helps to identify which Research Ethics Committee is appropriate for review of your project. 

View it here >

If after using these tools you have a query concerning your project further advice may also be sought from Alice Ashford, Senior Research Ethics and Integrity Officer (BSMS):  

All students should discuss their project, methods, and ethical issues with their module tutor or dissertation supervisor in the first instance.

Remember: Ethics approval must be obtained before the research starts, including before participants are recruited. Please ensure you allow enough time for the review process when planning your research. Retrospective ethics approval cannot be given

Please note: If work is not classed as ‘research’ or falls under specific exemption criteria such as that defined by the Health Research Authority (HRA), be aware that in the vast majority of cases research with human participants requires appropriate consent. Formal ethics review may still be required through the Universities of Brighton and Sussex research governance procedures. Especially if you intend to publish the results of your research, you may still be asked for proof of institutional ethics review by a journal or funder. Please ensure that you find out if this will be a requirement by speaking with the journal/funder and contacting the BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee ahead of time. *Ethics approval cannot be granted retrospectively by the committee*

A note on pilot or feasibility studies

We have developed some helpful guidance to assist applicants in identifying if their research is a feasibility or a pilot study: Guidance on is your research feasibility or pilot study.

View it here >