Research Ethics

Keele University is committed to conducting high quality research underpinned by appropriate ethical standards for the benefit of society and in the public’s interest. It recognises the benefits of a positive culture of ethical reflection, debate and mutual learning particularly against the continuing emergence of new situations and research methodology which require creative approaches to ethics issues.

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For information relating to research under approval from a University Research Ethics Committee, please see

When does research require ethical review?

Review by a research ethics committee (REC) is required where research involves humans.  This includes:

  • their data (includes primary data originating from human subjects (e.g. anonymous questionnaires or identifiable interview data); and the use of secondary data, which originated from or is about human subjects, which was initially provided for other purposes (e.g. other research projects or organisational datasets))
  • biomaterial (anything that originates from a human subject 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))
  • politically or socially sensitive topics with impact on the welfare and interests of local, national or international communities; potential reputational risk to the researchers or University
  • where a source of funding has the potential to compromise the University’s position as a publicly funded charitable body.   

Research involving human participants / subjects carried out by Keele University Staff or Students must be reviewed by one of the University’s Research Ethics Committees (RECs) or by a recognised external committee, such as an NHS Research Ethics Committee. A favourable ethical opinion must be granted before any work requiring ethical approval begins.

Most research in the health and social care areas needs to be reviewed by an NHS Research Ethics Committee or the Social Care Research Ethics Committee.  See the Health and Social Care Research pages for further information. All other staff and student research projects involving any of the above must be reviewed by one of the University’s Research Ethics Committees. The route for obtaining an ethical opinion from a University REC is different depending on whether you are a member of staff, PGR student, PGT student or undergraduate; follow the links at the bottom of the page accordingly.

Keele University Research Ethics Policy (PDF, 418kb) explains the University's stance in relation to research ethics review and the creation, operation and monitoring of its research ethics committees. 

The route for ethical review by a Keele University research ethics committee is different depending on your relationship to the University. Keele University ethics committees will only review research projects for its own staff or students.

If you are already familiar with the University's ethical review process, you can follow the quick links below to the REC-specific webpages.