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.

Review by a research ethics committee (REC) is required where research involves humans, their data[1] or biomaterial[2]; risk of damage to the environment; risk of damage to any artefacts of cultural significance; 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 or where a source of funding has the potential to compromise the University’s position as a publicly funded charitable body. 

Most research in the health and social care areas must 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.

[1] 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).
[2] 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).

Research Ethics Policy

Keele University's Research Ethics Policy explains the University's stance in relation to research ethics review and the creation, operation and monitoring of research ethics committees.  The document can be downloaded via the link below:

How to apply for Keele University REC review

Undergraduate / PGT Students                                                                                                                                                              Schools are responsible for ensuring that that all student projects involving human participants are subject to ethical review by a Student Project Ethics Committee (S-SPEC) before any contact is made with prospective participants. Please contact your School for information on how to submit an undergraduate/PGT student project for ethical review within your school.

Staff and PGR Students                                                                                                                                                                                The University's Ethical Review Panels (ERPs) are no longer accepting new applications.

Research involving human participants/subjects carried out by Keele University Staff and PGR Students must be reviewed by one of the University’s Research Ethics Committees (RECs).

The University operates five RECs.  Applicants should familiarise themselves with the standard operating procedures of the applicable REC before making an application for ethical opinion. This includes (but is not limited to); how to complete an application, ongoing expectations for oversight and reporting to the reviewing REC and closure of the project once complete.

Each of the five University RECs has defined processes and documentation for applicants. If you are unsure about the REC appropriate for your project, please refer to this diagram: Selecting a REC (PDF, 105kb).

Note for projects undergoing ethical review by an Ethical Review Panel (ERP) prior to 12 November 2018
For projects which are currently going through University Ethical Review Panels (ERPs) under the old system (prior to 12 November 2018), these will continue to do so until favourable ethical opinion has been granted.

Once a favourable ethical has been received, the ongoing review will be transferred to an appropriate REC under the new system in accordance with the Selecting a REC diagram, available here: Selecting a REC (PDF, 105kb).

Note for projects that have previously received ethical review by an Ethical Review Panel (ERP)
For projects which have previously received a favourable opinion from an ERP, applicants will need to seek reassignment of their project to one of the new RECs before submitting an amendment.

Applicants must complete and submit the online form Amendment Request for Projects with ERP Codes.

Following submission of the form the Applicant will be notified of the identity of the new reviewing REC and will be provided with an updated REC reference number to allow submission of the amendment through the REC system.

Helpful links

For further information, see Frequently Asked Questions