Staff and Postgraduate Research (PGR) Students

Research involving human participants / subjects carried out by Keele University Staff or PGR Students must be reviewed by one of the University's six Research Ethics Committees (RECs) or by a recognised other external committee (e.g. an NHS ethics committee for Health and Social Care Research).

The University operates one Central REC (CREC), four Faculty RECs (FRECs) and a REC which specifically reviews educational scholarship or educational research projects from staff and research students where the project uses pedagogic literature and investigation methods (EREC). All University RECs use an online application system, linked from their particular webpage.  Each REC has its own homepage, which contains specific templates and requirements for that committee.  If you are unsure about which REC you need to apply to, refer to the ‌ Selecting a REC (PDF, 154kb)diagram.

If a research project also requires approval by the Health Research Authority (HRA), University sponsorship must be applied for in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Keele Health and Social Care Research (HSCR) Toolkit. Where required, this may be carried out either before, after or in parallel to an application to the University REC. It is recommended that you follow the University's process for applying for Sponsorship before submitting for either HRA approval or University ethics review.

Full review

Full review requires ethical opinion from a minimum of 4 members of a University REC.

Light Touch review

Projects that pose minimal risk of harm to participants or others impacted by the research, as defined in REC-specific Light-touch Review Criteria may be eligible for light touch review. Light-touch review may be performed by a Faculty REC sub-committee comprising of a minimum of 2 members. The Google submission system will determine whether the criteria for light touch review is met.

Programme of Work

Where research involves commonly occurring situations, methodologies, data sets, human samples or interventions an applicant may apply for broad approval of the protocol as an established protocol. Review of the activity to be classified as an established protocol must be fully justified as part of the application process. See the Programmes of work for further information.

Registration of research

University research ethics committee review does not seek to duplicate ethical review from another organisation if that external ethics review meets standards that are equivalent (or exceed) those of Keele University.  This is usually considered as those organisations that have ethical review processes that meet the standards of the Economic and Social Research Council framework (e.g. another higher education institution).  If your application has ethical approval from such an organisation, you are required to register your research, but will not be subject to further ethical review. See Research with External Ethical Approval below.

If you wish to undertake research which is wholly within a previously approved Programme of Work, you will also need to register your intention with the ethics committee that approved the original Programme.  With the agreement of the Programme Lead, your project will not be subject to further ethical review.

Following review of an application, a University REC will make one of the following decisions:

  • Favourable ethical opinion (FEO) with or without conditions / recommendations
  • Require clarification or modification of parts of a research submission (request for Further Information)
  • Defer consideration of a proposal pending expert advice or agreement by the University
  • Refer to the Ethics Oversight Committee or other RECs as appropriate.
  • Reject a research proposal as a whole or in part.

The REC may require review of any requested further information by the full committee before a final opinion is made, or they may delegate the responsibility for determining the final opinion to the Lead Reviewers, Chair or a sub-committee of specified members (for example in the event that minor clarification is required before a favourable ethical opinion can be provided). 

All research falling under the Keele University Research Ethics Policy (PDF, 418kb) must be submitted to the applicable ethics committee via their GoogleForm Submission link. However, the level of scrutiny applied will vary depending on the source of external ethical approval; Keele University will only accept approvals that are the product  of an ethical review process that follows standards equivalent to its own or that are higher. Submissions must be made by a member of Keele University.

Registration of research only

Following submission, research with ethical approval from the following will be subject to a registration process only: 

  1. An NHS Research Ethics Committee
  2. A UK Higher Education Institution (HEI)
  3. An organisation on the Approved List of Organisations

If your ethical approval was given by an institution in one of these categories you should complete the applicable University REC Google Form Submission and upload the following: 

  • The original approval letter from the external ethics committee
  • The original application form made to the external ethics committee
  • All documents that have been approved by the external ethics committee

Full ethical review by a Keele University Committee

If your ethical approval was given by an institution that does not fall under the categories listed in 1-3 above, you will need to make a full application to the appropriate Keele University REC (see Selecting a REC (PDF, 154kb)‌).

Note for projects that have previously received ethical review by a University Ethical Review Panel (ERP)

If you wish to make an amendment to a research project which has previously received a favourable ethical opinion from an Ethical Review Panel (ERP) under the old system (pre-November 2018), you will need to seek reassignment of the project to one of the existing RECs before submitting an amendment.

Before submitting an amendment request to one of the new RECs, you must first complete and submit the ERP conversion form to obtain a new REC code.

Within 5 working days of submission of this form, you will be provided with a new REC Code which you will need to enter into the applicable REC's Google submission form to allow your application to progress through the new online system. Once you have this code, follow the instructions for your applicable REC on their During your Research page.