Research Ethics

It is expected that all research conducted at or by Keele University is of a high ethical standard. Research involving human participants/subjects carried out by Keele staff or students must be reviewed by one of the university’s research ethics committees or by a recognised external committee such as an NHS Ethics Committee for Health and Social Care Research.

If you need support submitting your project for ethical review, please see the Guidance and FAQs pages for further information. If you have any questions, please visit the Research ethics contacts page for details of who to contact.

If you are familiar with University Research Ethics Committees and making an application, you can go straight to the Keele University Research Assurance Portal (KURAS) page and start your submission.

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.

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 the online Keele University Research Assurance System (KURAS) to submit, process and record applications.

Full review

Full review requires ethical opinion from a minimum of four 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 Keele University Research Assurance System (KURAS) will determine whether the criteria for light touch review is met.

Registration of research – favourable ethical opinion has already been granted from another organisation

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, via the Keele University Research Assurance System (KURAS) but will not be subject to further ethical review.

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 that does not fall under the categories listed in 1-3 above, you will need to make a full application via Keele University Research Assurance System (KURAS).

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 Reviewer, 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). 

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 on the Keele University Health and Social Care Research (HSCR) page. Where required, this may be carried out either before, after or in parallel to an application to the University REC. It is strongly recommended that you follow the University's process for applying for Sponsorship before submitting for either HRA approval or University ethics review. 

Undergraduate and taught postgraduate student projects are not subject to the University's centralised ethical review process, but should seek ethics review at School level. Schools are responsible for ensuring that all undergraduate and taught postgraduate student projects involving human participants are subject to ethical review by a Student Project Ethics Committee (S-SPEC) before any contact is made with potential participants. For details of ethical review of undergraduate and taught postgraduate projects, please contact your School for further information.

If you become aware of any issue that may have an impact on the ethical opinion of your research project (for example a participant’s safety / welfare has been put at risk), this must be reported to the REC which issued the favourable ethical opinion via email along with supporting documents and evidence as applicable.

The Administrator will acknowledge receipt of this information via return email and it will be provided to the Committee Chair (or a delegated member of the Committee) who will liaise with you as required.

If you have received an unfavourable ethical opinion for your application (or an amendment) and you are dissatisfied with the decitions you are entitled to appeal that decision under certain circumstances.

The entire appeals process will usually take a maximum of 21 days from submission of the formal appeal, with the clock stopping should you be required to provide further information.

Please see Appealing a REC decision for further information.