The guiding ethical principles governing all research within Aberystwyth University are the following:
• Respect for the rights, safety and well-being of all human participants and animals
• Respect for other cultures, values, traditions and the environment around us
• Honesty, integrity and professionalism at all times
We encourage all researchers to refer to the Research Ethics Framework as a starting point. However, if you still have unanswered questions, please contact the Research Ethics team who will be pleased to help. We can also able to provide advice on the correct approvals process for you to follow, advice on the drafting of applications and to discuss any potential research topics or ideas that you may have.
Policy and Framework
Research Ethics Framework
The framework contains operational guidance in relation to research ethics and its associated processes. Please familiarise yourself with the relevant sections of this guidance in the first instance. If you require any advice or support, please contact us.
Research Ethics & Integrity Policy
The policy sets out what is expected of all researchers conducting research at Aberystwyth University.
Research Ethics & Integrity Policy (under review)
Applying for Ethical Approval
All research, whether it involves human participants or not, must undergo a recognised form of ethical scrutiny at the point in which a proposal has been finalised and research must not commence without the relevant ethical approval.
If you are unsure of the type of approval you will require or if you would like advice in the development of your proposal, please contact us to discuss.
Step 1: Complete an Assessment
At the minimum, an assessment must be carried out for all research proposals through the online assessment form. You will then be required to submit an application to one of the AU recognised internal review bodies, such as the Research Ethics Panel (REP), Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB) or the Sponsorship Panel (prior to submission for external review).
You can access the online ethics assessment form: HERE
Projects that pose limited ethical issues may be eligible for review at a Faculty / Departmental level. Once an assessment has been completed, this will automatically be sent to the Faculty / Departmental reviewer to assess.
For staff and PGR students, the review will likely be conducted by your Associate Dean of Research. Whereas for undergraduate and taught PG students, this will commonly be reviewed by your supervisor or module co-ordinator.
All researchers should also carefully observe any local (departmental) procedures, as some departments undertake a further ethical review of proposals.
Please remember that a research ethics review is only one component in the set-up of a successful research project. If your reviewer confirms that no ethical review is required beyond the completion of an assessment, you must still ensure that:
- All project documentation (e.g. consent forms and participant information sheets) is of a sufficient standard.
- All other internal and external processes and procedures are adhered to before you commence your research activities.
- For students, this will require working closely with your supervisor.
Step 2: Obtain Approval
Where a proposal is required to obtain ethical approval, this will usually be obtained from one of the following approving bodies:
The Research Ethics Panel (REP) is the main internal University review Panel which reviews a broad range of research areas and topics. It is the primary Panel responsible for reviewing and granting ethical opinions on projects at all levels, from undergraduate through to staff, across the University.
Terms of reference: Here
The Sponsorship Panel has oversight of all externally approved (through the Health Research Authority and Health and Care Research Wales) research studies and trials. It reviews requests and conducts governance checks for sponsorship prior to any application being submitted to an external ethics or regulatory body.
Terms of reference: Here
The Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB) is responsible for considering and monitoring the University’s compliance with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) by undertaking an ethical review of all research projects involving protected animals.
Terms of reference: Here
Research Ethics Panel (REP)
The Research Ethics Panel has an important role in ensuring the highest ethical standards and scientific merit of the sub-set of research proposals it reviews. The role of the REP is to provide a collective and independent review to ensure that research projects conform to internationally and locally accepted ethical guidelines, with an emphasis on:
- Protecting the dignity, rights and well-being of participants and researchers alike;
- Balancing risk (including reputational risk) in a manner which is proportionate to the intended procedures;
- Ensuring quality, rigorous research that is of potential benefit to participants, science and society.
The work of an Ethics Panel does not associate itself with the avoidance of high-risk research and should therefore not be considered as a barrier, but rather as a facilitative, consultative and enriching process. The Panel meets regularly throughout the year and dates can be found below.
Click here to download an application form: Research Ethics Panel Application
See: Research Ethics Panel for further information on the process.
Some research studies are unable to be reviewed by a University Ethics Committee and must be submitted for external review. This includes:
- Studies involving NHS staff, data, patients, premises or resources;
- Studies involving participants in a social care setting, including adults who lack mental capacity;
- Studies involving participants in the prison, probation or justice service;
- Studies funded or sponsored by the Ministry of Defence.
Please first read section 2.3.7 of the Research Ethics Framework and then visit: https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/rbi/staff-students/ethics/external-approval/ for further information. You should also refer to the Health Research Authority / Health and Care Research Wales web pages for more details on the overall approval process.
If this is the first time that you will be making an external application or if you are not responsible for obtaining the relevant approval (i.e. if you are a project co-investigator), please contact: email@example.com for advice.
As part of the application process, each application will require a sponsor. Where AU is to act as the sponsor, it is required to undergo an internal governance review before submission. This review is undertaken by the Sponsorship Panel. For further details on obtaining sponsorship, please visit the External Approvals page.
Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board (AWERB)
All research procedures involving animals is strictly governed by the UK Home Office in line with the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). It is essential that all projects are in receipt of the appropriate licence and have received an appropriate level of ethical review and / or be in receipt of a Home Office licence before they can commence.
Please see the animal ethics webpage for further details.
Resources, Training and Contact Details
If you have any queries, please contact:
We run a number of courses and workshops for a variety of levels of experience bookable through CDSAP: Research Ethics Training.
We may also be able to offer bespoke sessions for departments - please contact us with your requirements.
New - Guidance on GDPR & Research Ethics
Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Policy
See our Research Integrity web page for further information
Research Ethics Guidance for Covid19
Important update in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, relating to research projects involving face-to-face participant interaction granted ethical clearance by Aberystwyth University.
Given the exceptional nature of the situation arising as a result of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Aberystwyth University requires all ongoing research to make changes to how participant interactions are conducted. Researchers must consider if they can adapt their research to conduct participant interactions remotely. If this isn’t possible the research must be paused.
In addition, Aberystwyth University has temporarily suspended the requirement for approval of modifications that relate only to changes to participant interactions from face-to-face to remote, unless there is a substantial change to the protocol* as a result of the change. Please note that such changes would normally require a modification and will again when this situation has passed. Any other changes to your research project will still require additional approval.
Students - If you are unsure if it will be appropriate to change to remote interaction for your research projects, you should discuss this with your supervisor as soon as possible. Once the appropriate way forward has been agreed with your supervisor or department, please follow the guidance below to adapt your research.
Guidance for those who need to pause their research:
You must inform your participants that the research has been paused. In whatever communication you send to participants, it is important that you describe how any actively enrolled participants will be managed, particularly concerning any safety monitoring/follow-up etc where applicable.
Unless the changes made to pause the study result in a substantial change to protocol*, the pausing of a research study and issue of an update to participants will not need to be considered as a modification at the present time.
Guidance for those who will conduct their research remotely:
Scenario A. I have not yet begun data collection but have ethical clearance to do so. I will amend my recruitment plan to recruit and interact remotely.
Unless the changes made to the way in which you interact with participants result in a substantial change to protocol*, you will not need to submit a modification request. Simply update your recruitment documents to outline how you will remotely interact and then proceed.
Scenario B. I have already begun data collection and will now change to remote participant interaction.
Unless the changes made to the way in which you interact with participants result in a substantial change to protocol*, you will not need to submit a modification request. Simply update your recruitment documents to outline how you will remotely interact with participants and use this version moving forward. Any already active participants must be informed of the switch to remote interaction and be provided with the updated participant information sheet. It is important that you make clear to participants that if they no longer wish to participate owing to this change, or for any other reason, that they are free to withdraw at any point.
New submissions for ethical clearance
Researchers may continue to submit applications via the online ethics assessment form and to the Research Ethics Panel and reviews will continue to be conducted. However, you are not permitted to begin data collection which requires any face-to-face interactions with participants in person until further notice. The following options are possible/appropriate:
- Obtain ethical clearance for a project involving face-to-face interactions with participants in person.
- If you wish to commence data collection immediately you must amend these interactions to be conducted remotely as outlined above.
- If it is not possible to conduct your participant interactions remotely then you must wait until you are advised by the University that face-to-face interactions can recommence before you begin any data collection in person.
- If you are a student with time constraints around conducting your research and cannot conduct remote participant interactions, it is recommended that you discuss this with your supervisor as soon as possible. It may be possible to change your research to involve secondary data analysis only (i.e. data which has already been collected) so that no primary data collection is required, or it may be necessary to change the focus of your research project.
New studies relating to COVID-19
Any new studies relating to COVID-19 will require a full ethical review. An expedited review process will be considered for any new studies relating to COVID-19 where there are proven public health grounds to commence. To request an expedited review please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. You will need to address the following questions:
1. What are public health grounds for the study to be conducted?
2. What is the rationale for the study to be conducted at this time?
3. Why can it not be conducted at a later time?
Researchers should send the answers to these questions with a completed approved risk assessment form to email@example.com. Please title the email “New Study relating to COVID-19” and your email will be prioritised.
For international research, both UK and in-country researchers should act in accordance with guidance on COVID19 from national and regional governments, for the health, safety and wellbeing of participants and partners. AU PIs should liaise with their overseas research teams and collaborators to ensure that they are complying with their in-country Government advice in relation to COVID19. For any queries or concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or for CIDRA funded projects contact CIDRA@aber.c.uk
For any other ethics queries relating to new or existing research that is impacted by the current COVID-19 situation, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org