Research Ethics Committee

Which ethics committee should I apply to?

There are currently the following different application routes for staff and students within UCL whose projects require research ethics approval:

First check that your study does not require ethical approval from a Research Ethics Committee falling within the UK Health Departments' Research Ethics Service as detailed below. If it does not, and your study falls under the review requirements of the UCL Research Ethics Committee (REC), then you will need to apply to the UCL REC. The following guidance will help you to ascertain which committee you should apply to.

Research Ethics Committees falling within the UK Health Departments' Research Ethics Service

The UK Health Departments have revised their review requirements known as the harmonised Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees (GAfREC) for the kinds of research activity which must be ethically approved by a Research Ethics Committee within the UK Health Departments' Research Ethics Service. The circumstances where a research project may need ethical approval through this route are summarised below.

Further details and information on how to apply through this route is available from the National Research Ethics Service (NRES): but please also contact the Joint Research Office: who can give the appropriate advice.

R&D Approval
It should be noted that some studies that fall outside of the review requirements of the UK Health Departments' Research Ethics Service will still also require approval/management permission from the host care organisations, often called R&D approval. For all UCLH, RFH and Institute of Neurology staff undertaking medical research the Joint Research Office provides all the information for i) R and D approval at UCLH; ii) Research contracts with UCLH both commercial and non-commercial; iii) for research governance and keeping your study legal; iv) training and education in research governance; v) collaborations with statisticians.

Please note that Multi Research Ethics Committee (MREC) approval may be necessary if it is a multi-centre study (i.e. involving more than one research site).

The UCL Research Ethics Committee

Ethical approval is required through the UCL REC if a specific research project is:

to ensure that the research conforms with general ethical principles and standards unless:

  1. the only involvement of human participants in particular research activities will be one or more of the categories listed in our → exemptions in which case the research will be EXEMPT from ethics approval unless approval is specifically required by an external funding body or other external body in order to obtain research permission;
  2. UCL staff are involved as co-researchers in a project led by a Principal Researcher from another UK institution and ethics approval has been granted by that institution. Please note that for studies conducted overseas, ethical approval from both a UK and a local institution is required.

If research is exempt from formal approval under the following criteria, it is still expected that UCL researchers will abide by the appropriate ethical guidelines of their discipline.

Department Heads have final judgment as to whether a particular activity should be exempt from the requirement for approval by the UCL Ethics Committee. But note that the exemptions do not apply to research involving vulnerable participants as defined in our guidelines.

Exemption from approval by the UCL Ethics Committee DOES NOT IMPLY that the research is also exempt from registration with the UCL Data Protection Officer nor from UCL Risk Assessment procedures.

If your study is not exempt from ethical approval you will need to submit an application to the UCL Research Ethics Committee. Please follow the steps on our → Procedures for Applicants page.

International Research
When the researcher is based at UCL but conducting research outside Britain, or in the case of collaborative research with international institutions, the researcher should, where possible, refer to international guidelines for the country where research is being carried out in addition to applying for approval from the UCL Research Ethics Committee. In cases where ethical or legal permissions are required from local organisations or gatekeepers, it is the researchers responsibility to ensure that these have been obtained prior to commencing the study.

The International Compilation of Human Research Standards
The → ICoHPS listing compiled by the Office for Human Research Protections, US Department of Health and Human Services provides details of Research Ethics Committees in over 100 countries. It is also recommended that researchers regularly check the → British Foreign Commonwealth Office website for further details and travel advice for the country they are planning to travel to.