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UCL Research Ethics Committee


Things to Avoid

When applications are reviewed, committee members cite the need for ethical aspects of the research to be improved and modifications made, in particular to the participant information sheet and informed consent form.

Below you will find a list of the most common mistakes made by researchers in their applications.

  • Sections of the application form have not been completed.

     Always mark any sections that are not relevant to your application "N/A".

  • The guidelines for the preparation of the application have not been followed.

     The application guidelines are frequently updated to ensure that the application process is as smooth as possible. Following the guidelines avoids delays. You should always feel free to send in your feedback regarding the application form or process if you think the procedures can be improved.

  • Section A5 of the application form has not been signed by the Head of Department.

     or if the signature has been obtained the Head has not answered the questions in A5 relating to disclosure and barring service checks and whether Chair's action is recommended.

  • Sections B1 and B2 of the application have not been written in simple lay language.

     You must explain your project in a clear and coherent form. Poorly written applications will be returned for editing, resulting in delays. The purpose of the application is not to convince the committee of the excellence and complexity of your project but that all ethical issues have been fully considered. You must outline the intended value of the project, giving necessary scientific background (B1) always under the perspective of ,what ethical implications this research has and you must describe the research protocol, type of procedure and/or research methodology (e.g. observational, survey research, experimental) with regards to the potential ethical challenges (B2).

  • The recruitment documents for participants are not in lay language.

     If the participant does not understand the information they are being given about a research study then they cannot give informed consent to take part. It is therefore vital that all information for participants is written in lay language so that it is clear what it is they are agreeing to.

  • The Information Sheet/recruitment documents are misspelt or poorly constructed.

     In order to attract participants and ensure that they understand what is being asked of them, it is vital that the information you provide is clear and has been carefully checked.

  • The advice of experts such as statisticians or experienced qualitative researchers has not been sought.

     When developing a questionnaire or interview it is important that you consult with other sources if you do not have the necessary expertise.

  • Arrangements for confidentiality and anonymity have not been specified.

     It should be made clear both in the application and Information Sheet to participants what arrangements have been made for confidentiality and anonymity.

  • Potential risks to participants have not been considered and an action plan developed to deal with a situation where a participant may become distressed.

     Some examples of risks/conflicts of interest that may arise are:
    • What would you do if a participant became distressed
    • Do participants know you or a member of the research team, and if so, is there a risk of them feeling pressured into taking part in the study?

  • Potential risks to the researcher(s) have not been considered.

     • What safety issues might there be for a researcher visiting a participant at home?
    • Will the researcher work with an assistant?
    • Will the researcher have a back-up team at the University (to include the principle researcher) to ensure that there is an opportunity to raise any areas of concern?

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