Guidelines on research ethics
All members of the department - both staff and students - are expected to observe the code of conduct and ethical principles laid down by the British Psychological Society in their Code of conduct, ethical principles and guidelines. They should ensure that everyone for whom they are responsible in the department, and to whom the code and principles apply, observes them.
Undergraduate projects - deadlines for ethics submissions
Most undergraduate projects are Routine, Routine ethics applications can be submitted at any time. For Non-Routine applications, there are three deadlines for BSc Psychology students. These are: Wednesday 1st November, Wednesday 15th November and absolute final deadline, Friday 1st December. If you can submit by the first deadline (you have found a supervisor and agreed a topic), please do so. Remember the sooner you submit and get approval, the sooner you can start your project. The 1st December is a final deadline and any applications submitted after that will not be reviewed.
Classification of proposed research: routine or non-routine?
- Ethics applications need to be marked as either Routine or Non-Routine:
- Routine: If the researcher or supervisor decides that the proposed study is so close to a previous study that has been reviewed within the last 3 years or renewed (for a maximum of 2 additional years) by the Departmental Ethics Committee, then you may proceed with your routine research once you have completed and submitted a routine application. When submitting a routine application, the approval number from the original (non-routine) application must be included on your application form. You must also provide copies of all original documentation with your routine ethics application form, including all appendices (and final versions of forms if amendments were required). If you cannot provide the original documentation or ethical approval has expired and cannot be renewed, you will be need to complete a new non-routine form.
- Non-Routine: If the proposed study raises ethical issues for which the researcher / supervisor has not had previous approval, then the application is Non-Routine and must be considered by the ethics committee. The study cannot proceed until the researcher has received a numbered ethical approval certificate.
How to submit your ethics application
- There are five different ethics application forms. Make sure you complete the right one. Students should consult their supervisor before completing the form.
Attach any relevant documentation. Sign the form and, if you are a student, your supervisor must also sign it. Please submit your application electronically to email@example.com
Submission dates for applications
- Routine applications can be submitted at anytime.
- There are submission deadlines for Non-Routine applications to the ethics committee. Applications should be submitted in the days leading up to this date. Submissions after this date will not be considered until the following deadline. In most cases, applicants will receive a response within 3 weeks of the submission deadline:
- 2017: 15 September, 13 October, 17 November, 11 December
- 2018: 12 January, 16 February, 16 March, 13 April, 18 May, 15 June
- Please submit all applications electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
How to apply for renewal of ethics approval
- Ethical approval is given to non-routine projects for a period of 3 years. To obtain an extension for a further 2 years, please complete the below application, confirming that no details of your research have changed. Renewal applications need to be submitted electronically to email@example.com along with a copy of all original documentation pertaining to the associated non-routine application i.e. application forms, appendices, etc. If you are unable to provide original documentation or the Committee confirms that ethical approval cannot be renewed, you may be required to complete a new non-routine form for your study.
- Application for renewal form
- If your application concerns clinical or patient groups or is similar to other studies that require National Research Ethics Service Approval (NRES), you must explain in your application why NRES permission is not required. You must also submit the NRES self-assessment check verifying this with your application. http://hra-decisiontools.org.uk/ethics/
Undergraduates and clinical projects
- In the past, occasionally, undergraduates have done clinical projects. This is now not possible. By clinical, we mean projects which would require getting NHS ethics approval (now referred to as COREC) for research on patients or NHS staff. Procedures for gaining COREC approval have become much more onerous, time-consuming and complex in recent years, and the effort required for such approval means it is not appropriate for undergraduate projects. The only exception to this will be if an undergraduate, through their existing employed work, is already doing research on a project which has received COREC approval for the work that individual is doing- i.e. no new COREC application would be required.
Research involving minors (under 16 years of age)
- Research using CBCD Babylab Facilities contact firstname.lastname@example.org for sample text to complete ethics form and for standard Babylab Consent form. Sometimes students carry out research for their projects / dissertations in an ongoing study of their supervisors and which their supervisors have ethics approval for. In these cases, students still need to apply for ethical approval and their application is always non-routine. DBS/CRB checks: Anyone carrying out research with minors must undergo a CRB check. Please note that this can take up to three months to process so you should plan accordingly. The research cannot begin until the individual has been approved. Please read the DBS/CRB Checks Please note that research involving minors is always non-routine.
Useful links and other references
- UK Data Archive (UKDA) guidance on data management and sharing
- Code of Human Research Ethics (BPS)
- Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research (BPS)
- Bersoff, D.N. (1995). Ethical conflicts in psychology
- Kimmel, A.J. (1996). Ethical issues in behavioral research: a survey.
- Panter, A.T. and Sterba, S.K. (2011) Handbook of Ethics in Quantitative Methodology. London: Routledge
- Student DBS checks: Students requiring a DBS check (formally known as CRB) will be able to apply for one through the College. Please read the following information for instructions on how to do so:
- Confirm with your supervisor that a DBS check is required.
- Contact Naomi Adams directly (email@example.com) and provide your full name, student number, date of birth, course and email address. Please put DBS check in the subject header and copy your supervisor and firstname.lastname@example.org into this email as proof that they have agreed to your check. If you do not copy in your supervisor, your email will not be processed.
- Naomi Adams will set up an application for you to complete remotely. After you have done so email email@example.com to make an appointment to show the original supporting documents you selected to prove your identification when making the application. Please note that you must have a copy of the original documentation, as no photocopies or printouts will be accepted and if you do not have all the appropriate documentation the check cannot not be carried out.
- The Disclosure result will generally be issued to you by post within 7-10 days of the check being completed.
- Birkbeck will not receive a copy of the certificate. You will therefore need to scan and email a copy to Oliver Kurer (firstname.lastname@example.org). Alternatively, you may arrange to bring in the original certificate so that a copy may be taken.
Important: You must not begin your study until your DBS result has been seen and accepted, and your Ethics Approval Form has been approved. If you already have a DBS check that was not processed by Birkbeck, we will not accept it. Birkbeck does not participate in the DBS update service. You must therefore have another check processed through Birkbeck. Please follow the steps above.
- Staff DBS checks: Staff requiring a DBS check (formally known as CRB) will be able to apply for one through the College. Please contact Aris Magkoutis (email@example.com) for more information.
Information on how to request an amendment to existing studies
- Rarely, you may need to slightly modify an ongoing project (e.g. change the format of a questionnaire that is causing confusion). If this represents a new experiment or study, this should be applied for using the Routine or Non-Routine form. However, if this is an alteration to an ongoing experiment or study, you can submit a request for amendment. You should detail your requested amendment (covering all aspects of the original form that are altered by your amendment, including data sharing/security) in a letter addressed to the Chair; you should attach new versions of consent forms/information sheets where relevant, and any new materials; you should also attach your original application form. Any original materials that have been modified should have new version numbers and dates, so that participants can be tracked. Your email should be entitled Modification to Study and your reference number. The Ethics committee will let you know whether your amendment is approved, requires alteration, or is rejected. This communication must be received before you can implement your proposed modification.
SSHP Ethics Committee
All research and all teaching exercises involving human participants must have received ethical approval at the appropriate level – within the Department hosting the programme or by the School Ethics Committee. This is so, no matter where the investigations are carried out or if ethical approval has been given by some other institution. There are not, and possibly cannot be, a completely firm set of criteria for classifying research as ethically acceptable. Birkbeck staff and students are required to abide by ethical principles such as justice, truthfulness, confidentiality and respect for persons, but also to attend to the evolving understanding of how these principles are expressed in society at a particular time.
The Committee’s procedures are intended to balance the need to safeguard participants and researchers, and an efficient and workable set of arrangements. In applying their procedures the Committee take account of the law as it applies to health and safety, and the protection of young people, together with the notion of ‘reasonable precautions’ against threats to the well-being of participants. The Committee reports to the College Research Ethics Committee.
The Committee has the power to scrutinize all research involving human participants. When necessary the Committee shall call upon any other persons with proper expertise to assist them with their decisions. It has the power to approve or reject research on grounds of ethical acceptability. No investigation shall commence until it has met the conditions laid down by the Committee. If the proposer of an investigation disagrees with the decision of the School Ethics Committee they can ask that the proposal be referred to the College Research Ethics Committee.