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Preparing an ethics application

If you are using Chrome and are unable to open any of the templates or guidance documents linked to below, please try right-clicking on the link and selecting "open in a new tab". If this doesn't work please use an alternate browser such as Firefox, Safari or Edge instead. 

General Considerations

Below are some important items to consider when preparing your ethics application:

  • Select dates of data collection which are far enough in the future to allow for the ethical review process to take place and also allow you enough time to complete the research, even if you experience issues with recruitment.
  • If you are a PGR or staff member (or a UG or PGT student that intends to publish your work), a data management plan will be required and must be appended to your ethics application. Please note, you must include the 16 outline questions as part of your DMP. You can access the DMP online tool here: https://dmponline.dcc.ac.uk/
  • Ensure the principle research question is in lay language and limited to less than 100 words.
  • Ensure the academic justification is in lay language and provides enough background for the project.
  • Ensure the methodology clearly and concisely describes what will happen to the research participant, how many times and in what order. This must be in lay language and should not be copied and pasted from a research protocol. If using an electronic questionnaire/survey please ensure you adhere to the Guidance on the Use of Survey Tools. If the project will involve observations, ensure you read the Guidance on Observations for best practice advice.
  • The scientific quality of the research should be assessed either by internal or external review to ensure it is sound.
  • If it is quantitative research statistical advice should be sought to ensure the design is appropriate.
  • Ethical issues should be considered and mitigation strategies provided. Common ethical issues include consent, confidentiality, coercion, disclosures, safeguarding and fairness.
  • The number of participants must be accurately listed in the application and you should ensure you take into consideration any potential drop outs.
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria should be described as appropriate to the research being conducted. Ensure you consider all groups of participants who may not be able to take part (example: if conducting a study where participants must select coloured shapes on a screen you would need to exclude those who are colour blind).
  • If participants are not adult healthy volunteers you will need to provide a justification to their inclusion in the research.
  • You need to consider how you will identify, approach and recruit participants. All methods of potential recruitment should be listed including emails, letters, advertisements and social media text.  If using gatekeepers to assist with recruitment, the strategy should be clearly explained and all necessary permissions should be attached to the ethics application.
  • If you are in receipt of funding for the research, you must clearly indicate this in the form.
  • If participants are to be provided with any compensation, vouchers or tokens as a thank you for participation the sums involve must only cover reasonable out of pocket expenses, reasonable recompense for time given to take part in the study or be in the form of a prize draw.
  • The method of obtaining informed consent should be carefully considered (i.e. written, verbal, implied via the return of a questionnaire/survey) and appropriate supporting documentation appended to the ethics application. It may be appropriate to have more than one consenting method if your study involves different groups of participants.
  • All risks to both the participants as well as the researchers should be carefully considered and mitigation strategies provided. If applicable a full, signed risk assessment, lone working strategy, distress protocol and/or debrief will need to be appended to the application.
  • Participants must be able to withdraw from the study at any time without giving a reason and with an assurance that it will not have a negative effect on them (or if applicable any treatment or service they will be receiving).
  • Although participants are able to withdraw from the study at any time, they are only able to withdraw their data up until the point in which it is anonymised into the full data set, at which point it will no longer be possible to identify their specific data.
  • You should provide details of the outcome to the research such as a publication, dissertation or thesis.

Advertisements & Compensation

Please note, advertisements include any the following:

  • Posters
  • Use of the UoM volunteering website
  • Use of the SONA system
  • Newspaper adverts
  • Email or letter invitations
  • Flyers
  • Social media postings (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc)

Important notes on advertisements:

  • They must not be coercive and cannot feature any monetary amounts for participation. You may state that participants will be reimbursed for their time, but must not specify the exact amount as this could be deemed as coercive. 
  • If participants will be entered into a prize draw you may state this on the advert but should not specify the exact amount e.g. "participants will be entered into a prize draw for a high street voucher" Further details should be included in the PIS. The value of any prize or reimbursement for time must be proportionate to the time participants are giving up to take part in the study. 
  • They must be limited to information that prospective participants need to determine their eligibility and interest
  • They must not state or imply a favourable outcome or other benefit beyond what is outlined in the participant information sheet and must not emphasise payments or inducements, using means such as large or bold text.
  • They must contain information that is accurate, honest and socially responsible regarding:
    • who is conducting the research
    • its purpose
    • any risks/benefits
    • requirements of taking part (inclusion/exclusion criteria)
    • contact details for further information
  • Please note the contact details must be a UoM phone number or email address and must not feature personal emails or telephone numbers of the researchers (unless this is a study specific email address or phone number).
  • For recruitment through social media channels there are specific restrictions surrounding the use of personal accounts. Please read through the Social Media Guidelines for more information.

Use of online recruitment platforms

If using an online recruitment platform such as Amazon Mechanical Turk or Prolific, the compensation amount will appear on the front of the advertisement as stipulated by the software provider. Although this is in violation of the expectations and requirements of UoM in relation to monetary amounts being present on advertisements, it is understood and accepted that this cannot be changed. Therefore UoM makes an exception in this regard if using one of these services, provided that (this applies to all routes for obtaining ethical approval):

  • A justification is provided as part of the ethics application which outlines 1) why these specific services must be used as opposed to alternative methods of recruitment, 2) how the specific amount of compensation has been arrived at.
  • That the total compensation amount for participation in the study does not exceed £10

The use of social media 'influencers'

Please see the Social Media submenu below if you are considering using influencers to aid recruitment.

Compensation Amounts for Research Studies

The compensation amount provided should be proportionate to the time spent by research participants. It should also take into consideration the risk of potential distress, harm or upset. Although there is no specific set amount, researchers need to investigate whether there are any established rates within their respective areas of research (e.g. £7 per hour for completion of standard psychological questionnaires).

  • If recruitment is performed through an outside organisation, e.g. through a polling firms panel the compensation can be paid at the standard rates of that organisation. This only applies if the organisation and not the researcher determines the amount of compensation.
  • The compensation amount needs to be equivalent for all participants and groups with everyone receiving the same amount. If there is a specific reason why equivalent compensation cannot be offered (e.g. continuous professional development credit is offered to professional participants instead of a shopping voucher) then a justification must be provided.
  • If a prize draw is being offered, all participants should be provided with an equal opportunity to win (e.g. computerised random number identifier to select the winner(s)).
  • The optimal compensation amount must be decided by the research team at the beginning of the study and fixed for the duration. It cannot be increased part way through a research study in an effort to boost individual response rates from selected groups of participants who may otherwise be difficult to reach. In order to reach such groups, the research team may need to engage with local communities, charities or other organisations in an effort to increase awareness of the research.

Expenses and Tax

Research volunteers, lay participants and participants in clinical trials

In the course of undertaking research, particularly social science or medical research, volunteers are required to take part in tests, submit to measurements or be interviewed. They are usually paid a small sum to cover out of pocket expenses and as compensation for the time spent. Some of the volunteers may be members of staff of the university, but their participation in the research is not part of their duties of employment and they do it in their own time and are under no obligation to take part.

Closely related to the above is the use of "lay" people or "users" in research. Here the people in question are invited to attend meetings to give their views on various matters to inform the research process and direction. Often they will be former or current patients, representatives of particular groups such as retired people, or representatives from charities. Payment is made to them for their participation in the meetings.

Tax consequences for the university

In the circumstances above, HMRC agrees that the amounts paid to those concerned are unlikely to fall within the definition of “earnings” for PAYE or NI purposes. No employment relationship exists and as such PAYE and NIC would be inappropriate.
Under Section 16, Taxes Management Act 1970, HMRC is entitled to ask for details of payments to non-employees at their discretion; but they would not routinely ask for details for small payments such as these.

Tax consequences for the individuals receiving the payments

There will be no tax or NIC liability arising on the individual if the sums received do no more than reimburse the individual’s reasonable costs of participating in the trial or research, including costs of travel and subsistence.
However should the sums paid exceed those reasonable expenses then the excess may fall to be chargeable to tax as Miscellaneous Income, potentially giving rise to personal tax liabilities of the individuals which should be notified to the Inland Revenue under Self-Assessment.

More information can be found here: 

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/eimanual/eim71105.htm

Participant Information Sheets

Here are some important notes to consider when constructing your participant information sheet (PIS):

  • All participants must be given adequate information about the study and this is usually done through a participant information sheet.
  • Check the grade level of the language you are using (Microsoft Word can do this for you), as the average reading level in the UK is Grade 8. We would advise using no higher than Grade 10 to ensure the language is easily understood by all participants.
  • Under the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 and UK GDPR regulations you must use the standard University templates for participant information sheets as found here:

If you are using Chrome and are unable to open any of the templates, please try right-clicking on the link and selecting "open in a new tab". If this doesn't work please use an alternate browser such as Firefox, Safari or Edge instead. 

Important: It is essential that the information sheet include the link to the University’s Privacy Notice for Research Participants as well as the explicit mention of the legal basis for processing personal data, a requirement of the DPA 2018 and UK GDPR. You can read copies of our full research privacy notice here:

 Notes about the participant information sheet templates:

  • These templates have been created to provide additional guidance and examples of the content that should feature in your participant information sheet and consent form. The required information in relation to UK GDPR can be found in all templates but is worded differently depending on the nature of the study. Therefore you should select the template which is best suited to the type of research you will be conducting. 
  • The template for general studies is applicable to most research. If you will be conducting interviews, focus groups, distributing questionnaires, performing observations or other activities then this template should be suitable (providing your study is not medically focused as described below).
  • The template for medical studies should be used if your study has a specific medical component (i.e. taking blood, taking tissue samples, accessing medical records, etc). The content of the medical templates contains specific guidance information and examples (such as circumstances in which you may wish to contact the GP of the participant) for these types of studies but the content in relation to data protection laws is the same as the other templates.
  • Please note that under the DPA (2018) and UK GDPR, the following information is classed as Special Category and you must inform participants that you will be collecting this information about them, even if you do not collect their name:
    • Race
    • Ethnic origin
    • Political affiliation
    • Religion
    • Trade union membership
    • Genetics
    • Biometrics
    • Health
    • Sexual orientation

 Easy Access Participant Information Sheet and Privacy Notice

The following participant information sheet template has been produced by colleagues in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences for research with groups of individuals who need information presented in a clear and simple manner, often accompanied with pictures to reinforce key concepts. 

Informed Consent

Please see below for some important information to consider in relation to obtaining informed consent from research participants:

  • All participants must give informed consent and this can be achieved via:
    • Written consent
      • Provided by signing or marking a written consent form. Please note this is the preferred option of the ethics committee.
    • Verbal consent 
      • Provided by asking the participant a series of questions (through the use of a consent script) and recording their verbal agreement to each statement. The recording can be done either by audio recording or through the use of detailed field notes. If field notes are used, you must include the participant's name, the date in which consent is being taken and the specific statements they are agreeing to. Please also note that if using this method you must provide justification to the ethics committee why this is needed.
    • Implied consent
      • Provided by ticking a box at the beginning of a questionnaire/survey in order to verify consent. In some cases, more than one tick box may be required if there are specific inclusion/exclusion criteria that you need to verify for your study (i.e. the participant being over 18 years of age, from a specific background or the user of a specific service) Please note that a full participant information sheet must still appear before the tick box.
      • ** Please note: implied consent is to be used only for studies in which participants are completing the surveys/questionnaires themselves. For all other types of face to face or computer assisted surveys/questionnaires, full explicit consent must be obtained in all cases unless the researcher can provide an adequate justification for not doing this. In those cases, the researcher must provide a proposed alternative method for informed consent (including which specific details will be recorded). The decision to approve such an alternative to full explicit consent will be left to the discretion of the respective UREC, decided on a case by case basis. 
  • If consent is to be obtained in possibly difficult or complex situations, the researcher should show that they have experience in administering consent.
  • Under the DPA (2018) and UK GDPR regulations you must use the standard University templates for consent forms/scripts as found here:
  • These new templates features statements compliant with the new GDPR regulations and also contain the required data protection section at the bottom of the form.
  • You are free to adjust the words in red or remove entire statements which are not relevant to ensure the form fits with the details your study.

If you are using Chrome and are unable to open any of the templates, please try right-clicking on the link and selecting "open in a new tab". If this doesn't work please use an alternate browser such as Firefox, Safari or Edge instead.

Research with Children

General Guidance

It is important to note that when we refer to consent in this context it is consent for ethical purposes and for certain studies to also satisfy the common law duty of confidence and not consent for data protection purposes. In all instances the legal basis for the processing of personal data is public interest task and for special category data, the additional condition for research purposes.  Therefore when constructing your consent form you should only include statements related to ethical issues, examples of which can be found in the DPA (2018) and UK GDPR compliant templates listed above.[1]

This type of research falls into 3 distinct categories and guidance for each can be found below.

Please note that in scenario 2 and 3 below it is assumed that the children are of an age where their own capacity to legally consent is ruled out and therefore does not become an issue. In addition, in all cases of consent requirements these must be fulfilled by the parents/guardians and consent cannot be provided by other individuals such as teachers or coaches (no other individual than the parent/guardian is able to provide consent by proxy for research). 

If research relies on parental consent there has to be age appropriate information for children and, except in the case of very small children, an assent procedure.

   1. Research taking place without parental/guardian consent but with the consent of the child

Criteria and requirements:

  •  The children must have legal capacity to consent, i.e. they must be able to understand the details of the project and the choice they are being asked to make about participation. This has to be established on   an individual basis for each child, so the project has to contain a mechanism for assessing capacity. Capacity cannot be decided on the basis of chronological age alone but, as a heuristic rule, capacity to  consent to research is not present before the age of 13.
  •  If the project is on a sensitive issue a justification has to be provided for not seeking parental consent. This justification has to be more than ‘it is easier to recruit if the children can consent for themselves’.
  •  The children must be provided with complete information about the University’s data governance procedures and the Research Privacy Notice.

2. Research taking place with parental/guardian opt-out in-lieu of consent

Criteria and requirements:

  •  The children have to be of an age where their assent can be reasonably assumed to be based on an understanding of the project and there has to be no detrimental treatment of the children who do not assent.
  •  All parents/guardians must be informed about any collection of personal data to ensure compliance with data protection laws . The communication to parents must therefore be done by a method that reasonably ensures that they receive the information about the data collection and their opportunity to opt-out; and the opt-out mechanism must be simple.  A paper copy of the information sheet being placed in the school bag of the child is not sufficient. If used it must be accompanied by another more reliable means of communications such as electronic communication to the parents via an emailed school newsletter, direct school email, or text message, or by a letter sent by post.

  The research:

  •  is classified as low or medium risk according to the UREC or School guidelines
  •  is unlikely to cause any distress and if a reward is being offered that all children receive the same reward
  •  only involves activities that normally take place in this particular school, for this particular age group; or the observation of such activities.  Please note that the range of activities taking place in schools from nursery to Year 11-12 is vast and differs from school to school. Examples of what would fall within this category are:  

       1. observation of ordinary teaching or classroom discussion of non-sensitive topics         

       2.short, anonymous questionnaires on some aspect of teaching or the school day in general

       3.student evaluation of teaching of a part of the standard curriculum in a particular way, etc

  •  uses personal, but non-sensitive data already held by the school, or involves the school collecting such data on behalf of the researcher
  •  If using audio recordings, they will only be used for the recording of interviews or focus groups
  •    The research does NOT:
  •    involve a particularly sensitive issue which will be dependent on both context and age of the children. What is a sensitive topic in a religious all-girls school may not be a sensitive topic elsewhere
  •    involve physical testing, invasive techniques or psychological intervention
  •    involve video recording

 3. Research taking place with explicit parental/guardian consent (opt-in)

Please note: this is the preferred option of the University Research Ethics Committees but for the following categories it is a requirement and ethical approval will not be granted unless this option is used.

 Criteria and requirements

     The research:

  •  includes children with learning difficulties, those who require other types of support or have additional characteristics which may class them as potentially vulnerable[2]
  •  involves physical testing, invasive techniques or psychological intervention
  •  involves accessing medical information or performing medical tests such as eye or dental exams
  •  involves audio recording for purposes other than the recording of interviews/focus groups
  •  involves video recording
  •  involves activities that are outside of the normal school curriculum
  •  involves group activities where there is a possibility that the children could become distressed either through the activity itself or through a reward scheme (e.g. an activity where children are rewarded with stickers and one child ends up with more stickers than the other)
  •  involves a sensitive issue which will be dependent on both the context and age of the children. This includes classroom observation of sensitive topics of discussion.
  •  uses special category or sensitive (e.g. disciplinary or attendance record) data already held by the school, or involves the school collecting such data on behalf of the researcher

 [1] In the following we refer to ’school’ for ease of writing. The same criteria apply to nurseries, organised youth clubs, scout and guide groups, sports clubs etc. with the necessary changes for these slightly different contexts.

[2] If research 1) involves class room observation or similar, 2) is performed in an ordinary school setting, and 3) is not focused on children with SEN issues or on SEN issues; then the mere fact that there may be children present in class who have learning difficulties or other SEN issues does not entail that parental consent is required.

 Information Sheets

 The following participant information templates have been produced for research with children. Please note that these are examples which have been created for a fictitious study but that contain wording that is written in age appropriate terms. Please consider the possible differences in reading vs chronological age when drafting your own information sheet and ensure that you produce a version which is suitable for the youngest participant within the group.

 The following participant information templates have been produced for research with children. Please note that these are examples which have been created for a fictitious study but that contain wording that is written in age appropriate terms. Please consider the possible differences in reading vs chronological age when drafting your own information sheet and ensure that you produce a version which is suitable for the youngest participant within the group.

Important note: According to data protection regulations every child has the right to access their personal data, know exactly what it is being used for and be provided with the details of someone they can go to if they have questions or concerns. To ensure that all children are adequately informed you must ensure you include age appropriate wording in your information sheet which specifically mentions these details. For older children (aged 13 and above) you should also ensure you mention the legal basis for data processing and include a hyperlink to the Research Privacy Notice. Please see the example information sheets for children listed above for suggested wording.

 Assent Forms

 Please see below for example assent forms that you may find helpful for your study. These examples are DPA (2018) and UK GDPR compliant and contain appropriate wording for these specific age groups. Please note, written assent may not always be appropriate for your study, especially if very young children are involved.

 

Guidance on Collaborations and Changes to Sponsorship

Collaborations

Many collaborative projects (those involving UoM and another higher education institution or external company/organisation) require complex arrangements to be made between the parties. Therefore it is imperative that you begin the considerations as outlined in the guidance below as soon as possible to avoid lengthy delays to your project timeline. We recommend that you start any discussions regarding contractual arrangements before you start the process of submitting for ethical approval.

Guidance on Collaborative Projects Between UoM and Other Higher Education Institutions or External Companies/Organisations

For enquiries as to whether your study requires any form of contractual arrangement (i.e. collaborative agreement, data sharing agreement or material transfer agreement), please speak with a member of the University's Contracts Team.

Please also ensure you review the Data Management and Protection section below

Changes to sponsorship

If the PI is leaving UoM

If you are leaving UoM for another Higher Education Institution (HEI) and wish to transfer sponsorship of a current Prop or full UREC study to your new employer, this will require written agreement from the Head of Research Governance, Ethics & Integrity. If you wish to request this please:

  • seek written confirmation from your new institution that they agree to take on the role of sponsor for the study, including the fact that they accept all responsibilities associated with this, will organise appropriate insurance coverage, will communicate the transfer to all relevant parties and ensure that UoM details are removed from all research materials
  • email the Head of Research Governance, Ethics & Integrity (april.lockyer@manchester.ac.uk), cc’ing research.ethics@manchester.ac.uk, and formally request a transfer of sponsorship of the named study, providing explicit assurances that the change in sponsor will be communicated to all relevant parties and that UoM’s details will be removed from all research materials.

We aim to respond to any such requests within 15 working days.

Please note that you should also seek advice from the Contracts Team should any transfers of data or IP be required.

If the PI is remaining at UoM

If you are remaining at UoM but wish to transfer sponsorship of a current Prop or full UREC study to another organisation, please first seek advice from the Contracts Team and Information Governance as well as the Insurance Office. You should then submit a formal amendment to your ethical approval in the ERM system, requesting permission to transfer sponsorship and providing details of how the transfer and any data protection and insurance issues will be managed. Please note, the transfer cannot occur until the amendment has been approved.  

Data Management and Protection

EU Exit 

Please see the main Research Governance website for more information on this impacts on the transfer of personal data.

Personal Data Storage during COVID-19

Please see the University's FAQ on Research for guidance on the storage of personal data during COVID-19

Zoom Audio/Video Conferencing

Guidance on using Zoom can be found on the Media Services website

The Information Governance Team and Media Services have also created a FAQs guide on the use of Zoom for research purposes which can be found here

Data Management Plans

It is a requirement of the University of Manchester that all research projects have a data management plan to outline the storage and life cycle arrangements for any data collected during the course of the research project.  For more information on preparing a Data Management Plan please visit the University's website

Please note, the DMP submitted for UREC review must include the ‘Manchester Data Management Outline’ section. You can download all sections of your DMP from the DMPonline system using the DMP’s ‘Download’ tab, and selecting all the ‘Optional Plan Components’ under ‘Download settings’. If the ‘Download settings’ also includes an option for ‘Select phase to download’ then you can repeat this process to download all DMP sections for all phases of your DMP.

If you are a member of staff, PGR student or if the data will be used for future publications, you will be required to prepare a Data Management Plan using the DMP Online system and submit a copy as part of your ethics application. Please note that if you have prepared a data management plan as part of a grant application or via any other system you will need to prepare a new one using the DMP Online system.

If you need any additional advice or support on completing your data management plan, please use the DMP Online system to ask for feedback on your plan from colleagues in the library and Information Governance office.

If your study involves audio/video recording please read the guidance on recording research participants

If your study involves the use of Social media data or CCTV, please read our guidelines.

Please note, depending on the nature of your project the IGO may be in touch after your DMP is submitted in DMP Online to conduct further information governance assessments.

For PGT or UG students you will be asked to complete data protection questions as part of the ethics application (in Section D). Please ensure you use the help bubbles next to the questions for guidance and support.

The Library have produced a number of sixty second skills videos to help with preparation and sharing of DMPs.

Research projects outside the UK

In addition to the research ethics requirements from the University, you must also ensure that you follow the data protection legislation and regulations in the country in which you are conducting your research. To assist you with this, the Information Governance office have advised that the website below can be used as a resource for determining the strength of data protection legislation. Please note, the website is external to the University and therefore we are not responsible for the accuracy of the content. Should you have any queries in relation to the data protection legislation or regulations for specific countries, please contact the Information Governance Office.

Data protection laws worldwide

Data Protection Training

All staff and students at the University of Manchester are responsible for ensuring they are familiar with the data protection policies and processes and follow these when conducting their research projects. Under the DPA (2018) and UK General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) the University is required to provide assurances and safeguards to all research participants that their data will be treated confidentially and will be protected as set out in the relevant data protection legislation. To support this you will be required to confirm one of the following as part of your ethics application (in Section D):

Students (UG, PGT, PGR)

That you understand and will adhere to the data protection regulations and the University of Manchester's data protection policies by confirming all statements in data protection checklist (the list is featured in the ERM system under Section D).

Staff

That you have undertaken the Information Security and Data Protection Training within the last 2 years and this is reflected in your training record.

Accessing Extremely Contentious/Potentially Illegal Materials

If you are planning a research study where access to data or other online content that could be considered extremely contentious or potentially illegal is necessary you should first discuss this with the Compliance & Risk Office. Examples of projects where this requirement may apply include, but are not limited to, studies relating to acts of terrorism or extreme political ideologies.

Where a proposed study falls in to this category the project PI, or supervisor where the project is to be conducted by a student, should contact Dr David Barker, Director of Compliance and Risk, to discuss the project and ensure appropriate risk mitigation can be put in place. Additionally, advice should be sought from Information Governance regarding access to any restricted websites.

Copies of any advice provided by either the Compliance & Risk Office or Information Governance should be appended to the UREC application.

Researchers should also familiarise themselves with the Social Media Guidelines and the guidelines on the Use of Media in Research 

Survey Tools

As of December 2020, the University of Manchester permits researchers to use the following platforms for hosting electronic questionnaires/surveys:

Please note, the use of Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo are NOT permitted.

Select Survey and Lime Survey will be unsupported from July 2021. Please refer to the information posted on StaffNet for more information. 

If you wish to use a platform that is not listed above, you must obtain written confirmation from the Information Governance Office that it meets all University of Manchester requirements and expectations. Please ensure you do this before purchasing a license. 

Information Governance have also provided additional survey tool guidance.

Reminder: it is your responsibility to ensure you are aware of any licensing fees or other associated costs related to the use of these platforms and that you have appropriate funding in place. 

Please refer to the above Consent Forms section for guidance on obtaining informed consent when using surveys/questionnaires. 

Please also remember to fully test all elements of your survey/questionnaire (including links to participant information sheets or debrief materials) before making it live. 

 

Social Media

Social media is commonly used both for recruitment as well as data collection purposes.

Recruitment

If using social media platforms for recruitment purposes, please ensure you read the guidance information carefully as there are explicit restrictions on the use of personal social media accounts, how you are permitted to initiate contact with potential participants and gaining informed consent.

The use of social media 'influencers'

Should researchers wish to engage with social media ‘influencers’ to help generate additional interest in their research study, a copy of the content that will be read/written or otherwise shared by the ‘influencer’ must be submitted to the Committee for review. Although the UREC appreciates that researchers will want to provide the ‘influencers’ with flexibility to deliver the study information to their followers in their own unique style of writing/presentation, it’s important that the Committee are able to ensure that such writing/presentation follows University policies and procedures. They must also ensure that any possible coercion (intentional or otherwise) by the ‘influencer’ is minimised.

Depending on the topic of research, the participant group, and the type of 'influencer(s)' the Committee may require that the actual social media 'product' is submitted for approval before it is released.

It’s important to note that depending on the topic of the research or the group of participants being targeted, the use of ‘influencers’ may not be appropriate. In addition, specific ‘influencers’ may have constructed a brand/image that is not appropriate for University researchers to engage with due to the possible reputational consequences for this institution. For these reasons, the Committee reserves the right to reject the use of ‘influencers’ as mechanism for advertising for any research study.

Data Collection/Usage

Common methods for data collection from social media include (but are not limited to):

  • Use of APIs
  • Web scraping
  • Downloading selected postings from blogs, Reddit threads, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or other platforms
  • Initiating groups or chats on the various platforms and recording the discussions

If you wish to use data from any social media platform, website or other publically available data source you must consult the guidance in order to determine whether consent will be required as well as whether ethical approval will be needed before you can undertake data collection.

Distress Policies and Debrief Sheets

Please see below for examples of distress policies and debrief sheets which you can modify for use in your own research study:

Experimental Studies and Ingestion/Inhalation of Substances

Any experiments involving participants should be carefully managed and monitored. This is absolutely essential when participants are being asked to ingest a substance, however innocuous the substance appears to be. Under these circumstances the following steps MUST be taken:

  • A thorough risk assessment should be undertaken and any identified risks should be properly mitigated against
  • The risk assessment should be dynamic and any changes to methodology undergo a further risk assessment
  • Those involved in the experiment should be appropriately trained
  • Students undertaking experiments should be supervised
  • Any substances to be administered or ingested/inhaled should have the dosage double checked and signed off by an appropriate member of staff

 We also offer the following advice about ethics for ingestion/inhalation:

  • Please note that studies involving medicines, drugs (including caffeine), placebos or foodstuffs containing common allergens (e.g. nuts) will require full UREC review. This includes providing standard over-the-counter medicines or drugs and exceeding the recommended dosage.
  • If your study involves confectionery or foodstuffs that are unlikely/unexpected to cause allergic reactions in participants then it may qualify for Proportionate UREC review. Similarly, studies involving the use of common substances purely to invoke a particular sensation of smell may qualify for Proportionate UREC review.

 If your study does involve either ingestion or inhalation of substances, please ensure you select the appropriate option in answer to question C1 in the ethics application form and provide full details in the following section. 

Insurance

Please see below for information on insurance requirements for research studies at the University:

  • Insurance cover must be confirmed or, if necessary, special cover arranged, through the Insurance Office.
  • The insurance cover is available for research sponsored, managed, designed or conducted by, or on behalf of, the University (including research undertaken by students under supervision). 
  • The University provides insurance cover in respect of research involving human subjects undertaken in the United Kingdom for:
    • Harm to participants, on a ‘no-fault’ or ‘non-negligent harm’ basis, and
    • Financial loss by participants and participating organisations, on a legal liability basis.
  • The University also provides insurance cover in respect of research involving human subjects undertaken abroad that does not have a medical content, on a legal liability basis.
  • To ensure that your proposed research project is covered by the University insurance, please ensure you:
    • If seeking ethical approval via the HRA or NHS REC, complete the Insurance Assessment Form and return to the individual reviewing your ethics application form.   
    • If seeking ethical approval via the University’s ERM system, complete Section C of the application form and ensure you read the guidance information available in the help bubble to the right of the questions. Insurance cover will then be automatically arranged on your behalf.
  • The only exception to this procedure would be for a researcher who had obtained REC approval for a commercially sponsored project which included insurance, negotiated by the Funding Services Team in the University of Manchester Research Office, for both negligent and non-negligent harm.

If you will be travelling outside of the UK during the course of the research project you will need to contact the Insurance office to verify whether separate travel insurance is required. Please email insurance@manchester.ac.uk with details of your planned research project.

Fieldwork

If you will be conducting fieldwork as part of your research project you must ensure you have completed and signed a risk assessment form appropriate to the location in which you will be travelling and appended this to your ethics application. If you are a student, the risk assessment must be signed by your supervisor and should be completed under their guidance. If you require additional advice on completing your risk assessment form, please contact your School Safety Advisor (SSA). Please ensure you contact your relevant School Administrator for detailed information on fieldwork requirements for your School.

Generic Risk Assessment form and corresponding guidance on completion

Lone Working

If during the course of your research project you will be working alone, off University premises or outside of normal working hours it will be classed as lone working.

As part of your ethics application you will need to confirm that you have read and understood the University’s Lone Working Policy and for full UREC applications will be required to prepare a personalised lone working policy which outlines how you plan on keeping yourself safe for the duration of data collection. Please ensure you also specify in your risk assessment form and/or ethics application what arrangements will be made to ensure your safety while lone working. 

Common Ethics Terminology & Concepts

Please see below for a number of common ethics terms or concepts which you may come across during the course of your research project as well as detailed explanations and links to appropriate resources.

Ethnography

Grounded Theory

Assent

  • When a child, under the age of 16, agrees to participate in the research study and have their data collected, stored and used for publication, they provide assent. Assent can only be given with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

Consent

  • When the participant gives permission to the researcher to contact them for a research study, participate in the study, and have their data collected, stored and used for publication, they provide consent. Consent is only to be used for adults over the age of 16

Confidential

  • Data is confidential when personal, identifying information is given and the information is linked to the provider. The details of individuals providing the data are known only to members of the research team and will not be disclosed to anyone else.

Anonymous

  • Data is anonymous when it contains no personal, identifying information and cannot be linked in any way to the provider. The details of individuals providing the data are not known to anyone, including members of the research team.

Social Media

Reporting of Illegal Activity

  • If your research will involve conducting interviews or focus groups, you should consider including a disclaimer that warns participants that any disclosure to the researcher of current/future illegal activity will have to be reported to the proper authorities. Please note that the researcher is not under any obligation to report to the authorities the disclosure of any past illegal activities (except for terrorist offences).  However, researchers might of course feel they have a moral obligation to report past activities if they are of heinous nature (e.g. murder, rape, child abuse, etc).

Reporting of Professional Misconduct

  • Researchers who have a professional standing often have an obligation to their professional standards body to report any evidence of misconduct by other member of the profession. If this applies to you, participants should be give appropriate warning of this.

Example applications

With the kind permission of some former UREC applicants, we have shared a small number of previously submitted ethics applications below as an example of good practice when completing the UREC form. The applications are clear and concise with responses that have the appropriate levels of detail to enable the Committee to form an ethical judgement on the proposals. The same principles in terms of completeness and level of detail can also be applied to those submitting applications for Department/Division/School review.

Please note, these applications have been shared to help embed a culture of good research practice and must not be copied or used for current or future applications without the explicit, written permission of the owners.