Despite the easing of lock-down it is still preferable to conduct research online where possible. Researchers should consider if you can adapt your research to conduct participant interactions remotely and how this affects ethical approval. When considering adjustments give thought to whether a change to the research protocol might alter the level of risk to the participant. For example, if you will ask questions on a sensitive topic, to conduct research remotely might remove the safeguard of the researcher being able to detect distress and the mitigation of referring to an appropriately trained person.
If this is not to conduct research online,your research could be paused for a number of months and in these cases research ethics committees will not require notification. You must inform your participants that the research has been paused. It will be key that in whatever communication you send to participants that you describe how any actively enrolled participants will be managed, particularly concerning any safety monitoring/follow-up etc where applicable.
If you wish to begin or restart research face-to-face please see university guidance on how to gain appropriate health and safety approval. Please note, health and safety approval must be gained via your department before applying for ethical approval.
Where planned activities have been modified (which includes moving activities to online from face-to-face, or vice versa) an amendment must be submitted to your faculty research ethics committee for approval, these will be processed as quickly as possible. Any modified activities (those not as described in the original application) should not take place until the amendment is approved. Continuing a project where the activities deviate from the approved protocol could constitute research misconduct.
There is no need to inform the ethics committee when switching between approved protocols within the project. Therefore, if you resume face-to-face activities or if additional lockdown measures are reintroduced so you resume online research there is no need to inform the committee, as long as you are following an approved protocol.
Guidance for those who will make changes to conduct their research remotely:
If you have not yet begun data collection but have ethics committee approval you will need to submit an amendment to the appropriate FREC. You should submit an amended application form and likely need to include evidence of consideration of confidentiality, amended participant information sheets and consent forms and if additional personal information needs to be collected, information about data storage plans. You will be able to proceed once your request is re-approved.
If you have already begun data collection and will now change to remote participant interaction then you will need to plan for a short pause whilst you submit an amendment as outlined above. 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.
Post-graduate Students: If you are unsure if it will be possible to conduct your research remotely you should discuss this with your supervisor as soon as possible. Once the appropriate way forward has been agreed, please follow the guidance below to adapt your research.