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Research Ethics

The FST Research Ethics Committee (FSTREC) oversees ethical review of proposed research that is not reviewed through research ethics mechanisms outside the University, such as the NHS Research Ethics Service.

A new Research Ethics Application Management System (REAMS) is launching on the 1st of November 2021 – find out more here.

Announcement regarding the impact of Covid 19 (Corona Virus)

If you have a project that deals with coronavirus or COVID-19, this will be fast-tracked by FST Ethics. For further guidance please see our Guide for Projects During Pandemic.

A research project being conducted by FST staff and/or research students should be submitted to the FSTREC for ethical review if it involves human participants, or other possible ethical risk factors, and is not being reviewed externally.

Before submitting a new ethics application or an amendment to an existing ethics application for review please read the university's guidance. For additional help with research and ethical considerations during the pandemic, you may find this Guidance on ethical considerations document ‌useful.

Undergraduate and taught postgraduate coursework and dissertations that involve the generation of data with human participants need to be approved before any data is generated. Responsibility for ethics review of undergraduate and taught postgraduate projects lies within the Departments.

The review process

Please note that due to staff turnover it will take longer than usual to process applications during December. Thank you very much for your patience.

The FSTREC works in close collaboration with the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC). However, the process is designed so that applications will undergo a full review by only one committee in most cases. All applications for ethical review should be submitted to the FSTREC.

The aim of the committee is to ensure that ethical considerations and issues are addressed in the conduct of research. The committee seeks to support and encourage the process of ethically conducted research in FST, by identifying ethical researchers rather than ethical research, to enable not block research, to maintain the safety and wellbeing of participants and researchers, to assess ethics, not the methodology, and to promote ethical values.

The committee structure includes members from many of the FST departments providing diversity in perspectives and specialised knowledge.

Does your research project involve any of the following?*

  • Human participants (including all types of interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, records relating to humans, use of online datasets or other secondary data, observation etc.)
  • The risk to members of the research team, such as:
    • lone-working
    • travel to areas where researchers may be at risk
    • risk of emotional distress
  • Human cells or tissues other than those established in laboratory cultures
  • The threat to the environment
  • Conflict of interest
  • Research or a funding source that could be considered controversial
  • Social media and/or data from internet sources that could be regarded as private
  • Animals**
  • any other ethical considerations

Yes

If you have answered YES to any of the above, we ask you to take the following steps outlined in the Applications tab below.

* If your research involves NHS Staff or Patients please see the University Sponsorship webpages and the 'NHS Research' section in the Applications tab below before beginning your application.

**Animals

If your research involves animals you will need to gain approval for your project via the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). Please see the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body webpages and contact the secretary to AWERB, Lucy Sanderson for further details.

For questions about the logistics of the application process, or about ethical issues and application content, please contact the Science & Technology Research Ethics Officer.

Tab Content: Applications

Please note that due to staff turnover it will take longer than usual to process applications during December. Thank you very much for your patience.

How to apply for ethical approval

Ethics applications should be submitted in REAMS*, the university’s Research Ethics Application Management System, for projects by staff and PhD students. Watch a short video explaining how to submit an application in REAMS.

Please note that your ethics application will not be considered approved until you have received a confirmation of ethical approval letter from the FST REC committee.

Projects reviewed and approved by another organisation’s research ethics committee require Faculty Research Ethics Committee review before research can commence at Lancaster. For example, if a co-investigator at another university obtains ethical approval for a project that covers a Lancaster researcher on their research team, the Lancaster researcher must also submit an ethics application to their Faculty Research Ethics Committee through REAMS.

In addition to completing the application form in REAMS, you also need to submit all research materials of direct relevance to your application such as, but not limited to:

  • Advertising materials (posters, e-mails)
  • Letters of invitation to participate
  • Participant information sheets
  • Consent Forms
  • Questionnaires, surveys, demographic sheets
  • Interview schedules, interview question guides, focus group scripts
  • Debriefing sheets, resource lists

We strongly recommend that you use the templates provided in the Documentation and Guidance tabs on this webpage as the basis of your supporting documents, such as your information sheet and consent form. The Lancaster University GDPR statement must be included in your PIS. If your participants include people with a learning disability, your information sheet and consent form should include pictorial representations of the information you are trying to communicate (Makaton). For more information go to http://www.makaton.org/.

For all sections of the form, be specific but concise in the information you provide. The reviewers on the ethics committee are academic colleagues from within FST. They will not necessarily be from your subject area or discipline, so make sure to avoid subject-specific terminology and be as clear as you can.

Projects involving social media and participants recruited or identified through the internet require ethics review (following ESRC and other guidelines). This is particularly important if the understanding of privacy in these settings is contentious or where sensitive issues are discussed, and where quotes and visual images the researcher intends to use may be identifiable. For example, as part of your study, you may be using data from an online source that is publicly available. However, this does not mean that the participants/members of this source also perceive it to be public. For more advice on the ethics of internet research, see the Association of Internet Researchers website.

Any study involving online interviews, online ethnography or any other use of data from private or semi-private internet sources is considered to involve contact with human participants and therefore needs a full ethics review. Please read the 'Guidance on using social media for research' and Social Media Guidance for Researchers for important information to consider when designing your research and before you apply for ethical approval.

NHS Research

If your research involves NHS patients or material from NHS patients (e.g. blood or tissue samples, etc.) an application to the NHS-REC and LU sponsorship office needs to be completed and submitted. More information for research in conjunction with the NHS can be found on the NHS sponsorship webpage. Do not fill in an application form in REAMS.

If you are working with NHS staff members as participants in the study, then an application should be sent to the FST REC and HRA. In order to do so, please see the guidance on the REAMS webpage under 'NHS Research and REAMS'. If you are unclear if you need HRA approval, please ask the R&D office of the trust you are working with for their advice. The FST REC may ask for a letter from your trust or hospice, etc. to confirm that HRA approval is not needed. If you are working with patient material you will need to follow the human tissue act guidance. The HTA covers the storage of research material. Within Lancaster University you need to inform your local Biological safety committee and follow their processes for logging and storing material.

For questions about the logistics of the application process, or about ethical issues and application content, please contact the Secretary of the Committee at FST Research Ethics.

Animals

If your research involves animals you will need to gain approval for your project via the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). Please see the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body webpages and contact the secretary to AWERB, Lucy Sanderson for further details.

Amendments to previously approved applications (Excluding applications that required both HRA approval and FREC approval )

Please see the document Amendment Guidance for Research Ethics Application Management System (REAMS) for guidance on how to submit an amendment to a previously approved application in REAMS.

For questions about the logistics of the application process, or ethical issues and application content, please contact the Science & Technology Research Ethics Officer.

Amendments to applications that required both HRA approval and FREC approval 

Please see the guidance on the REAMS webpage under 'NHS Research and REAMS'.

*Applicants are encouraged to use REAMS wherever possible, however, paper-based research ethics applications will continue to be reviewed alongside applications submitted in REAMS up until the 31st of January 2022. Please contact the FST Research Ethics Officer for further guidance.

Tab Content: Timelines and FREC Calendar

Please note that due to staff turnover it will take longer than usual to process applications during December. Thank you very much for your patience.

FREC Calendar

Applications for ethics review can be submitted at any time, so please do not wait until a committee deadline to submit your application. However, if your study poses significant ethical risks, it will be considered by the committee at its meetings, and the deadlines for paperwork for each meeting are given below.

Meeting Date Deadline for paperwork
14th October 28th September
10th February 24th January
7th April 23rd March
23rd June 7th June

How long will it take to review my application?

Your ethics application will be reviewed by academic colleagues from within the faculty. The following are estimated times required for the review of ethics applications from staff and PhD students. We will do our best not to exceed these times. However, we cannot exclude that due to circumstances such as the high volume of applications or absence of committee members due to illness some applications may take longer to review.

The length of time required for each review is related to the complexity of ethical issues raised by your planned study. Furthermore, it depends on the quality of your application (e.g. have you explained clearly and in lay terms what the project aims to do) and the speed at which you can respond to requests for revisions or clarification from the reviewers. Therefore, the times given below are estimated review times, and it will likely take longer for you to receive full approval of your application.

It is entirely your, the applicant’s responsibility, to submit applications in good time so that any data collection can start as planned and only AFTER ethics approval has been obtained.

Applications requiring Chair’s action only: up to two weeks
Low-risk applications: up to eight weeks
Applications needing to be considered at Committee meeting: up to twelve weeks

Applications requiring chair’s action only are human data/secondary data applications, amendments to previously approved applications and applications that already have approval from an external ethics comittee.

Please note that these times might be exceeded during periods of high demand and staff absences, particularly around University closure periods (Christmas and Easter) and over summer due to staff annual leave.

Tab Content: Guidance and Information

The following provides guidance on where to find further information about issues that may apply to your project, regardless of whether you are a staff member, research student or UG/PG, applicant. For queries relating to this guidance please contact the FST Research Ethics Officer.

Training and ethics frameworks

GDPR and Data management

Lancaster University Researcher safety policies and guidance

Research with Children

Social media

Transcription

Online transcription services

Please note that Lancaster University currently only has a data-sharing agreement with Nvivo and Microsoft (OneDrive and Teams) for transcription services. All other systems are not supported. A list of suggested software from ISS can be found here: Guidance from ISS on transcription software and technology

If you are using a transcriber external to your research team they will have to sign a Confidentiality agreement for the transcription of qualitative data. Please click on this link to find a template of this agreement.

Intellectual Property

For queries relating to Intellectual Property please e-mail the Intellectual Property Team (ext. 93298).

NHS Sponsorship

Research with Animals

If your work involves animals you will need authorisation from the Chief Administrative Officer and may need to submit an application to AWERB, please contact the secretary to AWERB, Lucy Sanderson for further details.