COVID-19 guidance for research ethics

As lockdown continues to be eased, it will become possible to resume some research activities that were suspended due to lockdown.

It is important to recognise that a significant degree of uncertainty remains and that as well as moving forward through lockdown phases, there may be regression to previous stages either regionally or across the country. Where it is possible to conduct research remotely, this should continue at least as long as there are restrictions in place.

Research involving overseas collaborators

Overseas collaborators may continue with their research only with their own institution’s explicit consent. In all cases, staff of the University of Stirling must ensure no pressure is put on collaborators to continue research at this time.

Guidance for those who will conduct their research remotely

I have ethical clearance but have not yet begun data collection. I will amend my recruitment plan to recruit and interact remotely.

Unless the changes to the way you interact with participants constitutes a substantial change to the project, you will not need to submit an amendment request. Simply update your recruitment documents to detail how you will remotely interact and then proceed.

I have ethical clearance but have not yet begun data collection. I plan to commence my research activity now that lockdown is easing.

All studies must follow the University’s restarting research framework. Researchers wishing to recommence face-to-face research must have ethical approval in place and have completed the appropriate risk assessment.

New applications for ethics clearance

Researchers may continue to submit applications for ethical approval and reviews will continue to be conducted. All studies must follow the University’s restarting research framework.

New studies relating to COVID-19

An expedited review process will be considered for externally funded research studies relating to COVID-19. Expedited review can be sought in the following way:

  • Complete the full ethics review form through the University’s online ethics review manager (ERM), ensuring that all questions are answered and all supporting documents are attached to the application (i.e. participant information sheets, consent forms and recruitment materials).
  • Once the form has been submitted through ERM, email the completed form to the relevant research ethics panel (GUEP or NICR and provide justification as to why your project requires urgent ethical review. Justifications should include the public health grounds for the study to be conducted and the rationale for conducting the study at this time.
  • Your request will be reviewed by a member of the research ethics team and a decision in relation to whether the project is eligible for urgent review will be confirmed via email within 24 working hours.
  • If approved your application will be reviewed by experienced members of the ethics Panels within 72 working hours and a decision issued.
  • If your request for expedited review is denied your application will be allocated to the next Panel meeting for consideration.

Contact us

Please contact Rachel Beaton, University of Stirling Research Integrity and Governance Manager.