Ethics FAQs

A collection of frequently asked questions related to the Informatics ethics process.

How do I apply for ethical approval if I'm only working on a sub-section of a research project in collaboration with non-Informatics partners? 

If you are collaborating on topics which are sensitive (e.g. medical data) or with institutions that are likely to have strict ethical requirements (e.g. US institutions) then you are advised to submit an application to the other relevant ethics committee first. Additionally, you should submit an application through the Informatics ethics committee even if it's been signed off elsewhere, so that the committee can log the approval and advise on any Informatics-specific ethical concerns. If your project has not been signed off by the other relevant REC (research ethics committee), then approval from the Informatics ethics committee is likely to be contingent on approval by the relevant other REC.

My research project doesn't include any human data, but I'm worried it might still have ethical implications. Do I need to submit an ethics application? 

If you are conducting grant-funded research, and your funder requires ethical review, then you should always submit an ethics application. If, regardless of project type, you have any concerns regarding the ethical implications of your research, then you should submit an ethics application and discuss your concerns with the assigned reviewer. 

The ethics committee cannot advise on export control or dual use policies. For questions around these, please refer to the local champion: Keith Edwards (Senior Business Development Executive). 

Email Keith Edwards

I want to do a modification / extension to an existing study for which I have already had ethics approval - do I need to submit a new form?

No. This can be considered under the previous ethics approval/number but you need to email us so we can approve the modification/extension.  You should reply to previous threads that include your reference number, which will re-open your application for review. See also information on Ethics approval durations. 

Ethics approval duration

Two of my students will be working on slightly different parts or versions of the same  study -  do I need to submit a form for each? 

No. You can submit only one form where you will give us the details of both parts or versions and attach the relevant PIS and consent forms. 

How do I get consent from participants remotely?

It is fine to use the normal consent form and have the participant type their name and tick boxes in Word (e.g. using an X). If you are recording audio as part of your data collection, you can record verbal consent at the start of data collection, as long as you ask the participants about each optional element. It is important that you share the PIS and consent forms with the participants in advance of the study.  

My whole class will be conducting a set of very similar projects that require ethics approval. Could I have the group of applications pre-approved?

Yes. You can submit only one form where you detail the different possible variations of the project, a generic PIS and consent form (with indication of where details may vary), and we can pre-approve the group of projects. You will be responsible for making sure all the final versions of the project used by your students conform to the approved description. We will however ask you to send us all the final versions of the participants information sheet and consent forms for our records. Please include the original application reference in all relevant communications. 

Can I get high-level 'pre-approval' for a project, e.g. to conduct a pilot study or have some ethics agreement in principle before submitting a funding application?

Yes, the Ethics committee is happy to advise on high-level applications. You should complete the ethics form with as much detail as possible, including any draft supporting documentation. Any later modifications to your methodology should be submitted for review following the process described above. See also information on Ethics approval durations. 

Ethics approval duration

I don't know if I have everything I need to submit my application. What can I do?

There is a a PDF summary of the form questions, as well as a practice online form on the Ethics procedure page which you can test for completion before your submit your actual application. The results of the practice form will not be submitted to the Ethics committee for review. Once you are ready to apply for ethical approval, you must submit your application using the real ethics application form.

Ethics procedure

I have reviewed the Ethics pages but still have questions. Who can I contact?

You can reach the Ethics committee on inf-ethics@inf.ed.ac.uk if you have further questions related to ethics. The committee also run an office hour the first Monday of every month at 4pm-5pm, which you can join via the Teams link below.  Please do take the time to review the information available on these pages first. Students should discuss specific ethics questions with their supervisor before attending the office hour (open to both students and supervisors). 

Contact the Informatics Ethics panel

Ethics office hour, first Monday of every month 4pm-5pm