Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students

Research by Undergraduates and Postgraduate Taught students is reviewed at the Department and School level. Please discuss with your Module Convener or Supervisor who will direct you to the processes within your Departments or Schools. The College has provided a template ethics application form to facilitate the review of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught research ethics but please consult with your supervisor to see if there are any specific School or Department procedures.

Postgraduate Research Students and Staff

Postgraduate Research and Staff projects are reviewed by the College Research Ethics Committee through an online research ethics form (guidance on completing the form here - VPN required). After entering the system there are three pathways for receiving approval:

Self Assessment

When you enter Royal Holloway’s Online Ethics System you will be faced with a series of questions. If, for instance, your project does not involve human participants, animals, or have an impact on cultures, heritage, or the environment, you may be given the choice of completing a ‘Self-assessment’ review, and no further action will be needed. ‘Self-assessment’ applications are usually for research that are limited to literature analyses or theoretical research.

Please do remember the importance of honesty and rigour in the Concordat to Support Research Integrity, and how research misconduct has consequences for the integrity of your research, of Royal Holloway, and research more generally. If in any doubt, it may be best to err on the side of caution with your answers.

Full Review

Having answered questions in such a way that takes your project beyond Self-assessment, you will then be presented with a further set of tick-box questions and text boxes. If you tick boxes that indicate the presence of risks, please use the text boxes to explain these risks and the strategies you are putting in place to mitigate them. For guidance on how to identify and mitigate risks, please see the next heading below on Guidance.

Depending upon the nature of your research, you may need to upload additional documents. Please see the below header for further details. Once you have completed this form and uploaded your documents, you will be given the option to either submit their application for full review by Royal Holloway’s Research Ethics Committee, or stating you wish to 'self-certify' your project. If you decide to take your project to Full Review, your project will be reviewed by:

  • Royal Holloway’s Research Ethics Officer
    • Identifying whether there are any obvious omissions, whether supplementary documents should be provided, and whether there is enough content for peer reviewers to undertake a review.
  • One or two members of academic staff from your Department, School, or cognate discipline (depending upon the risk level of your project)
    • Reviewing and either providing feedback to improve the application or passing to Chair-delegate for final approval
  • Chair-delegate of the College Research Ethics Committee.
    • Reviewing and either providing feedback or giving the project ethics committee approval.

The process takes three weeks, though this can take longer if substantial edits are required for a project to receive approval.

Self Certify

A self-certified project resembles the ‘Self-assessment’ route in that it is not taken to reviewers. If you choose to ‘self certify’ your project you can commence your project immediately. Self-certified projects should be of a very high standard, should be extremely detailed in their descriptions of the risks involved, have effective strategies in place for mitigating risks, and have all the required additional documentation in place if necessary. If you have any doubt about the quality of your strategies for mitigating the risks involved with your research or the documents that you are going to use then it is strongly suggested that your take your project to full review. Please also note that in order to comply with Royal Holloway's commitment to the concordat to support research integrity, ‘self certify’ projects are subject to audits by the Research Ethics Committee, and if your project is identified as one that is not robust enough then the Committee may reach out to you to ask you to revise your aspects of your research after it has potentially already commenced.

Health Research and Working with the NHS

Research involving NHS patients, staff, premises, resources (pharmacy, radiology or laboratories) or data/tissue in England is required to go through the HRA’s approval process. Royal Holloway provides sponsorship for these projects rather than ethical review.

If you are unsure as to whether you require NHS REC approval, the HRA have created a decision tool, and a student-specific research toolkit. If you do require NHS REC approval you will need to complete an application using the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS). The HRA provides detailed guidance on the process and how to apply, which you should read carefully before submitting an application. The guidance also contains a link through to IRAS and a bite-size eLearning module. Please note that part of the process will involve the confirmation with the NHS trust of the capacity and capability to complete the project.

NHS REC review

NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECs) review research applications and give an opinion about whether the research is ethical. For most applicants to the HRA, the NHS REC review forms part of the overall HRA Approval process. For some projects that do not require HRA Approval NHS REC review may still be required.

Royal Holloway Sponsorship

The HRA stipulates for its approval process that research should have a sponsor, taking on overall responsibility for proportionate, effective arrangements to be in place to set up, run and report a research project, including the financial indemnity for a project. To acquire sponsorship from Royal Holloway, email your HRA ethics documents plus a completed Royal Holloway confirmation form (students / staff) to ethics@rhul.ac.uk (signed off by your Supervisor if you are a PhD researcher, and Departmental Director of Research if you are Staff). Confirmation of sponsorship will be returned in the form of an email. Please note that for clinical trials of investigational medicinal products (CTIMPs) there are additional legal duties, and sponsorship must be approved by a 'legal representative' of the College.

If amendments need to be made to a research project, Royal Holloway will need to again confirm sponsorship of the amended project. Please email the updated project documents, plus a newly signed confirmation form, to ethics@rhul.ac.uk.

Research passports

If you require a research passport, contact the doctoral school if you are a PhD researcher, and HR if you are Staff.

Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)

For students undertaking work with the NHS for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy), sponsorship is signed off by the programme’s Research Director. (Please note, for research for the DClinPsy not involving the NHS, applications are to be submitted through Royal Holloway’s research ethics review process. Please see Applying for Ethical Review - Postgraduate Research Students and Staff, below).