Secondary Data Analyses

If you plan on analysing a dataset that includes data about people and which has already been collated:

  • Did the individuals provide informed consent for the initial collection of the data?
  • Are your research questions close to those raised for the initial collection of data? Is it reasonable to assume that the individuals that the data belongs to would have agreed to your research questions?
  • How has the dataset been managed? Has it been managed in a secure fashion?
  • Are data access agreements in place for accessing and using this data? (If so, please attach these.)
  • Could anyone (including the research/s) link the data back to an individual or individuals? If this is a possibility, please explain how the associated ethical issues will be addressed:

Please note, secondary data analyses are not a means of bypassing Royal Holloway's policy that it does not provide retrospective approval for research that has already taken place.

Questions about Ethics in Grant Applications

In grant application forms funders are increasingly requesting information about the ethical considerations of a research project. This can be difficult at such an early stage. Projects can change, albeit in very subtle ways, between writing a grant application and being awarded with funds. Moreover, the word count for outlining a project's research ethics can be very short.

Try to avoid making general claims that your project is ethically sound, that there are no real ethical issues, or that you are an experienced, ethical researcher. Instead, focus on the process. Your experience may inform how you mitigate a risk (experience of a location, working with vulnerable adults, etc.), but as with research ethics applications, focus on specific risks and specific mitigations for those risks.

Three specific considerations when writing your ethics statement:

1. Funder guidance:

  • Does the funder have any requirements, stated in either the documentation for the funding opportunity, or the funder’s more general terms and conditions?

2. The essential ethical considerations of the research, and potentially how to mitigate them:

  • Familiarise yourself with key risks, as outlined in the ethics application process at Royal Holloway, and established mitigations. 

3. Evidence a commitment to submitting the research for review by the College’s Research Ethics Committee:

  • To summarise the ethics section, state that you have identified what you think are the key ethical issues and the ways in which you will mitigate them, but that you will take your project to Royal Holloway’s Research Ethics Committee to finalise.