Research Ethics

Header image, research and governance


What is Research Ethics and how does it affect you?

Research Ethics is everyone’s responsibility, whether you are a student, a lecturer or a researcher. It involves ensuring that everyone representing the university works ethically and uses best practice. Student projects, teaching and learning projects and research projects are all bound by the university’s Research Ethics practices and its formal Research Ethics and Governance Review System.

Do you need to have your project reviewed through the Ethics and Governance Review System?

The answer is YES if you are involving other people in your project. This can include: giving a sample of people a questionnaire to fill in; taking pictures, audio or video material from people; using audience participation in your performance; observing people, etc.

What does the Ethics & Governance Review System review exactly?

Whether the people you involve are adults, young people, children or people from a safeguarded group will raise different ethical risks and considerations. The Research Ethics & Governance Review System is there to make sure that you have considered carefully all the ethical risks of your project and that you have put measures in place to address these risks, for instance ensuring that you obtain proper consent from your participants.

What should you do next?

If you need to have your project reviewed, you should contact your supervisor or head of school/department in the first instance. If your project involves only minor ethical risks, your supervisor will sign it off and report this to the College's Research Ethics & Governance Committee. If your supervisor or head of school/department thinks your project involves more than minor ethical risk, they will ask you to write a proposal for the Arts & Humanities Research Ethics and Governance Committee (A&HREGC).

Not sure or have questions?

Contact your school representatives on the Arts & Humanities Research Ethics and Governance Committee: ask your tutor or Head of School for further information

The University of Brighton's Ethics and Governance Review System

The University's Ethics and Governance Review System is concerned with all projects involving human participants. If your project includes human participants, it must be approved by the Ethics and Governance Review System before you can start working with participants. Please contact your supervisor/ tutor is you are a student or Head of School if you are an academic, to initiate the formal ethical review of your project.

Human participants can be, for instance: people who respond to a questionnaire, people who will be photographed, painted or sculpted, people who will participate in a performance, an art project, a workshop you are organising, etc. If in doubt, please consult your tutor, supervisor or Head of School.

The University's Ethics & Governance Review System has three tiers. All proposals should be submitted to Tier 1 in the first instance, and will only be submitted to the next Tier if it is considered that the project requires a more in-depth review.

Tier 1

The first tier consists of initial scrutiny of research proposals at School level. This should include a review of the quality of the proposed research, identification of any ethical issues, and consideration as to how these have been addressed. It should also include an assessment of the potential ethical risks to determine whether or not the proposal should be referred up for Tier 2 review by a College Research Ethics and Governance Committee.

In the College of Arts and Humanities, Tier 1 review is done by the project tutor or supervisor for students, and by the Head of School for academics. If a project presents minimal ethical risks, the tutor, supervisor or Head of School will sign it off at Tier 1. All projects signed off at Tier 1 must be reported to the School representative on the Arts & Humanites Research Ethics and Governance Committee.

Tier 2

For those proposals which have been identified at Tier 1 level as presenting more than minimal ethical risk, Tier 2 review is carried out by the Arts & Humanities Research Ethics and Governance Committee (A&HREGC). Any NHS-related proposals where the University is being asked to act as ‘research sponsor’ under the Department of Health Research Governance Framework should also be sent to a College REGC for review, and to decide whether the University can agree to act in this capacity (see section below for further information on ethical and governance review for NHS-related proposals).

Guidelines below provide information on how to submit a proposal at Tier 2, and a proforma for proposals.

Tier 3

The University Research Ethics and Governance Committee acts mainly as a top level policy, strategy and monitoring body for matters concerning research ethics and governance. The REGC normally carries out review of proposals only in cases where they have been referred up to it by one of the College REGCs, or where an appeal has been received against a decision made by one of the College REGCs.

For more information on the University's Ethics & Governance Review System, visit the Research Office website pages for Ethics and Governance

A&HREGC and Tier 2 of the review system

The College of Arts and Humanities' Research Ethics and Governance Committee, or A&HREGC, meets four times a year to review the proposals of projects which have been considered to present more than minimal risk (Tier 2 of the Ethics and Governance Review System).

The committee membership includes academic representatives from across the range of academic disciplines in the college, research students, a representative from the Research Office and a 'lay member' (a professional member of the public from outside the university).

Members consider the level of ethical risk involved in research projects against the college's criteria and, where appropriate, make recommendations directed at reducing the level of risk. They also make recommendations directed at improving research proposals where issues of governance and/or ethical concern arise. The committee's role is to safeguard the interests of all participants, organisations and researchers involved in research or who might benefit or suffer from its outcomes; this can include matters of safety, well-being, rights, dignity and contractual obligations.

In reviewing proposals, members normally come to one of four decisions:

  • The ethical risks of the project have been addressed appropriately: the proposal is approved;
  • The ethical risks of the project have not been fully addressed: the proposal is approved subject to changes as recommended;
  • The ethical risks of the project have not been addressed or the proposal fails to recognise the project's ethical risks: the proposal is not approved;
  • The project presents ethical risks that are beyond the expertise of the committee: the proposal is referred to Tier 3 of the Ethics and Governance Review System.

More on how to write a proposal for A&HREGC and proformas to download.