Applying for ethics approval
For guidance on the permission and approval you need to conduct your research, see our key questions.
A bureaucratic process?
Much has been written about the bureaucratic downsides of formal ethics review systems, and many of the criticisms are justified. Requirements for ethics review add time - often several months - to the review process, which is costly, and which can be seen as delaying the ‘real’ work of the research. Ethics review procedures have also been criticised for encouraging a ‘tick-box’ mentality, whereby ethics is viewed in terms of conforming with procedural norms and requirements - and as something that you can forget about once your ethics application has been approved.
Throughout this guidebook, we have argued against that perspective, suggesting that you think of ethics as a continuous, dialogic and reflective process that is embedded throughout the lifespan of your research. In that sense, it can help to think of ethics review systems as one step in that process of reflection. You may wish that you did not have to go through those systems, but since you do, think about how you can make them work to the benefit of your project, and the professional development of you and your team.
See our guidance on writing your ethics application, for information about what you need to include, and for advice about how you can make applying for research ethics approval a more straightforward and useful process than it might initially seem.