Most of the bigger charitable funders (and, increasingly, smaller funders too) have specific requirements in relation to research ethics and ethics review. That includes:
- An expectation that ethics will be addressed in the research proposal – see our guidance on writing your proposal as well as your specific funder guidelines.
- Requirements for formal ethics review as a condition of funding.
- The Nuffield Foundation requires that all primary research involving human participants, or raising important ethics considerations, is (a) subject to independent scrutiny of its ethics, and (b) conducted in an ethical manner. Applicants – and their institutions – have a responsibility to meet these requirements, as a condition of funding.
- The Wellcome Trust requires ‘approval from an appropriate ethics committee’ for all research it funds involving human participants or biological samples.
- The Joseph Rowntree Foundation specifically highlights ethics issues in its funding guidance, noting the following key points:
- All the projects they fund are expected to adhere to the ethics guidelines of the Social Research Association.
- Lack of attention to ethics issues is ‘a common weakness of proposals’ and can lead to an otherwise strong proposal not being funded (or can, at best, delay funding).
- Proposals must specify whether they require ethics committee approval, and in some cases funding may be conditional on ethics committee approval.
- Applications from Universities must follow ESRC guidelines.
- Applications concerned with health or social care should comply with Department of Health procedures.
Other charitable funders – perhaps particularly those that fund a wider range of disciplines (including arts and humanities research) have less specific requirements – and so you need to check with your specific funder (ideally, at the proposal stage) about what they require.
Remember that even if your funder does not set specific requirements for ethics approval or other governance permission, you need to check if ethics approval or other permission is required by your organisation, or as a result of the participants or data that you hope to include. See our key questions for guidance on this.