Going back to the funder
The stage at which you need to consult with your funder will depend on the nature of the requirements that the ethics committee has set. Bear in mind that you can consult informally with the funder – there is usually a lead research manager for each study, and you can ask this person for advice. You can also take advice from the research administration office in your institution. In general, you should consult your funder if:
- ethics approval requires that you adopt a research design that significantly differs from the design that was funded or if it has implications for the study budget or timescale; and/or
- you cannot secure ethics approval (your response and your formal appeal are unsuccessful).
The ESRC FRE states that all data collection involving human participants and/or personal data and/or sensitive personal data must receive ethics approval. So what happens if it does not? The FRE states that the ethics committee should give feedback on what needs to be done in order to meet the necessary ethics standards and achieve ethics approval - which suggests that you should be looking for a way forward that will satisfy the ethics committee and the funder.
Remember that your funder has already made a commitment to your project, and so they should be supportive in helping you to work out a way of continuing with your research while satisfying ethics committee requirements. As always, we would advise against trying to deal with this on your own. Talk to experienced colleagues. They may have a fresh perspective on how you could tackle an issue such as sampling or consent. They may be able to support you (or even accompany you) in discussions with the funder about how to go forward.
Prepare yourself as well as you can before you contact the funder:
- You might want to write a short document outlining possible ways forward for the project.
- It is a good idea to check too whether these changes are likely to have cost implications - and you should be able to get some support with working that out (e.g. from your finance officers in your research office).
- When you get in touch with the funder, send them all the information you think they might need - including copies of your ethics application and responses from or communication with the ethics committee.