Research Ethics in SCSS
The SCSS Research Ethics Committee (REC) was established in 2009 as a subcommittee of the School Research Committee to review and advise on any ethical issues that may arise during the course of a research project or study.
The SCSS REC consists of a REC Chair, three members of academic staff from the School and one member with legal expertise.
What is research ethics and why it it required?
Any research project that involves human participation conducted through a research project or study, including questionnaires, surveys or system user-evaluations, must have independent review by a Research Ethics Committee. Approval must be obtained prior to the commencement of data collection and cannot be applied for or granted retrospectively. This requirement applies to studies to be undertaken by staff, postgraduates and undergraduates.
Research Ethics submissions fall into one of two possible categories: Level 1 and Level 2.
A Level 1 application is one which uses standard questionnaires, and deals exclusively with adult participants. It does not include interaction with minors or vunerable populations, has no legal issues, and does not pose any significant ethical issues in its implementation.
A Level 2 submission is one that involves minors, vulnerable people or topics for which College requires a legal expert to participate in the Committee.
All members of staff and students undertaking research should do so with cognisance of the Trinity College Guidelines for Good Research Practice no matter what their research project entails.
Guidelines on common ethical issues and how they should be addressed are detailed in our Frequently Asked Questions.
How to apply?
To apply for research ethics approval, you should submit your application via the TCD Online Ethics system . If you are a first-time user of this system, you will need to create a username and password. This will enable you to login, upload and update your application, and check on its approval status.
A userguide to the online ethics system can be found here - Ethics System Application Guide
All applications must be reviewed and signed by the research Supervisor or Principal Investigator on the project. This signature confirms an assertion that the application is complete in terms of its formal requirements; it does not stand as proxy for ethical approval. Forms which are not signed or not presented at an acceptable standard (eg: incomplete or containing excessive typographical or grammatical errors) will be returned and may therefore incur delays for the researchers involved.
It takes time to prepare an application for research ethics approval, to have the application considered, and to respond to feedback on the application where issues are raised. You should plan in your work for the time it takes to obtain research ethics approval. Furthermore, retrospective approval will not be granted.
Individual applications are considered on their own merits. A basic principle is that prospective participants should be fully informed about the research and its implications for them as participants, with time to reflect on the possibility for both risk and benefit derived from participation, prior to being asked to sign an informed consent form. Informing prospective participants fully includes declaring potential conflicts of interest that the researcher may have in conducting the research, detailing how participants may withdraw data associated with their participation from further analysis within the study, explaining the preservation of their anonymity within the study, warning them about potential consequences of discovery during the study of issues that would necessarily have precedence over assurances of anonymity, and so on.
Please further note that the Research Ethics Committee processes a large volume of applications and will normally provide a response within 4 - 6 weeks.
Research Ethics Application
A Research Ethics Application consists of the following documentation. We suggest that applicants refer to our FAQ for information on common queries and issues while preparing your application.
- A completed application form, signed by both you and your supervisor (WORD)
- An Information Sheet for participants (Sample)
- A Consent Form (Sample). If your study involves minors, then separate consent forms are required for the participant and the parent/guardian of the minor.
- An outline of the Research Proposal using the headings:
- Title of project
- Purpose of project including academic rationale
- Brief description of methods and measurements to be used
- Participants - recruitment methods, number, age, gender, exclusion/inclusion criteria, including statistical justification for numbers of participants
- Debriefing arrangements
- A clear concise statement of the ethical considerations raised by the project and how you intend to deal with them
- Cite any relevant legislation relevant to the project with the method of compliance e.g. Data Protection Act etc.
- A copy if the intended questionnaire/survey/interview protocol/screen shots/representative materials as appropriate. If your questionnaire or survey is online, you must provide the related URL.
Documents should be collated and submitted in one PDF document to the Committee.
Please ensure that your application is complete and all documents are submitted – any omissions will result in a returned application and a delay to receiving approval.
Applications should be submitted via the TCD Online Ethics system. Any further queries regarding research ethics in SCSS can be directed to Research-Ethics at scss.tcd.ie.