Human participants in research

Research funded by UKRI and with human participants should always be reviewed by a UK research ethics committee. This may be a research ethics committee for health and social care or of the research organisation, depending on the type of research.

Research involving health and social care

If the research involves health and social care, then researchers should consult the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Ethics and other guidance on the Health Research Authority website.

Research in other settings

Guidance for researchers and Research Ethics Committee in research organisations, such as universities, can be found in the Framework for Research Ethics published by the ESRC.

ARMA guidance on ethics review (PDF, 795KB).

Key principles

The following principles apply to all research which involves human participants.

Research should aim to maximise benefits for individuals and society and minimise risk and harm

Researchers should ensure that their research is beneficial to participants, individuals, science and society, and be realistic about the benefits that it is likely to deliver.

The rights and dignity of individuals and groups should be respected

Research should be designed and conducted in a way that respects the rights, interests, values, dignity and autonomy, if possible, of participants (including individuals, groups and communities). Ethics issues are most likely to arise around privacy, equality, diversity and health and safety.

Wherever possible, participation should be voluntary and appropriately informed

Researchers should inform participants that they have a right to refuse to participate, free of consequences, and can withdraw from the research for any reason.

Research should be conducted with integrity and transparency

Integrity demands that there is a clear fit between what researchers say they will do and how they will conduct their research. Transparency means being clear about the nature of the research and communicating this to those involved.

Lines of responsibility and accountability should be clearly defined

Researchers must exercise self-critical responsibility in the planning and conduct of their research. Research ethics committees and research organisations have a responsibility to guide and support researchers, especially when the research involves difficult ethical decisions.

Maintaining the independence of research

Researchers should maintain the independence of their research and where conflicts of interest cannot be avoided they should be made explicit.

Independence of research is founded on academic credentials, professional standards, expertise and experience. It is free from personal, organisational and political bias, dishonesty, and considerations of gain and should be safeguarded at all times.

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