Ethics Framework

Access information, guidance and resources for developing your research proposal, planning your research project ethically and submitting an application for ethical approval.

Before you start your research project

1. It is essential that you read the UHI Research Ethics Framework. The framework has been designed to promote a fair balance between a researcher’s right to unrestricted academic enquiry whilst ensuring adherence to appropriate and robust ethical standards to ensure the protection of all those participating in research studies.

2. Consider the ethical issues raised by your research proposal. When designing your research project in consultation with your supervisor / line manager we recommend that you work through the ESRC Points for Planning Research document (in the Additional Resources Tab above) as this will assist you in addressing ethical issues raised by your research proposal and methodology prior to making an application for ethical approval.

3. A campus-wide licence has been purchased for Online Surveys (formally BOS) which can be accessed directly from the Online Surveys website. All staff and students (FE and HE) should now use OS to conduct university-related research (e.g. undergraduate business students conducting market research projects, post graduate students conducting surveys etc.). For data protection and privacy reasons, staff and students may no longer use tools such as the free or licenced versions of SurveyMonkey, the free or licenced versions of SmartSurvey or Microsoft Forms (part of Office 365).

See Online_Survey_Guidance for more information.

4. Complete and submit an online application for ethical approval.

5. Ensure you have confirmation of ethical approval prior to any research taking place.


For further information on university ethical approval please contact:

Fiona Leiper, Research Ethics Officer at or 01463-279347


Ethical Approval

Planning for ethical approval at UHI

The full process in respect of applying for, and being granted, ethical approval for research activity is set out in the UHI research ethics framework document on the previous tab.

It is essential that you read the UHI Research Ethics Framework document in advance of completing your

Please update any reference you may have to the Data Protection Act 1998 to the Data Protection Act 2018

If there are significant changes to your research project or methodology following initial ethical approval then you should inform Fiona Leiper, Research Ethics Officer at / 01463-279347 as a new research ethics application may need to be submitted and approved as a result of any changes to the project.

Following approval the timeframe for completion of research projects will be one year and pro rata for part-time courses. If the research project has not commenced during this time then a new application for ethical approval should be lodged.

Applicants need to ensure that applications and any supporting documentation are submitted far enough in advance for their application to be processed, reviewed and for confirmation of approval to be received before the proposed research start date.

UHI flowchart for applications for ethical approval

The Research Ethics Committee (REC) meet regularly throughout the academic year.

Applications in categories 2-7 (please refer to Appendix II of the UHI Research Ethics Framework) which contain supporting documentation will be reviewed at the Research Ethics Committee (REC) meeting.

To be considered by the REC these applications must be complete and endorsed by the applicant’s supervisor / manager by the undernoted dates:

REC meeting

Date by which the application must be complete and endorsed













Late applications will not be considered; they will be taken to the next REC.

Applications in category 1 (Undergraduate, Taught postgraduate  / Masters students including non-clinical postgraduate taught from The School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences) are reviewed on an on-going basis by pairs of Subject Network Leaders (SNLs).  They will not be taken to REC unless escalated there by the SNLs, they will be reviewed on an ongoing basis within 10 working days of submission by Subject Network Leaders.

If you need further clarity on this please contact

Applicants will be expected to cite their ethical approval reference numbers (e.g. IRAS and UHI) in all publications resulting from their research.

Internet Mediated Research

If your research project/ methodology involves use of online surveys (e.g. Bristol Online Survey), questionnaires, use of social media (e.g. Facebook, on-line support groups, chat rooms or Skype, either for the recruitment of participants or the gathering of data) then in addition to completing your online application for ethical approval you should read the Internet Mediated Research (IMR) Guidelines document (below) and complete the IMR Checklist (link below) in consultation with your supervisor / line manager.  On completion, you must attach your IMR checklist to your online application for ethical approval.

UHI Internet Mediated Research Guidelines document


BPS Internet Mediated Research Guidelines document

Internet Mediated Research (IMR) Checklist


Additional Resources

The documents below are intended to provide additional information for staff and student researchers which may be of assistance in designing and planning your research project, including reference to national and professional organisations, publications, journals and articles related to ethical practice in different disciplines.

Researchers may also find the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Points for Planning Research and UKRIO (UK Research Integrity Office) checklists useful in planning their research. These highlight potential issues to researchers which should be considered prior to submitting your application for ethical approval.

You will also find guidance on writing Participant Information Sheets and drafting Consent Forms below. Please note that the example forms provided are a guide only and should be used / adapted as appropriate to the study.