Please note that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, research studies involving direct contact with human participants will need to be suspended with immediate effect. New studies involving direct contact with human participants cannot be approved until further notice. Researchers are advised to consider whether they can adapt their research to conduct participant interactions remotely. Please refer to the HREC guidance for further information.
The Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) provides a mechanism for assuring the ethical integrity of research carried out by OU academic staff and directly registered postgraduate research students. An ethics review by HREC is required for research projects which involve the collection of data or biological samples from human participants.
If you are collecting data in order to conduct an internal service evaluation or audit this will NOT require an ethics review by HREC. Please refer to 'HREC - what requires review' for further information.
The following videos explain the role of HREC and outline the research ethics review process.
The ethics review process has two possible points of entry, depending on the level of risk associated with the research project.
The Open University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) review process has two points of entry:
When submitting either a Project Registration and Risk Checklist or an application form, documentation related to your project (e.g. a consent form, participant information sheet, or questionnaire) should also be provided. Please see below for templates for consent forms; participant information sheets; and other documents, which you can adapt for your study.
It is essential that you do not advertise for, or attempt to recruit, potential participants until you have received a formal response from HREC. The ethics review must take place before the data collection phase of the project commences.
The HREC reference number should be included in any documents designed for participants, so it is clear that the research project adheres to OU ethics review processes. Logos on all research documents must comply with the current OU brand guidelines on the Asset Bank.
If you are carrying out research overseas and will not be conducting your data collection in English, an English translation of all paperwork should be provided.
If your research involves collecting data from OU staff or students you will need to obtain approval from either the Staff Survey Project Panel if you are surveying more than 30 OU staff, or the Student Research Project Panel.
If your research involves the collection or processing of personal data it will need to be registered with Data Protection.
Information provided in application forms is stored so the HREC has an accurate record. All data will be managed and held securely by the Human Research Ethics Team and only shared with HREC members as part of the research ethics review process. Occasionally, and only where relevant, applications are discussed with other OU research review panels, e.g. the Student Research Project Panel and the Staff Survey Project Panel, predominately to avoid delays where applications are being made simultaneously.
Any sensitive personal data disclosed as part of a research ethics application, will be stored securely and only shared as above. If such data is volunteered but then needs to be withdrawn, the researcher should email the Human Research Ethics Team. More information about the collection and use of data is available in our Student privacy notice and Staff, workers and applicants privacy notice.