Research with University Ethics Committee approval

The following guidance is provided by the University in response to the circumstances arising from the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and the advice being provided by the Government and Public Health England.

Frequently asked questions

It is important that researchers (to include staff, students (undergraduate and postgraduate) or visitors) make changes to their research approach to ensure the continued safety of participants and themselves as researchers. The guidance below will continue to be updated as the situation changes.

Updated 30 July 2020

Just as we have planned and implemented the re-opening of campus facilities to enable laboratory research to resume, we now turn to human-facing research paused due to Government restrictions on lockdown/ social distancing etc.

Research which cannot be conducted remotely and which requires face-to-face interaction will be able to re-start in a managed way, subject to conditions to ensure the health and safety of everyone concerned being met. Your health and safety remain our top priority.

Working closely with colleagues across the University, guidelines have been provided to help you assess what needs to be done.

  • Step 1: Read the Guidance for restarting face-to-face research.
  • Step 2: Safety measures to accommodate Covid-19 need to be considered via a Health & Safety risk assessment.  The risk assessment and any mitigating actions need to be approved by your Line Manager, Supervisor, or Health & Safety Advisor as appropriate.
  • Step 3: If your research involves travel, be aware of the latest Travel advice for domestic and international travel.
  • Step 4: Consider the ethical approval routes below.

Ethical approval for restarting research involving face-to-face human participation

If research has previously received a Favourable Ethical Opinion (FEO) but was suspended due to Covid-19, and you now wish to restart, you will need to submit an amendment form to the University Ethics Committee (UEC).  See ‘Notification of amendment form v3.0_27Jul2020’ under Ethics/ Section 5: Templates on the RIGO website.

Ethical approval for restarting research using human participants with no face-to-face interaction

If no face-to-face participation is necessary, and ethical approval was already in place, no amendment needs to be submitted for this change.

  • All Ethics amendments need to be submitted with an approved health and safety risk assessment as per Step 2 above and specified on the amendment form.

Ethical approval priority

Each Faculty has established a ‘priority list’ for re-starting research using human participants with three levels of priority. To help with the flow of ethical approvals and to avoid delays, the following periods for submitting an ethics amendment should be followed:

  • Priority studies (wave 1) - August and September 2020
  • Second priority studies (wave 2) - October 2020
  • Third priority studies (wave 3) - November 2020.

Further information

Please bear with us as we work through this together to get your research re-started. If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please note the general COVID-19 FAQs, or for more project specific enquiries, contact ethics@surrey.ac.uk.

This information is also available for students on the MySurrey webpages.

If ethics approval was already in place, no amendment needs to be submitted for this change, provided there is no risk posed to the participant. However, the participant information sheet and the study protocol must be updated, and the latest versions submitted to ethics@surrey.ac.uk for filing.

Any participants already recruited to the study should be informed of the change and provided with the updated participant information sheet. It is important that you make clear to participants that if they no longer wish to participate owing to this change, or for any other reason, that they are free to withdraw at any point.

If any changes to remote interaction are likely to substantially change the study protocol such that the risk to the participant is compromised, an amendment will need to be submitted. For example, it may be difficult to assess the distress of participants responding to sensitive questions. In these cases, an amendment should be submitted to ethics@surrey.ac.uk. If you are unsure, please contact ethics@surrey.ac.uk for advice.

Updated Monday 23 March 2020

If you can use Zoom or Skype for Business on the original device for which your Favourable Ethical Opinion (FEO) was acquired, and the recording is stored securely on the original secure device, then you can record your interview using your online interview tool.

Please ensure that you do not record identifiable video unless this was part of your original FEO. For any other situations, you should use the original recording device as described in your FEO. It is advisable to record a few minutes of verbal interaction before proceeding, to make sure recording sound levels produce an acceptable quality recording.

Making such an adjustment to your protocol as described does not require submission of an amendment, but you should email RIGO with an updated set of documents with any changes you have made, highlighted in yellow, before proceeding to data collection. However, if there is no viable way to proceed given the conditions above, please email RIGO who will direct your query to either the University Ethics Committee or Information Compliance Unit.

For some projects, changing from face-to-face interviews to online interviews may introduce additional risk to participants, and in these circumstances an amendment must be made before proceeding. For example, interviewing children online rather than in a classroom will be deemed as potentially creating a risk, and must therefore be reviewed by the University Ethics Committee.

This information has been provided in conjunction with advice from the Information Compliance Unit.

Updated Monday 23 March 2020

Yes you can, but you need to ensure that you only use one of the University’s three approved platforms:

  • JISC
  • Qualtrics
  • Gorilla.

Other platforms such as SurveyMonkey have not had the necessary GDPR assessment completed by the University’s Information Compliance Unit and should not be used.

You will need to adjust your consent procedure to ensure that appropriate consent is still obtained, and that participants can be properly briefed via an equivalent form of material to that contained in the Participant Information Sheet (PIS).

Provided you do not change any of the questions, and that you are able to gain informed consent from your participants in an equivalent form to that in your FEO using an online method, then there is no need to submit an amendment. However, you should email RIGO an updated set of documents with any changes you have made, highlighted in yellow, before proceeding to data collection.

This information has been provided in conjunction with advice from the Information Compliance Unit.

If you have any questions, please email RIGO for further advice.

Updated 1 June 2020

As outlined in the VC’s message, we have now begun a phased return to campus for some researchers. For those staff and PGRs who are able to return, you will be contacted directly by your faculty, and HR will be in touch with details of what to expect and what you need to do before you return.

The ATI building opened in late May. On 1 June the AW, AX, AY and AZ buildings re-opened to specific staff as part of our very gradual, phased re-opening of the campus. You should only access these buildings if you have already been communicated with directly about this.

Updated 23 June

The Clinical Research Building (formerly Surrey CRC) which houses the Surrey Clinical Research Facility, Surrey Sleep Research Centre and DRI Healthy Home @ Surrey is currently undergoing refurbishment and is not accessible to staff. The building is not expected to be fully operational before October 2020, and so there will be a limit on the activities which can take place there before that time.