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Humanities & Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee (HSSREC)

  1. Scope and remit of the HSSREC
  2. Accountability
  3. Application process
  4. Review Procedure
  5. Chair’s Action
  6. Expedited Review
  7. Changes to research projects
  8. Complaints about a research project should now go to

The University is committed to promoting a quality research culture by ensuring high standards of research management, administration and governance. In practice this means that no research can take place until all of the required approvals and authorisations have been given from the appropriate institutions.
Any University of Warwick student or member of staff who wishes to undertake research involving human participants, their data (this may also include research involving the data of deceased participants), or their tissue under the auspices of the University, must obtain appropriate ethical approval.
Definition of 'human participants' in The British Psychological Society's Code of Human Research Ethics: "including living human beings, human beings who have recently died (cadavers, human remains and body parts), embryos and foetuses, human tissue and bodily fluids and human data and records (such as but not restricted to medical, genetic, financial, personnel, criminal or administrative records and test results including scholastic achievements."

1. Scope and remit of the HSSREC

a) All staff research from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, and Department of Psychology that does not fall within the scope of NHS ethical approval* and involves human participants or their data must be sent to the HSSREC committee for appropriate approval.

* - Any research involving the NHS will need to follow the appropriate process, further information can be found on the Research Support Services (RIS) web page: 'NHS Research Ethics Committees'.

b) The HSSREC Committee would not, normally expect to review studies/research involving:

  • Literature/Systematic Reviews
  • Documentary Analysis

In addition, the Committee would not normally require ethical review for:

  • Interviews/consultation with key informants/service users during the development of research proposals
  • Stakeholder consultations during the developmental stage of research proposals

c) If the University of Warwick is not the lead organisation for the research and ethical approval has been granted by another institution’s ethics committee it should not be necessary to submit the work for approval at Warwick but the Chair of the HSSREC will require a copy of the approval granted before the research at Warwick commences.

Additional information on research ethics can be found at ESRC Research Ethics Framework(PDF Document)

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d) Student Research

Departments (identified in section 1a above) will be responsible for ensuring the ethical review of all student research in accordance with the following Guidelines for student research.

Any research which is deemed by the Head of Department/Nominated Ethics Representative to require full ethics committee approval should be sent to the HSSREC in accordance with procedures for staff research. Any research which falls within the circumstances under which NHS ethical approval is required will need to go go through HRA Approval, as outlined in 1a above.

Departments from the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Psychology must be able to demonstrate to the HSSREC robust mechanisms to thoroughly review all student research involving participants that are not sent to the HSSREC for review and must keep clear records in writing of any applications that have been approved.

If in doubt, researchers or student supervisors should discuss their research with the HSSREC Secretary. Applicants who wish to discuss their application before submission should, in the first instance, contact hssrec@warwick.ac.uk who will, if appropriate, refer them to an appropriate member of the Committee.

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2. Accountability

The HSSREC is accountable to the University's Research Governance and Ethics Committee and is required to report regularly to the University through this Committee.

3. Application process  
  • The Committee will normally only accept applications for ethical approval after funding has been awarded (in the instances where external funding is sought), except when ethics approval forms part of the requirements of a grant application or where it is helpful to the applicant for the review to take place earlier. Applications relating to internally funded or own account research may be submitted at any time but must be before the commencement of any research.
  • Principal Investigators should apply (applications for students must be made by the supervisor who acts as Principal Investigator) using the HSSREC application form and all applications must be supported by the signature of the Head of Department. Principal Investigators are advised to read the Guidelines before completing the application form.
  • Fully completed applications should be sent in email format to hssrec at warwick dot ac dot uk. Please ensure the signature page on the application form is complete, i.e. contains the wet signatures of all relevant parties. Applications must be submitted at least 2 weeks in advance of the next Committee meeting to allow members appropriate time to review applications. An up to date schedule of meetings can be found here.
  • Applicants are not invited to present their submissions as a matter of course. However, in the event of particular issues, the Committee may request the applicant to attend to assist the Committee in its deliberations.

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4. Review Procedure

a) Applications will be sent to all HSSREC members prior to the meeting and comments will be collected, discussed and recorded at the meeting.

b) Applicants will be notified of the HSSREC’s decision as soon as possible after the meeting in writing. The HSSREC’s decision will be one of the following and details of any amendments required will be included:

  • Approved – no amendment.
  • Conditionally Approved – minor amendments required.
  • Resubmit – needs to be resubmitted with substantial amendments.
  • Rejected – ethically unsound.

c) Applicants have a right to appeal the Committee’s decision to reject an application. The appeal process is carried out by the University Research Governance and Ethics Committee. For details, please contact Jane Prewett (tel: 22746 email: j.e.prewett@warwick.ac.uk).

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5. Chair’s Action

Chair’s Action may be taken (with the advice of other Committee members if appropriate) to:

  • Determine whether or not an application falls within the remit of the committee;
  • Confirm the approval of conditionally-approved protocols when the conditions have been met;
  • Approve expedited review applications according to approved process.
6. Expedited Review

Expedited review of research can occur where the potential for risk of harm to participants and others affected by the proposed research is minimal, for this reason the following may be undertaken via an expedited review process:

  • The review of amendments to studies previously approved by HSSREC;
  • Research involving only secondary or historical data;
  • Involvement in research on a consultancy basis.

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7. Changes to research projects

The Committee’s approval must be sought for any substantial change that is made to a project. If you are in any doubt about whether the change you are making is sufficiently substantial to require further ethics committee review please contact hssrec at warwick dot ac dot uk in the first instance.

The following are examples, though not an exhaustive list, of substantial changes that would require the Committee’s approval:

  • Recruitment strategies
  • Rewording of any documentation including letters or information sheets
  • Change to Principal Investigator.

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