Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Do I need ethical approval?

The University is committed to promoting a quality research culture by ensuring high standards of research integrity. 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 with ethical implications or research that involves human participants, their data, or their tissue, must obtain appropriate ethical approval from a University Research Ethics Committee.

The British Psychological Society's Code of Human Research Ethics defines human participants as including...

Virus CDC Unsplash
" 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)."

Before proceeding, please note the following:

  • Ethics approval should be sought before a project begins. It is not possible for a University Research Ethics Committee to issue retrospective approval.
  • Obtaining all other necessary approvals is the responsibility of the investigator.
  • Amendments should be submitted to the original approving Research Ethics Committee.

The following tabs provide guidance on what types of research require ethical review. If you are unsure about your research, please contact or

Please ensure you read all sections before determining whether ethical review is required for your research.

Once you have determined whether ethical review is required, please refer to the Ethical Review Decision Making Tool for further guidance.

Whilst these pages provide general advice, it is not possible to state that a certain category of research activity will never require ethical review.

Please note: Those activities marked with an asterisk* may be eligible for light touch review.
  • The NHS and social care. This includes research with NHS staff or patients. Some NHS research will require ethical review by an NHS Research Ethics Committee. All NHS & Social Care research will require University Sponsorship and in most circumstances Health Research Authority (HRA) approval. More information is available here. This includes NHS clinical audits or NHS health/social care service evaluation and development projects. More information on study classification can be found here.

  • Animals: Any project involving animals as defined by the Animals and Scientific Procedure Act. More information is available here.

  • Humans: Any projects involving human participants, their tissue or data. (N.B. If you are accessing tissue from UHCW's Arden Tissue bank, you will not need to apply for University REC approval if Arden have already issued their ethical approvalLink opens in a new window).

  • Research involving vulnerable and/or dependent participants (including but not limited to those receiving health or social care, in primary or secondary education, or criminal justice services).
  • Research raising sensitive issues or investigating sensitive or intrusive matters (e.g. health status, criminal activity, or sexual history).
  • Where a patient or a member of the public is to be approached with the potential to be a 'participant' in a research study (whether data is collected or not).
  • Service evaluations on human subjects that will have scholarly outputs.

  • Research involving the internet and social media including the following:
    • To recruit participants
    • As a data source
    • As a data collection tool (e.g. through online interviews, surveys, archiving, or automated means of data scraping).
    • For communication into focus groups, chat rooms, or interviews

Despite appearing ‘publicly available’ this data has important associated ethical considerations and this type of research will require ethical review. Further guidance on internet research can be accessed here.

  • Secondary data (e.g. data collected by other researchers) not covered by the content in Section C. Examples of secondary data that require ethical review include:

    • Research using previously collected data from human participants which are not publicly available*

    • Research using previously collected data in which human participants are individually identifiable or recognisable*

    • Research using routinely collected patient data within a clinical care team, or outside a clinical care team*

    • Research using routinely collected student assessment data within a course or Department/School*

    • Research using publicly available data which may require consent (For example, as mentioned above, data from social media websites)*