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Biomedical & Scientific Research Ethics Committee (BSREC)

Scope & Remit of BSREC

All studies that involve human participants, their tissue, and/or their data, are required to obtain approval from an appropriate research ethics committee.

For the majority of medical and social care research in the NHS that involves patients or their identifiable data, approval by the NHS National Research Ethics Service (NRES) is required. This service is provided by the Health Research Authority (HRA). Further information can be found on the 'NHS Research Ethics Committee' webpage and associated subpages.

BSREC considers applications for research ethical review for projects involving human participants in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine (excluding the Department of Psychology) that do not fall within the remit of NRES.

Ethics approval should be sought before the project begins. Please note BSREC does not issue retrospective approval.

BSREC grants ethical approval for projects. The seeking and obtaining of all other necessary approvals is the responsibility of the investigator. This includes obtaining HRA approval (NHS permissions) for research projects in the NHS, where this is required in addition to BSREC approval.

BSREC will not review or approve amendments for studies it did not originally review and approve i.e. studies originally awarded approval by an NHS REC or HSSREC. For such studies, applicants should refer to the original approving REC.

Applicants who wish to discuss their research and/or the application process before submission should contact the BSREC Secretary (tel: 024 765 73123 or email: BSREC at warwick dot ac dot uk).

BSREC Project/Study Triaging

BSREC undertakes ethical review of all projects on a proportionate basis according to a risk-assessed triage process. Please click the following links for more information on each process:

No ethics review

Departmental Course Delegated Ethics review

Light Touch review

Full review

Public Engagement and Pre-Protocol work

Projects predominantly involving animals

No ethical review

BSREC 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
  • Data collected for evaluation purposes, including student course and assessment data. However, this data cannot later be used for research purposes, including but not limited to publication, without ethical review.

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 BSREC will require a copy of the approval granted before the research at Warwick commences. Please send a copy of the approval and supporting documents to Please note that this only applies where the project has undergone formal ethical review.

Delegated to Departments for ethics review

BSREC has approval from the Research Governance & Ethics Committee (RG&EC), to whom it reports, to support departments to set up delegated processes for the ethical review of low risk undergraduate and taught postgraduate student research projects.

This is often referred to as Course Delegated Approval and is for research projects that:

  • are limited to interviews, focus groups, and questionnaire completion, or the evaluation of software and e-Learning materials;

  • are with participants who are not vulnerable and not dependent (including, but not limited to those not receiving health or social care, primary or secondary education, or criminal justice services);

  • do not investigate sensitive or intrusive matters (e.g. health status, criminal activity, or sexual history);

OR are:

  • NHS clinical audit projects;

  • NHS health/social care service evaluation and development projects.

Please note this process is only available to undergraduate and taught post-graduate student projects, not masters by research, doctoral student, or staff projects.

These processes must be approved by BSREC and the RG&EC before they can be implemented in departments. These are currently in place for: WMS MB ChB, WMS PGT, Life Sciences UG & PGT, Engineering UG & PGT and WMG PGT. If you are interested in setting up a delegated process for your department, please contact the BSREC Secretary: BSREC at warwick dot ac dot uk.

If you are an undergraduate or taught post-graduate student in one of the above departments and are eligible for course delegated review, then please contact your course administrator for details on how to apply as this will vary depending on the department.

For details on how to determine whether your project is a service evaluation or clinical audit, please refer to the study classification tool.

Light Touch

Applications eligible for a light touch review are examined by circulation by one independent reviewer. There are no deadlines for receipt of light touch applications as these are reviewed on a continuum but it is the responsibility of the BSREC Secretary, in conjunction with the Chair, where necessary, to determine whether the study is eligible for light touch review. Where light touch applications are deemed to require a full review, they will be referred for review at the next BSREC meeting.

Projects eligible for a light touch review are as follows:

1. Research involving the secondary analysis of existing, previously collected data (that is not publicly available) e.g.:

  • Research using routinely collected patient data within a clinical care team, or outside a clinical care team where the data has been anonymised prior to its passing to the researcher(s);

  • Research using routinely collected student assessment data within a course or Department/School where the data has been anonymised prior to its passing to the researcher/s;

2. Research involving the secondary analysis of previously collected human samples, with consent for use in research;

3. Substantial amendments to previously approved projects.

BSREC operates to a target of providing a research ethical opinion on new light touch applications within 30 working days. Please ensure you factor this into the timescales for your project.

Applications for research involving secondary data or previously collected human samples should use the standard BSREC application form. Applications for substantial amendments should use the BSREC Substantial Amendment application form.

Full review

All other applications are reviewed by the full Committee at BSREC Committee meetings. The Committee meets six times per academic year and applications must be submitted two weeks ahead of the meeting date. Late submissions will not be accepted and will be deferred to the following meeting.

The BSREC secretary will provide initial feedback on the application once this has been received and will advise if the application is valid and of sufficient quality for review at the meeting.

Applicants can expect to receive an outcome within 10 working days of the meeting.

Public Engagement and Pre protocol work

It is important for researchers to understand the difference between 'public and patient involvement (PPI)' in research and 'participation' in research.

Public and patient involvement in research is where key informants/service users are involved in the planning of what research should be done (what do the public see as a priority) and how this should be carried out or set up. This may involve consultation with patients/members of the public/key stakeholders to discuss feasibility and recruitment methods, review participant information leaflets or drafting/piloting of a questionnaire. Whilst researchers are always required to work ‘ethically’, this pre-protocol work does not require research ethics review.

Where a patient or a member of the public becomes a 'participant' in a research study and data collected from these individuals will be analysed and form part of research report, this is research and does require research ethics review.

Pathways to Impact is an essential component of a research proposal and often a condition of funding. Public engagement is a popular form of impact activity but for it to be as effective as possible it should be two-way engagement activity and not just outreach. Pathways to Impact should be considered early on in the research proposal and where possible details should be included in the research ethics application. If this is to be determined later on, this can be submitted as an amendment to the existing ethics approval.

Projects predominantly involving animals

Researchers should, in the the first instance, seek advice concerning approval from the University's Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB), formerly the Biological Research Ethics Committee.

However, certain animal projects may also involve human participants, particularly those conducted on farms, or at slaughterhouses. BSREC will consider such projects on a case by case basis.

Examples may include:

  • A study on a farm investigating mastitis in cows, for which farmers are asked to take milk samples for the project. BSREC would be likely to deem such a project as out of remit.
  • A study on a farm investigating the feeding schedules for herds, which involves collecting samples from animals, data from farmers, and interviews with the farmers regarding their practices. BSREC may consider such a project to require ethical review for the aspects of the study which involve human particpants, i.e. the interviews with the farmers.

In all instances, please contact the BSREC Secretary for further advice BSREC at warwick dot ac dot uk.


The Biomedical and Scientific Research Ethics Committee (BSREC) is accountable to the University Research Governance & Ethics Committee (RG&EC), and is required to report regularly to the University Senate and Council through this Committee.

Advice & Support

The Research Governance Office is dedicated to aiding you with your application; our resource email account is monitored regularly, so please contact BSREC at Warwick dot ac dot uk in the first instance with any queries. Please do not approach the Chair of BSREC directly.