Researchers conducting research abroad, or as part of an international collaboration, should be aware of the different civil, legal, financial and cultural conditions when working overseas. Researchers are expected to refer to international guidelines and conform to relevant local regulations for the country or countries where the research is taking place.
University-sponsored research carried out outside the UK must uphold the University’s ethical standards as set out in the Code of Practice and Principles for Good Ethical Governance, whilst also being cognisant of local expectations, practices and laws.
(a) Staff-led research
Where research requires ethical approval by an outside body/bodies, whether overseas or in the UK, an appropriate internal ethics committee should also be involved, either (i) to maintain oversight of the outcomes of external ethical processes on the University’s behalf, or (ii) to carry out an additional internal review where the external process is not commensurate with that of the University in terms of scope and/or rigour, or where the Chair of the internal ethics committee judges it appropriate according to the scale of potential risk of harm involved. Further information on the processes to be followed can be found in the University’s Code of Practice and Principles for Good Ethical Governance, paragraphs 3.3 – 3.5; see also Flowchart 1, below.
NB: Care should be taken to read the relevant funder conditions before relying solely on overseas ethical review for detailed ethical scrutiny, as some funders may require ethical review to be undertaken in the UK as well.
(b) Student-led research
All student-led research which falls within the scope of the framework of the University’s Code of Practice and Principles for Good Ethical Governance must undergo review by an internal ethics committee, regardless of whether any external ethics approvals are also required. Responsibility for identifying ethical considerations and securing the necessary ethical approvals, both internal and external, is shared between the student and the member of staff overseeing the activity. See Flowchart 2, below.
(c) Where research falls within the scope of the framework of the University’s Code of Practice and Principles for Good Ethical Governance and no formal external ethics approvals are required either overseas or in the UK, the research should undergo ethical review by an internal University of York ethics committee.
4. While certain departments are linked to particular ethics sub-committees, there may be occasions when the specialist knowledge of a different sub-committee would make it more appropriate for it to undertake the review/maintain oversight of the outcomes of external ethical processes on the University’s behalf (e.g. clinical trials). Where this occurs, the agreement of the Chairs of the appropriate sub-committees should be sought in advance. Department/subject level ethics committees have a responsibility to ensure that they are sufficiently experienced to handle the technical issues involved in the particular areas of research under consideration, including the scale of potential risk of harm.
5. All relevant ethical approvals should be in place prior to the commencement of the activity/activities to which they apply. In addition, for projects which carry a risk of significant harm (in particular to participants, researchers, animals, heritage, the natural environment, the reputation of the University or the welfare and interests of the wider community), and where significant project development is planned prior to submission of specific activities for full ethical review, the Chair of the appropriate internal ethics committee should be contacted at an early stage in the research project’s development. This will ensure that any concerns from an institutional standpoint about the proposals in principle can be identified and addressed. This will include broad considerations beyond the operational details of the research (e.g. the source of funding, or potential reputational issues).
6. It is expected that all researchers should keep their departmental research committee informed of their research plans. Requirements regarding communication between departmental/subject level ethics committees and departmental research committees are set out in paragraph 3.5 of the University’s Code of Practice and Principles for Good Ethical Governance.
Approved by University Research Committee
20 June 2018