Accessibility statement

Guidance on conducting research outside the UK

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.

The Global Partnerships team is able to provide tailored contextual information and advice on conducting research in different countries and institutions, alongside background information on working overseas and varying cultural practices and requirements in relation to research. With colleagues from the Research and Knowledge Exchange Contracts Team, Global Partnerships can provide information on country-specific policies, including legal requirements, medical research restrictions and negotiating IP.

International Travel

The University provides guidance for individuals working and conducting research overseas. Guidance on arranging travel for work or research can be found on the Business Travel webpages, which provides information regarding booking, organising, and insuring travel associated with the University. On rare occasions, individuals may find themselves caught up in an emergency situation, and all those travelling abroad for business or research should read the guidance on International Emergencies prior to departure to ensure they are fully prepared.

Ethical review

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, while also being cognisant of local expectations, practices and laws.

  1. Researchers planning to carry out research overseas should first determine whether ethical approval is required in the country in which the research is to be conducted. Local ethical approval for the country or countries where research is to be carried out must be in place where required. The International Compilation of Human Research Standards listing, compiled by the US Office for Human Research Protections, provides details of Research Ethics Committees in over 100 countries (with a focus on research involving humans). If a local ethics committee does not exist, approval from the organisation or location where the research will be conducted should be sought.
  2. Projects which take place partly overseas and partly in the UK will always require appropriate UK ethical approval for the component of the research that takes place in the UK. This might include approval required by an outside body eg the NHS or a partner organisation.
  3. Requirements for review by an internal University of York ethics committee are as follows:

(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 (eg 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 (eg 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.

Ethical review process approved by University Research Committee
20 June 2018

Flow chart 1 Staff led research (PDF , 581kb)

Flowchart 2 Student led research (PDF , 536kb)