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Research Ethics Approval

The School of Social & Political Science (SSPS) attaches great importance to research ethics, and has developed rigorous procedures for ensuring proper ethical review and accountability. All research carried out by members of the School, including undergraduate and post-graduate dissertation projects, are subject to these procedures. The ethical review process is designed to support researchers and students in managing risks associated with their research, and to ensure the highest professional standards in designing, conducting and disseminating research.

Before embarking on their projects, all students need to complete a self-assessment through an online tool (EASE login required). Completed forms will be reviewed by the student’s supervisor or relevant course organiser.

On page 1 of the form, students will be asked to specify their supervisor and/or course organiser. For students completing the form for their MSc dissertation, it is important that they list their dissertation supervisor here and leave the course organiser box BLANK.  Otherwise the form will be sent to the wrong person. If their supervisor does not appear in the drop down list, please select specify someone not in the list and add in their details.

All of the questions asked on the form are directly related to the type of research to be undertaken and so it should be a straightforward form to complete. The form can be saved and returned to at a later point, so students can clarify any issues with their supervisors as they complete the process. To resume a submission, go to http://ethics.sps.ed.ac.uk/your_submissions

Once submitted, the supervisor will be in touch via email. Students should check their Clutter and Junk folders on their students email account in case any of the communications are sent there.

If for any reason students need to update, revise, or check the status of their form, this can be done by logging in at: http://ethics.sps.ed.ac.uk/your_submissions

Further details of the process:

The reviewer will contact the applicant with one of the following outcomes:

These possible outcomes relate to three levels of ethical scrutiny:

Level 1, in which the self-assessment process identifies no reasonably foreseeable ethical risks. The relevant reviewer will either confirm Level 1 ethics approval or request revision prior to ethics approval.

Level 2, in which the self-assessment identifies particular risks and requires further scrutiny. This higher level of scrutiny will generally be required for research on sensitive topics or illegal practices, research involving vulnerable groups or children, research that could adversely affect participants or the researcher, or in cases where there are impediments to obtaining the informed consent of participants. This list of possible risks is not exhaustive. In most cases, these types of risks can be dealt with through standard procedures, checks, and safeguards, which need to be elaborated via the online ethics form. 

Level 3, in which a proposed project creates more serious risks, usually because of physical or psychological harm to the researcher or participants.

In the case of applications judged to be Level 1 or 2, ethics approval may be granted immediately. In the case of applications judged to be Level 3, scrutiny by an ad hoc Research Ethics Subcommittee will be required prior to ethics approval being granted. Research projects may not proceed until ethical approval has been granted. 

In case of any queries on the process or the status of an application please contact:

for MSc Dissertation Research Ethics submissions: PGT.ethics@ed.ac.uk

for PhD and MScR Research Ethics submissions: pgresearch.sps@ed.ac.uk

Good practice guidance is available from various sources including: