Applying for ethics approval

Preparing for the meeting

Prepare for a meeting with an ethics committee as you would any other key project meeting. Spend time reading up on your application, and be prepared to discuss in detail any ethics considerations raised by your project. If you are using a method or research strategy that you know may be ethically contentious or out of the ordinary for the committee, be prepared to discuss and justify those elements of your work in detail. Just as when completing the ethics application form, more preparation at this stage could save you time (and avoid delays) in the long run.

Talk to someone

In preparing for a meeting with an ethics committee, it can be useful to talk to an experienced colleague who has attended an ethics committee meeting with a project before. Talk to someone you trust – remember there are many anecdotes, and a few apocryphal stories out there, about the horrors of defending an application at an ethics committee meeting. You could end up making yourself un-necessarily nervous or defensive, before you’ve even heard what the committee have to say.

If you’re not sure who to ask, why not contact your institution’s research office – they should have a record of which projects have been through NHS Research Ethics Committees successfully, and they may be able to put you in touch with a colleague who can share their experiences.

If you can’t find anyone to talk to who has been through the process – or even if you have – you might find it useful to have a practice run with a couple of colleagues or friends. Ask them to read your ethics application, and then to interview you as though they were a committee – asking hard and critical questions. This can be useful because it gives you a new perspective, and can help you to anticipate things you might not otherwise have thought of.

It can also be useful to talk to the secretary of the ethics committee – you’ll be given their contact details when you are told which committee is reviewing your application. He or she can may be able tell you a bit more about who is on the committee and how things usually work, which can help you feel more prepared.