Computer Science @ University of St Andrews

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Ethics

This page outlines the School's Ethics approval process for research and student projects. This is a work in progress, and readers are advised to also consult the University Teaching and Research Ethics Committee (UTREC) web pages for further information.

What needs ethical approval?

See the UTREC Remit for the long answer. But the short answer is Principle 1 of the remit: "All research and teaching activities of all staff and students in all Schools of the University that involve data collection from, interviews of, interactive investigation of, experimentation upon or demonstrations involving living human subjects, tissues and/or other samples". In Computer Science, that might include projects involving:

  • network monitoring
  • user studies
  • questionnaires
  • the use of sensitive (e.g., medical) data
  • working with children

If in doubt, please ask. If you are working with animals, then there is a separate committee called AWEC (Animal Welfare Ethics Committee.

University regulations

Ethics (UTREC)

All research in all Schools of the University that involves data collection from (questionnaires etc…), interviews of, interactive investigation of, experimentation upon or demonstrations involving living human subjects, tissues and / or other samples requires formal approval from the University Teaching and Research Ethics Committee (UTREC).

It is University policy that any research involving children under 18 should be reviewed by the UTREC Child Panel and that the researcher should hold an ‘Enhanced Disclosure Scotland’ (EDS) certificate. The principal supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the student has received the appropriate ethical clearance from UTREC and the Child Panel prior to research commencing.

It is a requirement that any undergraduate honours or Masters dissertation or PhD thesis that requires ethical approval from UTREC has the letter or email of ethical approval bound into the appendix before submission.

Approval process

For BSc, MSci and MSc students:

Submit via MMS – there are two columns on MMS under student project – one for a pre-assessment ethics form, and one for a full ethics form. You should submit to one of these by the deadline shown in MMS. This will generally be at the same time, or just after the project specification is finalised.

Firstly, fill in the Pre-Assessment Form. Follow the guidance on the form.

If you answer 'no' to Q1, or answer 'yes' to Q1 and 'no' to Q2-16, tick the “There are NO ethical issues raised by this project” box on the front of the form, sign it, and have it signed by your supervisor. You should then upload the form to the correct column on MMS. The ethics process is now complete for your project. You should attach a copy of the front page of the pre-assessment form to your dissertation.

If you answer 'yes' to Q1 and 'yes' to any of Q2-16, then you should submit a full ethics form. There is no need to submit the pre-assessment form in this case.

Full ethics form:

Complete the full ethics form with the help of your supervisor. Once the application is complete, sign it, have it signed by your supervisor, and upload it to the correct column on MMS. You should hear back from the ethics committee within two weeks of the final MMS deadline for ethics form submission.

FAQ:

“I'm too late to submit my application on MMS – MMS rejects my application – what do I do?”

You cannot start your research until you obtain approval. It is therefore in your interest to submit your ethics form on time. Occasionally, it isn't possible to do so. In this case you should discuss this with your supervisor, and inform the Project Co-ordinator for your module. If they agree to late submission, you should submit your form by mailing ethics-cs@st-andrews.ac.uk.

“My project has changed – what do I do now?”

Start the whole procedure form the beginning. Fill out the pre-assessment form, and, based on the results, submit either the signed pre-assessment form or a full ethics application. This should be submitted to ethics-cs@st-andrews.ac.uk if the MMS deadline has passed.

If you have already submitted a full ethics application, and already obtained ethical approval through that process, you can ask for small changes to the application by submitting an 'Ethical Amendment Form' found at: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/utrec/ethicalapplication/

For staff and PhD students:

Complete the full ethics and submit it to: ethics-cs@st-andrews.ac.uk

If you are a PhD student, your supervisor should also sign the form. You should hear back from the ethics committee within two weeks of the final MMS deadline for ethics form submission.

If you have already submitted a full ethics application, and already obtained ethical approval through that process, you can ask for small changes to the application by submitting an 'Ethical Amendment Form'.

If you have external funding for the research from an unusual source, you may also have to complete a “Funding Approval Application Form”. UTREC maintains an extensive list of all pre-approved funders on their website. This includes all the major research councils.

Further reading

Committee members