Research ethics

Research ethics is a worldwide set of principles governing the design, management and conduct of research involving interactions between researchers and human participants, their tissue or data.

The University’s adaptation of these worldwide principles is in our Research Ethics Policy and this includes consideration of the following key elements:

  • respect for autonomy
  • the balance of risk versus benefit
  • avoiding harm
  • justice
  • confidentiality
  • integrity

Ensuring research is conducted ethically

The University Research Ethics Committees (URECs) are responsible for reviewing ethics applications in order to ensure that adequate consideration has been given to the ethical aspects of a research project, thus reducing the potential for harm and upset to the participants.

The UREC will assess whether the research proposed can be considered ethical, ie whether:

  • the research is justified, ie whether it is likely to add to the existing knowledge base;
  • it is of sufficient standard – including whether the researchers are qualified to carry out the roles proposed in the research proposal;
  • the risk it poses to participants is outweighed by the potential benefits of the research;
  • the research appears to comply with all statutory and other guidance;
  • data management and handling appears to comply with the relevant legislation (data protection laws) and guidance (eg Research Governance Framework, NHS Code of Practice on Confidentiality or the NHS Care Records Guarantee);
  • financial arrangements appear sound – it would be unethical to start research that may not be completed because insufficient funds were available.

University of Manchester requirements

Certain categories of research involving human participants, their tissues or data must be independently reviewed by a properly constituted Research Ethics Committee. 

The Research Ethics Policy also sets our further requirements in terms of research conducted outside of the UK, research which has prior ethical approval by a REC at another organisation and research conducted in the National Health Service (NHS).