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School Ethics Committees

  • Quorum - The quorum for School Ethics Committees is three, of which at least two should be permanent staff members, with due regard for mix of gender and area of expertise.   A membership of at least four is required as no member can review his/her own research including research for which they are a named supervisor.
  • Lay Person - An essential component of having an 'independent committee' is having a lay person serving on the committee.   This lay person serves on UTREC and as such plays a part in monitoring each School Ethics Committee.
  • Recording of Decisions on Projects - Committees should make clear and record, in note or minute form, how they came to their decisions. The minutes/notes must be logged on the database with the application and all other supporting documentation for audit purposes.
  • Response Time - Individual School Ethics Committees may set their own timescale for responding to applications.   This response time should however be as quick as possible, keeping in mind the aim of not hindering research. 
  • Knowledge - All School Ethics Committee Members must be familiar with the Remit & Structure in addition to the relevant Research Guidelines and Legal/Data requirements.   As such each member must undergo Training.

Independence of school ethics committees

  • Each School Ethics Committee must be free from bias and undue influence, free also from the researchers whose proposals they consider, and free from the personal or financial interests of their members.   No supervisor should be part of the Committee approval process during consideration of their own supervisees application.
  • Any possible conflicts of interest must be clearly declared prior to a project being considered, and where such conflicts exist, any decisions regarding the project must be clearly enunciated.  Potential conflicts of interest include, for example, conflicts between the interests of a research organisation, or a part of one, and those of a researcher making application; conflicts between the private interest of a member of the Committee and the interests of the researcher making the application; and conflicts between the interests of the researcher and the interests of the research participants.

Reviewing ethical applications

School Ethics Committees must ensure that only completed ethical applications are reviewed (Checklist for School Ethics Committee (UTREC) (PDF, 18 KB)), ensuring that one hard copy with original signatures by the applicant(s) and supervisor(s) has been received before making any decisions on the final approval of the application.  Flowchart for Ethical Submission (PDF, 65 KB)

  • ALL research involving the participation of children and or vulnerable people must be reviewed by UTREC, unless your School/Unit has obtained clearance to review in-house.  Those current Schools/Units include; Medicine, Psychology and Geography and Geosciences.
  • The S.E.C. must ensure that researchers intending to work with children have been in communication with the child panel representative for guidance.

Review by UTREC: UTREC will review applications directed to them by S.E.C.s where they feel unable to agree an approval in-house.   The following must be submitted at least 8 days prior to the scheduled UTREC meeting by email:

  • Ethical Application inclusive of all supporting documents e.g. participant information sheets, consent forms, debriefing, questionnaires etc.
  • Summary, by convenor, of the committee's issues

Monitoring of school ethics committees by UTREC

Monitoring is an essential aspect of ensuring that School Ethics Committees are working well throughout the University.   Each S.E.C. will be monitored by UTREC, and UTREC itself will make an annual report to the University Audit Committee.   Monitoring will occur in a variety of ways:

  • Each month, a description, including any ethical issues, of each approved project agreed by the School Ethics Committee must be entered into the database by the appointed school administrator.
  • UTREC will review a report of all approved projects at their monthly meetings.
  • UTREC may request to monitor any full documentation for any approved application (projects to be monitored should not be stopped or put on hold).
  • Members of UTREC will have access to the database for all Schools/Units.
  • Members of UTREC may attend on occasion School Ethics Committee meetings.
  • Each School Ethics Committee may invite the convenor of another School Ethics Committee to attend one of their meetings on an annual basis.
  • Members of School Ethics Committees will be invited to attend the UTREC meeting on a regular basis.







UTREC word cloud


UTREC Office

College Gate
St Andrews
KY16 9AJ
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 462368


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