School of Media, Arts and Humanities - for students and staff

Research Ethics

The University of Sussex is committed to promoting and upholding the highest quality academic and ethical standards in all its activities. A university-wide Research Governance Committee Framework has been established to ensure that ethical review procedures reflect best practice with regard ethical considerations in research, meet legislative, regulatory and funder requirements, and safeguard the reputation of the University.

Under the framework, ethical governance of research undertaken in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities is overseen by the Social Sciences and Arts Cross-school Research Ethics Committee (SSARTS C-REC).

Direct responsibility for ethical review of research lies in part with the C-REC and in part with the School, as outlined below. The ethical review process is overseen by the central University Research Governance Committee (URGC), which is responsible for broader policy decisions relating to research governance and ethics and regularly reviews policies relating to the ethics of research to ensure that they are comprehensive, accessible, relevant and up to date.

Preparations and process for ethical applications are outlined below.

Do I need ethical review for my research?

The main reasons for which a research project might need ethical review are that it involves interviews of any kind, or includes the use of personal data such as diaries and letters where living people are implicated or affected in some way.

If you are unsure whether your research requires ethical review then please use this five-question self-assessment checklist  to determine whether it does.

What kind of ethical review do I need?

If ethical review is needed, then there are two types, School level and C-REC level, depending on the status of the researcher and whether the project is 'low risk' or 'higher risk'.

To determine the risk level of your project see the overview of ethical review processes. The main reasons for which a project might be classified as higher risk are a lack of true anonymity for participants; the possibility of the study producing psychological stress or anxiety; and the discussion of 'sensitive' topics in interviews. 

See the Low Risk and Higher Risk Ethics Review Diagram [PDF 79.46KB] for an overview of the different review pathways.

Ethical review procedures: School level review or C-REC review?

The procedures for the two types of review are as follows:

1. School level review
Projects for School level review must first be authorised by the Student’s Supervisor or Course Convenor and then submitted through the online ethical review application system via Sussex Direct. Submissions must be made at least 3 weeks before the research is due to begin. Research may not commence until a favourable ethical decision has been given. The application will be reviewed by the School Research Ethics Officer (SREO).

Read the MFM Ethics Staff Guide for information.

If you have any questions, please contact the Research Ethics Officer for your subject area (see below for details) Please note that applications should not be sent by email for review.

2. C-REC review
All projects for C-REC review must be submitted through the online ethical review application system via Sussex Direct. Submissions must be received by the Social Sciences and Arts C-REC by the 20th of the month during which they are to be reviewed; a response can be expected by the 20th of the following month. If you have any questions, please email c-recss@sussex.ac.uk . However, applications should not be sent to this address by email for review.

Please note: when a PGR student submits a completed ethics application for C-REC review, the application will first be sent automatically to the Student’s Supervisor for authorisation. Once the Supervisor has authorised the student's application, the C-REC will be alerted that the student's application has been authorised for review.

How to apply for research ethics review: link to forms

To apply, please go to the University's Research Governance and integrity web page. This site contains University guidance and example forms you can adapt for your project: an example consent form, example information sheet, example verbal consent form.

Further resources

University policies relating to Research Governance can be found on the Research Policies web page. These include guidance on intellectual property, external consultancy and codes of practice.

The Economic and Social Research Council has produced a very helpful, user-friendly, web-based resource, The Research Ethics Guidebook. It is designed for social science researchers at all stages of their training and careers but is equally useful for researchers in the Arts. Its aim is to help you think your way through ethical issues at each stage of your research, and find your way through the variety of regulatory processes and procedures that can apply to social science research. It also signposts you to more detailed information along the way.

People and roles

The following individuals are responsible for managing the ethical review procedures for Media, Arts and Humanities staff and students:

School level review School Research Ethics Officers are: 

C-REC review Social Sciences and Arts C-REC Chair: Dr. Ruth Stirton, R.Stirton@sussex.ac.uk