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School of the Humanities and Social Sciences



Coronavirus Update

The Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee is operating normally during the coronavirus outbreak and will endeavour to continue normal service.

Applicants planning research projects involving face-to-face interaction with participants, particularly those involving international travel, should take account of the University’s rolling guidance on responding to the coronavirus outbreak:


The ESRC National Centre for Research Methods has published guidance on ethics practice in social sciences research during covid times. Please note that this is an advisory document and does not supersede any requirements at Department or University level.



If you have any concerns at all please use the email response service via


The Humanities and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee [HSS REC] reviews complex or high-risk ethics issues in research projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences or cognate areas.

The Committee sits virtually, considering applications on a case by case basis, and is governed by the University's policies on research integrity and research ethics:

The Committee attempts where possible to deliver a decision in seven working days. However, turnaround cannot be guaranteed and the process may take longer than this, particularly for difficult or complex cases. Also, revisions may be required by the Committee before approval can be given. 

Please ensure that you apply for ethics approval as early as possible, and no later than one month before the proposed start date.

This page provides details on the procedures for ethical review, and links to additional resources.

The Key Principles of Ethical Research are:

  • The emotional well-being, physical well-being, rights, dignity and personal values of research participants should be secured;
  • Research participants and contributors should be fully informed regarding the purpose, methods and end use of the research. They should be clear on what their participation involves and any risks that are associated with the process. These risks should be clearly articulated and if possible quantified;
  • Research participants must participate in a voluntary way, free from coercion. Participants have the right to withdraw at any time;
  • Research must be independent and any conflicts of interest or partiality must be explicit;
  • Normally information provided by the participants should be anonymous. At all times confidentiality must be assured.

Seeking ethics approval

Undergraduate or graduate students should consult their supervisor in the first instance for guidance on ethics issues arising through the planning of dissertation or graduate research projects.

Staff, or any other person conducting research on University premises, should seek advice from the local ethics committee or ethics contact in the Department in which the research will be carried out.

You may be asked to complete a form and to provide participant information sheets and consent form, in addition to details of your research proposal.

In most cases, ethics approval can be granted at the Department level. Applications must be presented to the relevant Department Ethics Committee in the first instance. Cases that are particularly complex or sensitive, or those presenting a conflict of interest, will be referred by the Department Ethics Committee to the HSS REC for formal review.

Application to HSS REC

Applicants with cases being referred to HSS REC will be asked to complete the Committee’s application form and provide details of their research proposal and participant information. Please note that applications should be submitted via your Departmental Administrator.

Useful Information

Further information about ethics in research at the University of Cambridge can be found on the University's Research Office website.

If your research or ethics project involves children, please read through the MRC/ESRC guidelines.

Further information about the University's safeguarding policy can be found on our Human Resources page.

The HSS REC draws primarily on the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics, which can be sourced from the ESRC website. Please note that any research funded by the ESRC may be subject to an annual audit to gauge best practice; for more information, see

Contacting the HSS REC

The HSS REC Administrator can be contacted on, or 01223 766238.