Information for applicants

Thank you for considering IREC for research ethics review.

This page contains all the information you will need to make an application.

IREC Application

NB: please read the IREC guidance notes for applicants (below) before making your application.

Background information

1.1 Name:

1.2 Organisation/institution:

1.3 Contact email:

1.4 Project title:

1.5 Research funder (if applicable):

1.6 Please provide details of planned or submitted applications to other ethics committees relating to this research:

1.7 Please provide a short summary of your research project, including an overview of your intended methods for all parts of the project, in no more than 400 words. You can refer to your supporting documents.

Ethical statement

1.8 Please write a statement of no more than 3,000 words. This statement should:

  1. Tell us how your research will comply with the seven principles at all stages of the process
  2. Show how you are considering the needs of participants, gatekeepers, researchers, and any other stakeholders
  3. Identify any conflicts of interest, and (if any) outline how they will be managed
  4. Spell out any ways in which your research could be misused, what the consequences of that misuse might be, and what steps you plan to take to mitigate these possibilities

Independent Research Ethics Committee application guidance notes

This document provides guidance on completing an application to the Independent Research Ethics Committee (IREC). Your completed application and supporting documents should be submitted to  

Each application is reviewed by a panel of three IREC members. We will aim to review your application within four weeks, however this process may take longer for more complex applications and during holiday periods.

Your application should be submitted along with any relevant supporting documents. We will expect to see evidence of adherence to the IREC Principles of Ethical Research: intersectionality, justice, dignity, respect, fairness, honesty, and care.

We will aim to review your application within four weeks. There are three possible outcomes:

  1. The application is approved and the project can begin.
  2. The application is approved with conditions. In this case, the project cannot commence until amendments are made. Applicants will usually be given four weeks to make amendments and update the committee.
  3. The application is refused. In this case, feedback will be provided and the application can be resubmitted with significant amendments.

If you have any questions about the ethics application process, please contact

Background information

Please answer all the questions in this section, including details of your organization or institution and funder (if applicable).

The research summary should include details of the:

  • Chosen research question(s)
  • Justification of the need for research on this question(s)
  • Plans for contextualizing your research
  • Intended data collection methods
  • Intended approach to data analysis
  • Intended approach to reporting and dissemination

The summary should also demonstrate (not just assert) adherence to the IREC ethical principles.

You can refer to any supporting documents you have provided. For example, it would be fine to say something like, ‘Please see the information sheet and consent form we have provided for details of our ethical approach to recruiting participants’. We do not expect you to duplicate information you have provided elsewhere in or with your application, but it will be helpful if you can tell us where to find relevant information within your documents.

Ethical statement

Applicants should explain how they have taken ethics into account in the design for the research project as a whole and for each stage within that project. The statement should show clear compliance with the seven principles throughout. A simple assertion of compliance will not be sufficient.

We recognise that participant involvement at the outset may not always be feasible or appropriate, depending on the research question(s), but we expect the applicant to explain why if they do not intend to involve participants at the research design stage. Applicants should also explain how they will involve participants during the research process. This will need an explanation of how the researcher will keep in touch with participants about the progress of the research. It will also require a process for sharing draft findings with participants for their feedback, or explaining why this should not or cannot be done.

Applicants should detail how they will share their final findings with participants. As a minimum, we expect applicants to provide a tailored summary in an appropriate format. This should be short, communicated in plain language, and accessible.

Your research may be contextualized through a literature review, document analysis, using statistics, in some other way, or with a combination of two or more methods. Applicants should explain how they will ensure that the contextual information they use is as representative as possible of wider populations. Where contextual information cannot be fully representative, applicants should state where the gaps are and why those gaps exist. We expect to see acknowledgement of the discriminatory and exclusionary aspects of information gathered online and/or solely in English or another dominant language.

Applicants should explain how they will recruit and treat participants, including recruitment criteria and intended number of participants. Details should be given of how participants will be informed about the research, what information they will be given, and the timeframe between this information being provided and participation beginning. Applicants should also outline what they expect participants to experience, and how they will ensure participants are treated ethically.

Applicants should consider how they will ensure the research is mutually beneficial to the participant and researcher. As a minimum, we expect participants to be reimbursed for any expenses incurred as a result of their participation. Generally, we expect participants to receive some form of financial or other reimbursement, as recompense for the time and effort they have given to the research. If you have no budget for this you could consider offering participants an equivalent amount of your time, to use for whatever they like that you can offer, in exchange for the time they spend helping you with your research.

Applicants should detail how they will record informed and ongoing consent from participants. We recognise that it may not always be possible or appropriate to seek written consent. Even so, we expect to see details of how consent will be gathered and recorded.

Applicants should explain the rationale behind their chosen data collection methods. While we recognise that time and practical constraints can inform choices about methods, we expect the applicant to have considered the needs of their participants – and, where relevant, other stakeholders – when selecting methods. Applicants should also explain how participants will be involved in gathering data, or why participants will not be involved.

Applicants should consider the potential harms that could result from data collection, to participants, other stakeholders, and the researcher(s), and explain how they will address these harms. Applicants may wish to use a risk matrix to outline potential harms and the steps they will take to address these. Template risk matrices, and information on how to use them, can be found online.

People who are marginalised within society may regard researchers as holding power. Applicants should reflect on the power dynamics that may exist within their research project, and explain the steps they will take towards a balance of power. This will vary depending upon the project, but may include reflecting on issues such as: the time and location of the interview, how the researcher presents to the participant (for example informal/formal dress), and how the researcher speaks to participants (for example, limiting the use of technical/complicated language). It may also include reflecting the identities of stakeholders (for example, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background), and how these may inform power dynamics.

Applicants should make clear whether they have a pre-existing relationship with potential participants and/or other stakeholders. If this is the case, applicants should explain how they will navigate between the research and their pre-existing relationships, including the implications of potential participants’ decisions about whether to take part in the research.

If applicants are using secondary data, such as archival material, detail should be provided of how this will be gathered and used ethically.  This may include detailing how applicants will search for material, secure permissions to use material, and – where relevant – ensure confidentiality and anonymity is maintained.

Applicants should explain the steps they will take to ensure participants’ confidentiality and anonymity is protected. This includes detailing how data will be stored and for how long. Details should be provided of any third parties involved in transcription or analysis.

We expect applicants to outline how they will comply with data protection legislation. This may involve demonstrating that the researcher is familiar with GDPR.

Applicants should detail the steps they will take to ensure data analysis is thorough and honest. Where capacity permits, this may involve analysis being undertaken, or reviewed, by more than one person. We expect applicants to show that they will engage with data in a thoughtful and systematic way and would expect the applicant to indicate how they will carry out data analysis (e.g. what approach they will use and whether they will use software). Applicants should also explain how participants will be involved in processing and analysing data, or why participants will not be involved.

Applicants should be able to describe the potential audiences for their findings. We expect applicants to outline the methods they intend to use to report their findings to these audiences (e.g. written report, comic, video), and how their outputs will be distributed. Applicants should explain why those methods are appropriate and most likely to reach stakeholders, including gatekeepers and others who have supported the research. Applicants should also explain how participants will be involved in reporting and disseminating their findings, or why participants will not be involved.

We expect applicants to be able to list the individual and organisational stakeholders in their research, and specify the measures planned to ensure their ethical treatment. Where stakeholders have contributed to the research process, such as by providing guidance or supporting participant recruitment, the applicant should explain how they will recognise the contribution of those stakeholders in research outputs.

Gatekeepers are common stakeholders in research. If relevant, applicants should outline the role of gatekeepers and any pre-existing relationship with gatekeepers. We expect applicants to detail how they will work with gatekeepers to ensure that both gatekeepers and prospective participants do not experience undue pressure. We expect applicants to detail the steps that will be taken to ensure participants know that their relationship with gatekeeper(s) will not be affected by their participation in the research or their decision not to participate. We also expect applicants to outline how they will ensure that gatekeepers are treated ethically.

Applicants should detail the steps they will take to make sure participants know how to withdraw from the research. Applicants should make clear the point at which participants are no longer able to withdraw (such as when data analysis begins) and explain how this will be communicated to participants.

Applicants should provide details of the processes that are in place for any participant who wishes to complain about the research, and how participants will be made aware of these.

Applicants should also provide details of the processes that are in place should someone wish to access or enquire about the research once the researcher is no longer working on the project. This does not need to be a named person but can be a role within an organisation/institution, for example a specific Chief Executive Officer or Head of Department.

Researchers’ own wellbeing is important and we are all responsible for taking care of ourselves. Applicants should set out the steps they intend to take to maintain their own safety and health (in its broadest sense) while they conduct their research.

Process for review of applications to IREC

  Stage 1  Application and supporting documents submitted to chair   
    Stage 2  Chair confirms: Application is completed in fullSupporting documents attachedResearch does not involve illegal activity          Within 5 working days of receiving application (except during August and December, when it may take longer)
  Stage 3  Chair convenes panel of three members, with at least one member drawn from group A and one from group B. Chair sends application to panel.  
    Stage 4  Panel read application and arrange online or face-to-face meeting to discuss. One member of panel completes review form based on the discussion, and sends this to the rest of panel to agree. This is returned to the chair      Within 3 weeks of panel receiving application
  Stage 5  Chair returns review form with decision to applicant    Within 3 working days of receiving panel decision  
Following resubmission:
  Stage 6  Applicant returns amended application to chair    Within 4 weeks of receiving decision  
  Stage 7  Chair sends to panel    Within 5 working days of receiving application
  Stage 8  Panel review and discuss via email or online/face-to-face. One member updates decision form and returns to chair.    Within 2 weeks of receiving amended application  
  Stage 9  Chair returns decision to applicant  Within 3 working days of receiving panel decision  
  Panel unable to reach decision  In the event the panel cannot reach a consensus, a new panel will be convened by the chair to begin process from stage  Timescales as above


We operate a sliding scale of fees for individuals and organisations of different sizes and types. The fees below are for standard reviews, for particularly complex applications or where a larger panel is required, there may be additional fees to those below. At present, there is no VAT payable on IREC fees.
If our fees are an obstacle for you, please get in touch to discuss your requirements and resources.

Individual researcher with no institutional funding: £500
Individual researcher with institutional funding: £750

Third sector organisation with turnover under £1m: £650
Third sector organisation with turnover £1-5m: £1,000
Third sector organisation with turnover over £5m: £1,500

Private sector organisation: £1,500
Public sector organisation: £1,500
Research funder / University: £1,500