Where and how to apply for ethics review

Important: If any human tissue will be used in your study, please read the separate guidance (below) on when and where to apply for ethics review before you work through this chart.

ethics chart revised sep23


(text version available below)

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Check the definition of research, to see whether your project would be considered this, or one of the possible alternatives of PPI, (Service) evaluation or audit.  Research requires ethics review, whereas PPI, evaluation and audit do not.

All research involving human participants, human tissue and/or personal data2 requires ethical review. 

If the research involves only previously collected, fully anonymised, non-NHS data3 that cannot be traced back to an individual by the researcher and collaborators, and involves no biological samples, ethical approval is not required. 

If you are based in the Social Sciences Division, Humanities Division or the Department of Computer Science, apply to your DREC or to SSH IDREC.

  • clinical trial (CTIMP) or administration of an unlicensed drug
  • ionising radiation
  • collection of cellular tissue samples subject to the Human Tissue Act
  • DNA/RNA used in a new study without donor consent
  • adults lacking capacity to consent
  • use of certain medical devices
  • participants recruited by virtue of being UK National Health Service (NHS) patients
  • NHS staffor NHS data3
  • use of organs or other bodily material of past or present NHS patients
  • class A invasive procedure (defined in CUREC glossary)

If the research involves any of the above, it will require sponsorship review.
Research involving healthy volunteers and/or NHS staff, and no collection of tissue subject to the Human Tissue Act, will then be considered by the relevant CUREC subcommittee.
Other research will be subject to NHS ethics review via the Health Research Authority.

If the research doesn't involve any of these, apply to the relevant CUREC subcommittee.


1 Research is defined in the CUREC glossary

2 Personal data are data that relate to a living individual who can be identified either from those data or from those data and other information that is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller (for example through the use of a code devised by, or accessible to, the researchers). 

NHS data means data generated by an NHS clinical service, or held in NHS databases or behind NHS firewalls, or owned by the NHS in any other capacity, and is not publicly available. It does not matter whether the data contain identifying personal information or whether they are anonymised.

4 As defined by the Human Tissue Act

NHS staff are considered people recruited to research by virtue of their status as current or former employees of the NHS.

6 Class A invasive procedure as defined in the CUREC glossary

CUREC subcommittees

Social Sciences departments without a departmental research ethics committee (DREC) should apply to SSH IDREC.

The 16 DRECs should be the first point of contact for their departments' applications.

For research funded by US National Institutes of Health or other US federal agencies, and medical or health-related research, including CTIMPs, carried out solely outside the UK and the EU, apply to OxTREC.

Medical Sciences Division and MPLS departments (except Computer Science) should apply to MS IDREC.