The University of Cambridge is committed to providing a rigorous and independent ethical review process that is proportionate to the potential risk. The University recognises that in a significant number of cases the involvement of an ethics committee may not be necessary. However, it expects all researchers embarked on research involving human participants or personal data to consider the ethical risks of their work and, in case of doubt, to seek appropriate advice.
In the first instance advice should be sought at a local level. Undergraduate and Postgraduate students should seek the advice of their supervisor or mentor. 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. If in doubt, advice should be sought from the Head of Department. If further advice is required, researchers should contact the appropriate School-level Research Ethics Committee. A research ethics review flowchart has also been produced that provides further guidance on when and where to seek ethical review - this should be used to supplement, and not replace local advice.
Any project that is identified at the outset (by the researcher, supervisor, Faculty or Department) as requiring ethical review should be referred to the appropriate local or School-level Research Ethics Committee.
Where local Research Ethics Committees consider that they are unable to provide the level of necessary review they will refer the case to the relevant School-level Research Ethics Committee. A list of local and School-level Research Ethics Committees at Cambridge is available here. In the rare cases where circumstances make it impossible for a School-level Committee to review a project, typically when the project is beyond the expertise of the Committee members, the case will normally be referred to the University Research Ethics Committee.
Most research involving NHS patients, staff or facilities will come under the Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care and will require NRES review. A range of other types of clinical and social science research also requires NRES review, for further details see the NRES review guidance page. Research that requires review by an external body, such as a National Research Ethics Service (NRES) Committee, should be identified and referred to that body as early as possible in the review process.For details on how to refer cases to NRES, please contact the Clinical School’s Governance Officer.