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Research Integrity


This web page provides a revised interim research ethics review flowchart as guidance on when and where to seek ethical review - this should be used to supplement, and not replace local advice. The complete guidance is also available as PDF document.


University of Cambridge – UREC

Interim research ethics review flowchart


Before beginning research, all researchers are expected to consider what, if any, ethical risks or issues arise from the research they intend to undertake and take all reasonable steps to ensure that ethical conduct of research involving human participants or their personal data.

Most research projects carried out at the University of Cambridge will involve no ethical issues or raise only minimal ethical risk1, whereas some research will raise significant ethical questions. The University’s ethical review framework is designed to provide a rigorous and independent ethical review process that is proportionate to the perceived risks.

As such, all researchers embarking on research involving human participants or personal data as the subject of research should consider the ethical risks of their work consulting, where necessary, with their Supervisor, Faculty and/or Departmental policies and/or the Departmental/Faculty staff member identified as responsible for research ethics.

Not all research conducted by researchers within the University requires independent ethical review by a University ethics committee. As appropriate, particularly in cases of doubt, the lead researcher should seek further advice in making this decision. Where more than minimal ethical risk is identified, reasonable independent ethical review (which may be light-touch ethical review where appropriate) must be carried out prior to research work commencing.

Ethical issues raised by research and the understanding of research ethics vary considerably across cross disciplines. Schools will necessarily have differing approaches to ethical review and the framing of ethical guidance. Given this, subject specific guidance should be obtained by researchers from their Department, Faculty or School to ensure ethical conduct of their research where further advice is required.

This interim flowchart should be used in conjunction with the University’s Ethics Policy, UREC Research Ethics handbook, Good Research Practice Guidelines and the University Research Integrity Statement and any local research ethics guidance. It will be replaced by a new ethics review flowchart in due course following the completion of the ongoing UREC review of University Ethics Policy.

This interim flowchart is intended to supplement local ethics guidance provided by Departments/Faculties and Schools and the lead researcher undertaking research involving human participants or personal data should familiarise themselves with any local exemptions or requirements.

In this document, you will find information and guidance to support you to:

  • Recognise the type of research may require independent ethical review

  • Consider the ethical risks raised by your research and seek ethical review as appropriate

  • Understand when and how to seek ethical review from a university or external

Continue to section 1 and section 2 of the guidance below.

Section 1 - Do I need ethical review?

Section 2 - Further guidance


Approval date:  November 2023

Date of next review: 2024-2025


 1Minimal ethical risk (see p.19-20 and p.38, handbook) is a risk no greater than the level of risk research participants are likely to encounter in their normal lives. The level of ethical risk that participants would encounter in their normal lives will, of course, vary according to the participants involved.

For example, research that publicly criticised the policies of a politician or other public figure who might encounter public criticism on a regular basis is more likely to be judged as of minimal ethical risk than research that exposed a member of the public to similar scrutiny in a way that they would not normally encounter.