UCL Research Ethics


Become a member of the UCL research ethics committee

The Statement on Research Integrity sets out the principles by which we ensure that research at UCL maintains the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of research in line with UCL’s principles: honesty, rigour, transparency, care and respect, and personal responsibility.  Research ethics is fundamental to UCL's mission as a world-class institution dedicated to the continued pursuit of original knowledge and scientific advancement to benefit humanity and the world of the future.  It plays a central role by upholding and supporting the ethical standards that promote the values of transparency, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness.  These high standards are essential for ensuring the highest quality of research and maintaining the continued trust and confidence of the wider research community and the public.

What does the UCL REC do?

The Research Ethics Committee, chaired by Professor Lynn Ang (Institute of Education) and Professor Michael Heinrich (School of Pharmacy), is a multi-disciplinary Committee with cross-UCL faculty representatives working in different fields and disciplines, and is the main ethics approval body for all UCL healthy volunteer research. The REC also includes external lay members; volunteering experts who give their time and tremendous experience in order to ensure that the participants’ perspective in any project is considered in detail.

The UCL REC consists of the following members and is supported by a dedicated and highly qualified research administrative team. 

  • 12 cross-faculty academic members representing all UCL faculties
  • 4 lay members representing one third of the committee 
  • 1 co-opted member from the UCL MRC Clinical Trials Unit

The REC reviews over 250 high risk applications every year, working closely with students and researchers to ensure that all applications meet the highest standards of academic rigour, transparency and ethics, and safeguard and empower participants.  The vision of the UCL REC is to uphold those standards and to this end it is expected that all those involved with research should operate within the ethical principles of Beneficence, Non-malfeasance, Voluntary Participation, Informed Consent, Confidentiality & Anonymity.

The process of ethics review 

The key duty of a REC is to protect the interests of the research participants whilst at the same time facilitating ethical research. The committee reviews research applications and gives an opinion on whether the research is ethical and fair.  This process involves ensuring that any research project should fairly balance the likely benefits to the participant, or society at large, against the burdens involved and any risk of harm or actual harm to those taking part. It also means ensuring that the research proposal itself is necessary, properly designed (to ensure that risks to those involved in the research are minimised), supervised and conducted and that the outcome will answer the research question thereby not wasting research participant time.

An extremely important part of this is ensuring that participants are not unfairly pressured into taking part and that they are fully informed about the project and what it will mean for them. Central to this is ensuring participants have appropriate information before they agree to take part in the study (i.e. informed consent).

Becoming an academic or a lay member of a UCL Research Ethics Committee

We would like to hear from those who are interested in becoming volunteer ethics reviewers; full training is provided. To register your interest, or if you have any questions about the role of an ethics reviewer, contact the Research Ethics Team at ethics@ucl.ac.uk .  If you are interested in becoming a lay member for the IOE Research Ethics Committee, please, email ioe.researchethics@ucl.ac.uk.

Further information about the UCL REC and the IOE REC, including procedures can be found on the following pages.

Academic Members:   We would like to hear from UCL staff (to include early career researchers) who are interested in becoming volunteer academic ethics reviewers.  To note that research ethics committee work is now recognised in UCL’s HR Academic Career Framework within working grade indicators of impact towards building a case for academic promotion.

Lay Members:  Interested volunteers, especially those who are suitably qualified with experience from an educational, legal, medical, scientific, mental health, social work, counselling or audit/risk management background, are encouraged to apply. 

Current Vacancies 

UCL REC - How to Apply

If you would like the opportunity to play an important part in the development of the university’s ethical review process, to join one of the great centres of research, knowledge and innovation then please email your:

  • Expression of interest (one page maximum) which should outline your skills and the relevant experience and perspectives you could bring to the role; Previous experience on ethics committees and undertaking research ethics related work would be an advantage.
  • Current CV and one reference  This should be an impartial professional person who is able to comment on your suitability for this role.
  • Declaration of interests Please declare any personal, business or professional interests that have potential to conflict with the purpose, role or remit of the UCL REC. The purpose of this declaration is to ensure that the functions of the REC can be exercised free of bias that could affect their independence in reaching decisions, and to ensure public confidence in the independence of the REC.

to Helen Dougal, UCL REC Facilitator, to ethics@ucl.ac.uk

We have a positive approach to diversity and encourage applications from all sections of the community.  We also particularly welcome those with minority or minoritized identities, as they are under-represented on the UCL REC.

Positions are voluntary, but we will reimburse travel expenses for attendance at physical meetings of the REC and training events but there is no other remuneration. 

Deadline: Thursday 27th October 2022

If the level of interest exceeds the number of vacancies available, informal meetings will be held with shortlisted applicants and successful candidates will be offered lay member posts.

IOE REC - How to Apply

If you would like to become a member of the IOE REC full information about the role and requirements is available in the Lay Member information pack below.  To apply, please email the following completed documents to ioe.researchethics@ucl.ac.uk. 

We positively encourage applicants from all sections of under-represented communities.  Lay member posts are voluntary but expenses such as travel may be paid in accordance with the UCL Expenses policy.  

We will consider all applications. If the level of interest exceeds the number of volunteer vacancies available, informal meetings will be held with shortlisted applicants and successful candidates wil be offered lay members positions.

Deadline: Monday 31 October 2022

Hear from members of the UCL Research Ethics Committee

Former academic member

“The rare opportunity to be part of an important cross-faculty committee has broadened my outlook and deepened my understanding of research ethics and high-impact research activity across all subject areas at UCL. I have also benefitted from working in an engaging team of motivated and supportive academic and administrative staff to ensure world-leading research ethics for our staff, students and research participants.”

Current lay members

"I joined the UCL REC as a lay member soon after retirement from a career in medicine / medical research.  I find the work intellectually stimulating and enjoy the breadth of research projects from the many and various UCL institutes, ranging from master student studies to large clinical trials, with studies taking place all around the world. Some studies have posed difficult ethical challenges that are discussed at REC meetings which I find very interesting and rewarding. I appreciate the fact that the members of the REC are supportive of each other and work well together as a team."

"I became a lay member of the REC following retirement from a long career in the applied human sciences, working in government organisations and industry. I have found it fulfilling to assist in the research efforts of one of the world’s leading research institutions by helping to ensure the research ethics requirements are appropriately met. Each month, it has been fascinating to read applications for ethics approval from across a very broad range of topic areas which usually demonstrate a very good level of thought around research ethics issues."

 UCL REC Co-Chairs

"It is a privilege to serve as Chair of UCL Research Ethics Committee since 2015. My role as Chair is to lead the Ethics Committee in setting the standards of Ethics for all UCL research activities, assessing complex ethics applications and adjudicating where necessary. One of the most rewarding parts of the role is working with an exceptional group of academics and professional services colleagues who are fully committed to Research Ethics. We manage a high volume of ethics applications daily, in addition to the monthly committee meetings, but despite the intensity of our work, we always place integrity at the heart of everything we do. The dedication of colleagues on the UCL Research Ethics Committee, and UCL Integrity and Ethics Team is simply inspirational."  Professor Lynn Ang

"Raising the profile of ethics at UCL and facilitating research has been a keen driver for my engagement together with Lynn Ang. Research questions are complex and it is our task as researchers to see the perspective of those we work with as participants. Hopefully we all see research ethics not only as a way of empowering participants and to give them a free choice, but also as a way to ascertain that we as researchers contribute ‘to excellence, innovation and the promotion of global understanding in all our activities: research, teaching, learning, enterprise and community engagement.’" (UCL 2034Professor Michael Heinrich

Some questions you may have about being a member of an ethics committee

What kind of person would make a good REC member?

REC members have a very real interest in research and protecting participants interests. They take a balanced view of the likely harms and benefits of a research project and are confident about expressing and supporting their own opinions, whilst also taking into consideration the opinions of colleagues on the committee. Members have the ability to understand the complex issues involved in reaching ethical decisions. They are collegial, open to different viewpoints that might be contrary to their own, have excellent communication skills and possess a desire to make a difference.  They should also understand the requirement for confidentiality when reviewing ethics applications, be IT literate and comfortable reviewing documents electronically. Access to a computer or tablet is desirable.

Lay members play an important role on the REC alongside our expert academic members.  They can, at their best, be prophetic and give voice to things that others on the committee, by virtue of their employment by the institution, cannot so easily say. If they are non-specialists, lay members may see certain parts of research applications in ways different from other committee members.

What would I be expected to do and how much time is involved?

Meeting Review Work

REC members work as part of a committee, which currently meets 10 times a year on a Monday afternoon virtually via Teams (though we are likely to move to an in-person meeting once per) and members are asked to commit to attending at least 6 of the meetings.

Application deadlines and meeting dates for the UCL REC

On average we scrutinise 25-30 high risk applications at each meeting. REC members are not required to review all the applications although their expert input into the discussions of complex applications is required.  All applications are assigned for paired review, so on average you would not expect to review more than 5 to 7 applications along with your co-reviewer at any meeting.  Each application under review is pre-screened by a member of the ethics administrative team. When applications are despatched to REC members – generally a week before each committee meeting – they are accompanied by detailed application pre-screen notes which the reviewer needs to agree or disagree with and can also add their own comments on the applications.  We ask our members to commit to 2 hours per month for each REC meeting.  Review/preparatory work for each meeting takes around 2-3 hours, totalling up to 5 hours a month.

Ad Hoc post-application approval review work

When applications are ethically approved, a condition of our approval is that the researcher has to follow post-approval responsibilities, to include reporting to the REC on an annual basis (if required – this is often the case for longitudinal studies) the progress of their work, and informing the REC of any proposed amendments to their research project through submission of an amendment request or annual continuing review approval form.  Minor amendments and requests to extend ethics approval are generally approved in-house through the ethics administrative team but more substantive amendments i.e. changes to the research methodology and participant group are scrutinised outside of REC meetings on an ad hoc basis by the principal reviewers of the original ethics application and by one of the REC Chairs.

Will I be able to carry out the role of a REC member alongside my current job?

This will clearly depend on your current employer’s policy regarding voluntary appointments. Some employers may allow you time to attend the REC meetings, recognising the activity as professional development or via a corporate social responsibility policy. However, you will need to check this with your line manager or HR department. Most organisations appreciate the valuable work of ethics committees, without which, research academic could not be carried out. You will need to bear in mind that the majority of REC meetings are held during the day.

What is the legal position of a REC member?

UCL will maintain appropriate insurance cover and will indemnify all members of the REC against any claims made against them which arise in respect of their membership of the REC, provided that they have acted in good faith in reaching the decisions made.

How long would I serve?

A term of office is generally three years. Terms of appointment may be renewed, but normally not more than for one further term. Please refer to the Terms of Reference of the Committee.

Terms of Reference - UCL REC