Science and Technology Studies


STS Research Review (research ethics, data protection, and safety)

This page provides guidance to all researchers in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) on matters of research ethics, data protection, GDPR compliance, and safety.

This page provides material to support STS Research Review Panel, which has responsibilities for research governance within the UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

Key documents

use this formwhich covers this areabecause research involves
Consider methodsmethods and protocols

humans are research subjects or information sources; data collected from or about humans; specific methods you believe merit independent review

Consider datadata protection, storage and management

personal data (as defined by GDPR); drawing boundaries over privacy; long-term decisions about management and storage

Consider safetysafety and risk assessment

humans as research subjects; work outside UCL facilities; lone working or out-of-hours work (see STS lone working policy); other risks you think need risk assessment

guidancegeneral guidance for all applicants


Research cannot be undertaken without necessary approvals in place prior to start. Three areas are prescribed for STS-based research projects:

  • ethics of research methods, mandatory for research using humans as data
  • data protection, mandatory for research using personal data (as defined by GDPR)
  • safety and risk assessment, mandatory for off-site locations and lone working

Without exception, all research at UCL involving “intervention or interaction with living human participants or the collection or study of data derived from living human participants” must receive ethical approval of methods prior to the start of data collection. UCL also requires approval of plans to protect certain types of data and to assess risks to safety.

STS has created a series of films to help students work through the application elements:

  • Introduction to STS research ethics (film)
  • Consider Methods - STS research ethics (film)
  • Consider Safety - STS research ethics (film)
  • Consider Data - STS research ethics (film)

Supervisors and line managers are responsible to ensuring projects under their direction meet all UCL requirements. STS RRP strongly advises staff and students to secure independent decisions about applicability - meaning you should not make decisions about your own projects (history shows such decisions risk bias) - consult independent colleagues. STS researchers should feel encouraged to discuss project and protocol design with their colleagues, supervisors, and line managers. In teaching, module tutors or supervisors are the first point-of-contact. Research students, research fellows, and other academic staff have recourse to research clusters, especially cluster leads. Our community has tremendous wealth of experience in areas of protocol design and engagement with responsible research.

To secure approvals, researchers may use any one of these three pathways:

  1. UCL REC: In research review, UCL central processes are supervening and provide default systems for all research. These are managed by UCL Research Ethics Committee (UCL REC). UCL offers guidance in all aspects of research preparation, including research ethics, data protection, and safety and risk management. UCL provides legal guidance on data protection issues.
  2. STS RRP: Research review within the department is managed by the STS Research Review Panel (STS RRP). Because the central system can seem daunting, and because most STS research involves relatively low risk interventions or collection of non-personal data, STS maintains a streamlined screening process as a preliminary stage in review. The purpose of our local review is to identify, approve, and monitor low risk research and non-personal data collection. Most research involving more-than-minimum risk will be referred to UCL REC as a matter of routine.
    For 2023-24, the RRP lead is Professor Andrew Gregory.
    All documentation, requests for approval, and reviews are managed by the STS Research and Finance Administrator, Ms Sue Walsh.
    Contact the panel via STS.Ethics@ucl.ac.uk.
  3. Other departments: STS researchers collaborating with colleagues in other UCL departments can use alternate review processes within UCL. Approvals from those departments is sufficient. Where comparability or transferability are not clear, STS researchers should consult the STS RRP lead.