EGA Institute for Women's Health


How to Apply

Please remember that applying for ethical approval is not just a tick box exercise.

You need to carefully consider the ethical implications of your research, and if you are a student have detailed discussion with your supervisor about the ethics and appropriate safeguards, data storage and safety issues involved.  

Step one 

Complete the online GDPR data protection training 
UCL students must undertake online data protection training. This is an essential part of your degree whether you intend to undertake an online study, undertake secondary analysis, or write a library-based thesis. 

Step two

Determine if you need ethical approval. 
Access the information on 
UCL main REC site  
Please remember that if ethics approval is required, you may not, under any circumstances, collect data until it is obtained. 

Step Three

Determine the level of ethical risk in your research. 

Low risk as defined by UCL REC is research which:

  1. is legal and does not interface with any criminal or illegal practice
  2. is with 'non-vulnerable' participants who are themselves capable of judging whether the research could be damaging to their person or best interest
  3. is NOT with human remains, animal experiments, or culturally sensitive items of material culture
  4. is NOT environmentally damaging or humanly intrusive
  5. does NOT involve observational methods when it is clear that the researcher is present but the researcher is observing specific individuals/ individual behaviours and is recording (photographing, videoing, saving online conversations etc.) people in a manner that could make them identifiable without their active consent.
  6. is NOT with precariously positioned participants who are likely to be damaged by the research (e.g., asylum seekers) 
  7. is NOT security sensitive
  8. does NOT involve potentially intrusive interventions or covert methods; actively hiding the observation of, or other data collection from participant(s), where the participant(s) would otherwise have a reasonable expectation of privacy (applies both in person and online)
  9. does NOT involve scraping data
  10. does NOT involve deception 
  11. does NOT involve perceived pressure to participate
  12. does NOT involve undue inducement to participate
  13. does NOT require password for entry or proper certification (to regulated web-sites, for example)

If you are unsure of the level of risk of your research discuss with your Head of Research Department or supervisor.  

Step Four 

Consider whether your project falls within a UCL exemptions category:

If you are unsure whether your project falls into an exemption category, please talk to your Head of Research Department or supervisor before beginning your application.

Step Five  

Apply for risk approvals and where relevant ensure you have obtained necessary DBS checks 

Access the risk assessment information and you will be directed to the mandatory riskNET online assessment form.

Step Six

Download your ethics approval form from the main UCL ethics site.  

*Please DO NOT register your low risk project with the main UCL Ethics*.

When you submit your application to the IfWH LREC you will obtain your REC registration number.

Where relevant prepare your participant information leaflet, consent form, and study advert along with a version of any interview schedules or questionnaires that will form part of your research. 

The UCL REC website has important guidance on completing all sections of your application and it is important you use the UCL recommended templates for participant information leaflets, consent forms and adverts. All these documents must be discussed with your PI or supervisor and submitted to them for review so that they can sign them off before forwarding the application to the relevant Head of Research Department for their signature.  

Once you have obtained these signatures on your ethics application form, prepare your application as a single PDF document including all relevant participant facing materials and other permissions and collaborative agreements if required. Check whether you need additional ethical permission for research outside the UK.

To submit please email the relevant documentation to the IfWH Low Risk REC Panel: ifwh-lrec@ucl.ac.uk and Panel administrator: sarah.kim@ucl.ac.uk

Please note that you cannot begin data collection until your ethics and relevant risk approvals are in place. 

What happens next

Your application will be screened by an LREC co-chair to confirm its low risk status and to ensure that all necessary documentation is included and that study materials are presented in accordance with UCL template requirements. If all is in order you will receive an acknowledgement of your application and your LREC registration number.

Your application will normally be reviewed by the REC panel members at its next meeting. Please be aware that at busy times of the year it may be necessary to delay consideration until the subsequent meeting.  You should plan the timing of your application allowing for this possibility.   It is important to allow adequate time for any revisions required by the Committee as although outright rejection is very rare requests for revisions are very common. Once any requested revisions are made to the satisfaction of the panel you will receive notification of formal approval from the IfWH LREC. Only when you have received formal approval may you begin your study.

You can normally expect to hear back via email within 3 weeks (15 working days) of submission with either 1) your ethics approval letter or 2) requests for further information. It is in your interests to follow the main REC guidance as closely as possible as small omissions and/or lack of consistency will frequently result in applications going back and forth and extending the time to approval.