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Research ethics: Home

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What is research ethics?


Research Ethics is all about integrity, transparency and quality in the design and conduct of research.
Key principles of ethical research include:


  • Informed consent and voluntary participation
  • Avoidance of harm
  • Anonymity and confidentiality
  • Independence and impartiality
  • Appropriate storage and handling of data

The official University of Southampton statement on Research Ethics is available here: 
University of Southampton Ethics Policy Statement

Further guidance on Research Data Management is available here.


Who needs research ethics approval?

All students, staff and visitors at the University who carry out research on human participants, their data or biological material require ethical approval.
To give some examples, you need ethical approval if you plan to:

  • collect data using questionnaires and online surveys
  • conduct interviews, observations, focus group discussions or similar qualitative approaches (including use of filming)
  • do experiments involving human participants
  • analyse existing secondary data (such as survey or administrative data, medical records, social media data)

Research on animals is covered by a separate set of policies: 
Policy for involving animals in Research and Education

More information about what kinds of research require ethics approval can be found on the Researcher Portal or you can ask you Faculty Ethics Committee research support.


How do I apply for research ethics approval?

You apply for ethics approval via the University’s Ethics and Research Governance Online (ERGO) system which can be found here: ERGO. 
You will need to fill in an online form, an ethics form and a risk assessment form.
Some studies require additional documentation such as consent forms, participant information sheets and interview guides or survey questions. Your supervisor will have to approve your application before it gets reviewed by the ethics committee.

There is a wealth of information about research ethics and ethics approval on the Ethics Sharepoint pages of the Researcher Portal

Certain research (e.g. involving NHS patients or staff, prison and probation services, social care services) requires ethics approval via the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) as well as applying through the ERGO system.

You must not begin your research before obtaining ethics approval.

Breaches of ethical standards will be investigated under the Academic Integrity Regulations.

Further information on research integrity can be found on the University of Southampton Research integrity pages.

Light bulb image used: shutterstock_173222384. Image edited by Southampton University library.

Related resources:

University Ethics policy, by Southampton University.

ERGO: Ethics and Research Governance, by Southampton University.

Research integrity pages, by Southampton University.

Academic Integrity Regulations, by Southampton University.

Integrated Research Application System (IRAS).