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REC Review

When and how do I apply for Research Ethics Committee approval?


If your study is recruiting patients from an NHS setting it will need to be a reviewed by a research ethics committee (REC). The REC are responsible for independently reviewing the project and will provide a decision about whether what you are proposing is ethical.

You can use the Health Research Authority decision making tool to find out whether you ethical approval. 

You apply for ethical approval using the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) and you can use the help function in IRAS or our IRAS application fact sheet to guide you through this process.

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Making your application

Once you have completed your application, booked your committee review meeting via the central booking service and them submitted your application in IRAS you will first receive a validation letter. This letter will confirm the application is valid and set out the details of the ethics committee review meeting. If the application is not valid the letter will set out what issues you need to amend.

Your study may be suitable for the proportionate review service and if so you will be notified when you contact the central booking service. The proportionate review service provides a fast and proportionate review of certain low risk research projects.

The service aims to review studies and provide a final decision within 14 days of submitting an application. The review is undertaken by a REC subcommittee via email/teleconference instead of at the full committee meeting, however it is as rigorous as a full review and will not affect the decision given.

You should plan to attend the REC meeting (unless you are using the proportionate review service). It is useful to take an academic supervisor or senior researcher with you if it is your first time. The meeting consists of seven to ten committee members who will ask you questions about the ethical issues in your proposed study.

Have a copy of your project and supporting documents with you and be ready to answer any questions to reassure the committee that all ethical issues have been addressed. More information can be found about attending the REC meeting on the HRA website. 

After the meeting the REC will notify you of its decision within ten working days.

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