An update regarding the COVID-19 pandemic relating to research field-work travel and face-to-face or participant research interactions.
Last updated - 03 February 2021
As of January 2021, the UK Government has enhanced its travel restrictions. The below UREC Coronavirus guidance is suspended until further notice from the University. Please follow the UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) Travel website for updates. Researchers must follow the University Coronavirus Response page regularly. For any urgent enquiries regarding research travel please contact your Head of School or Supervisor.
It has been agreed by the University’s Being Safe Feeling Safe (BSFS) Group that researchers may be able to undertake travel (within the UK or overseas) for purposes of some research fieldwork, with or without human participants, in some cases.
Where the research can continue to be conducted remotely without compromise to the validity and integrity of the research, it should continue to be done so and the previous research ethics guidance remains in place with regard to switching from face-to-face to remote.
The situation is under continuous review, and researchers should regularly refer to the University’s Coronavirus Response Page.
- For research travel with no or minimal ethical implications and no human participants this would be subject to permission being granted by the University (via the Head of School for staff or Supervisor for students*) for travel, and travel risk assessments completed in light of current guidance from UK government , local authorities, and the WHO, as well as appropriate University insurance cover.
*For doctoral researchers, it has been agreed that the College Research Director, as the person with the oversight and awareness of the research taking place in the discipline area, would need to provide additional confirmation that the proposed research travel is deemed ‘essential’ in order for the Risk Assessment to be confirmed by the University.
- For research involving clear ethical implications or human participants this would be subject to appropriate risk assessments regarding safety, health and well-being and include approval from those involved in managing the University facilities required, such as the lead technician and/or the relevant Head of School. This will be considered through the University’s process for research ethics review, via an amendment where ethical review was received prior to restrictions, or in the form of a new application.
Evidence of University travel insurance cover would also need to be in place, if appropriate. For doctoral researchers, in addition to the supervisor’s approval, the College Research Director has to confirm that the proposed research travel is deemed ‘essential’, in order for the risk assessment to be confirmed by the University (please see details above).
Researchers are responsible for completing their risk assessments (including for travel). Any risk assessment will need to specify how risks related to COVID-19 will be managed.
It is important also to consider these risks in terms of the following:
- type of participant (for example child, adult, those considered vulnerable to COVID-19, elderly)
- location of research (for example country, University-owned space, lab)
- type of contact required with participants (for example social distancing possible, close contact required, inadequate ventilation).
- how many people involved in the interaction at any given time.
Clear information to participants is a standard requirement, however it is important that potential risks and what is being done to reduce them are completely clear to participants, and there is absolutely no pressure on participants to take part if they do not feel comfortable doing so.
- Can the participant easily stop the activity and withdraw at any point if they wish to do so
- In all cases researchers should also be mindful of other potential consequences of the current situation, for example emotional stress, and should recognise and mitigate the risks of compounding these. Appropriate measures may include signposting information and support systems.
For further information on research with human participants please refer to the:
- Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (2020) guidance on ethics of research in response to humanitarian emergencies
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2020) Research in Global Health Emergencies: Ethical Issues
- Physiological Society (2020) guidance Resuming laboratory testing with human participants
- University Code of Practice Governing the Ethical Conduct of Research (2020/21)
For enquiries please contact UREC via [email protected]
For specific advice on Safety, Health and Well-being please contact [email protected]
For specific advice on University insurance cover please contact [email protected]
|Version Number||Date||Changes made since previous version|
|1.0||14 September 2020|
|2.0||4 November 2020||
Research Travel with no ethical implications and no participants: Additional requirement for College Research Director to confirm that proposed doctoral researcher travel for purposes of research, is deemed ‘essential’ in order for the travel risk assessment to be confirmed as valid by the University (for purposes of review of risk and travel insurance cover).
Research with ethical implications, or human participants: Clarity that the completed travel risk assessment will also be needed for research with ethical implications OR involving participants, if travel is proposed. Therefore, for doctoral students this will require the additional confirmation of the College Research Director that the research travel is deemed ‘essential’.
|3.0||3 February 2021||Inclusion of notice to suspend research travel proposals in light of the UK Government’s enhancement of travel restrictions in response to COVID-19|