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Research made simple: ethics committee approval
  1. Ben Parkinson1,
  2. David Barrett2
  1. 1 Nursing, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ben Parkinson, Nursing, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK; ben.parkinson{at}

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Nursing research often involves collection of data from human participants. Participants involved with research may be vulnerable, acutely unwell or even lack capacity to make decisions. Protecting the safety and well-being of all participants is a requirement and nurse researchers need to ensure the ethical principles of autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence and justice are maintained throughout the research process.1

To protect participants, research studies are subject to approval by research ethics committees (RECs)—sometimes called research ethics boards or institutional review boards.1 Securing REC approval can be a complex process, requiring nurse researchers to demonstrate that the proposed study meets the necessary ethical and research governance requirements for research involving human participants. This paper will provide an overview of the role of RECs and offer guidance to nurse researchers applying for REC approval.

Research ethics committees

RECs came to prominence in the second half of the 20th century. The internationally recognised Declaration of Helsinki— first adopted in 1964, but amended several times since then—states all researchers need to secure REC approval before commencing research involving human participants, in order to safeguard the health and well-being of those involved.2 RECs can be part of national research authorities (such as the National Office for Research Ethics Committees in Ireland), and/or sit within organisations such as hospitals and universities. Their role is to provide independent scrutiny of research and …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.