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Terms of Reference


The Council of the School of the Biological Sciences, with the approval of the General Board, established a Committee to consider ethical aspects of psychological research projects with human participants that are not covered by the National Research Ethics Service (NRES).


All members of the Committee are appointed by the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences. The membership includes nominations from University departments and Medical Research Council Units covering a range of research areas in psychology, as well as a lay person. Additional persons may be co-opted for their specialist knowledge. The Committee has at least one medically qualified member and access to legal advice when necessary.

There are currently 10 places on the Committee, although this is not fixed. Membership is normally for three years and is renewable.


The Committee considers the ethics of research projects with human participants referred to it by members of the staff of University departments, colleges and MRC Units, and their collaborators. It is for departments and units to determine what projects should be referred to the Committee, although advice may be sought from the Committee if required.

The Committee holds records of ethical approvals granted by external higher education institutions or organisations of similar standing, to research projects with human participants undertaken within departments and units of the University of Cambridge. The policy and guidelines of the Committee comply with those of the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC), to which an Annual Report is submitted.


The Committee maintains this web site where application forms may be downloaded, along with advice on the preparation of applications and links to other relevant information. The review procedure is entirely electronic; that is, via email. The Committee does not meet in person on a regular basis.

Applications must include a completed and signed application form, along with relevant supporting documentation. Further help and advice is available on the web-site, Handbook and in the notes that accompany the application form.

Once received and acknowledged, applications are circulated to at least two Committee members for review. Reviewers are chosen from the Committee on a rotating basis, excluding members from the same department or unit as the Primary Applicant. Applications from Committee members will not be reviewed by that member. A composite review highlighting any concerns raised is then returned to the applicant. Applicants respond to the review with a covering letter and amended application form and supporting documents, if necessary. When approval has been granted, a formal letter signed by the Secretary of the Ethics Committee will be sent to all named applicants.

Ethical approval of the project will relate to the application as submitted and as described in the documents before the Committee. If an amendment - as defined on the web-site - is later made to the project, the applicants should write to the Committee indicating what changes have been made and why they are needed, providing copies of any documentation that has been updated.

The Committee require that applications for research projects which will be carried out by research students or junior research assistants have a more senior Primary Applicant, such as their supervisor.


Appeals on decisions made by the Committee are referred to the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences; in the unlikely event of further appeal, cases will be referred to the UREC. Details are available on the relevant webpages.