New compulsory Data Security training for staff and students undertaking research involving human participants, personal data or human tissue.

Senate has approved a recommendation from the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) that from November 2021, all staff and students (UG, PGT and PGR) undertaking research involving human participants, personal data or human tissue need to complete a suite of 3 online information security courses BEFORE they submit a University ethics application. These courses are listed below:

  1. Protecting Information - takes approx. 20 minutes
  2. Protecting Personal Data - takes approx. 10 minutes
  3. Protecting Research Data - takes approx. 10 minutes

Why have these changes been made?

UREC carries out regular audits of ethics applications submitted via the University’s ethics review procedure, to identify areas of best practice or where additional awareness raising is needed to ensure researchers adhere to the relevant ethical requirements. These audits often discover that the requirements around data protection are commonly misunderstood and that data security is regularly mishandled.

The protection and the security of research participants’ data is of paramount importance, and so these changes have been made to mitigate the risks to participants, to improve the research culture within the institution, to ensure the University meets it’s legislative obligations, and to foster confidence amongst the general public that the University’s policies and processes are sufficiently robust.

How will these changes be enacted?

We will upgrade the online ethics application to include a ‘mandatory training’ box within the first page that contains links to the 3 required courses, which automatically displays the date of completion. Functionality within the form will prevent researchers from progressing their application until all of the courses are completed.

Where an application covers a number of researchers (e.g. a project team or a generic application covering a group of students) the researcher/staff member submitting the application should ensure that all colleagues/students covered by the application have completed the necessary training, but evidence of completion does not need to be uploaded to the application for every person.

NB. Where a researcher is involved in a project where ethics approval will be obtained from an NHS ethics committee or an approved external organisation, the training courses should be completed before an ethics application is submitted, to ensure compliance with best practice.

If you have any questions, please contact Stephen Carding (s.carding@sheffield.ac.uk).