Information for Departments' Principal Ethics Contacts

Job Description for Principal Ethics Contact

Each Department has a designated 'Principal Ethics Contact'; the role of this person usually involves the following key activities:

  • To act as the first point of contact to staff and students with queries regarding the University’s Ethics Review Procedure;
  • To liaise with key contacts in the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) to keep abreast of developments in, and changes to, the Ethics Review Procedure;
  • To disseminate key information to staff and students regarding the Ethics Review Procedure;
  • To periodically check the contents of departmental ethics web pages to ensure they take into account new developments as communicated by the UREC from time to time;
  • To be familiar with the Ethics Review Procedure within the department and liaise with the Ethics Administrator, Head of Department and other staff to ensure it runs smoothly;
  • To raise awareness and encourage discussion of ethical issues in research within the department and promote engagement with the Ethics Review Procedure.

However, the role can vary from department to department and in practice may also involve monitoring the ethics review procedure within the department (e.g. applying spot checks to ensure that supervisors as assigning appropriate risk levels to UG/PGT student projects, and to identify any training needs amongst ethics reviewers), reviewing and updating the department's ethics web pages, building a record of good practice using examples of previous ethics applications, and reporting on ethics issues to the relevant departmental committee(s).

Guidance for Principal Ethics Contacts when handling queries

Enquiries from staff and students on the Ethics Review Procedure should be dealt with using the following protocol:

  • Use the links on the left hand side of this page to access the key documentation from the research ethics webpages, which may provide the necessary information to answer the query;
  • If you are unable to find the necessary guidance or are unsure of the answer to the query from the information available, please contact Lindsay Unwin, Secretary to the UREC, who will provide the answer where possible or, where necessary, liaise with other members of the UREC to obtain an answer.

email : Lindsay Unwin (

Guidance for Principal Ethics Contacts when dealing with potential breaches of the Ethics Policy

If a Principal Ethics Contact becomes aware of a potential breach of the Ethics Policy, they should notify the Head of Department and the UREC’s Secretary or Minute Secretary (Lindsay Unwin; Kenny; so that an appropriate investigation process can be agreed in consultation with the UREC (and if required, Student Conduct and Appeals). The Head of Department should request of the researchers that the research be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

The full detail of the procedures to follow in the event of a potential breach of the Ethics Policy are set out in sections 3.1.11 and 3.1.12 of the Policy here.

Further guidance for departments when handling investigations into potential breaches is available to download on the right-hand side of this page.