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Ethics Committees


An ethics committee must approve every survey or experiment a psychologist wishes to run.

It is important to obtain ethical approval for each survey to ensure that the questions asked are appropriate and do not cause people offence.


Participants in psychological research should have confidence in the researchers. They should be supplied with all the relevant information about the study, the method of data gathering (e.g. questionnaire, computer test), the sample group (students, children, general public) and the object of the research.


The British Psychological Society has a 'code of conduct' to guide psychologists in their research. The code sets out certain standards which psychologists are required to comply with.

  • Researchers must consider the ethical implications and psychological consequences for the participants in their research. Threats to their psychological well-being, health, values or dignity should be removed.
  • The researcher should inform all participants of all aspects of the research.
  • The withholding of information or the misleading of participants is unacceptable if the participants are likely to object or show unease once debriefed.
  • Participants should know their right to withdraw from the research at any time.
  • Information obtained about a participant during an investigation is confidential unless otherwise agreed in advance.
  • Researchers have a primary responsibility to protect participants from physical and mental harm during the investigation.


Ethics committees must also be informed of all aspects of the research. They too should be supplied with all the relevant information about the study, the method of data gathering the sample group and the object of the research.


What are ethics committees?

Ethics committees review the research and provide advice to ensure the research meets the required ethical standards. The purpose of an ethics committee is to protect the dignity, rights, safety and well being of the individuals involved.

Research Ethics Committees (RECs) are independent groups, founded and governed by local Health Authorities or the Department of Health. Research cannot be started until the Research Ethics Committees has given its approval.

The Central Office for Research Ethics Committees (COREC) acts on behalf of the Department of Health in England to provide help and leadership for RECs and the REC system by co-ordinating the development of operational and infrastructure arrangements in support of their work.

The Department of Health has created a 'Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care'. This document provides a framework to ensure research is conducted to high scientific and ethical standards. Follow this link to find out more.

Department of Health