StaffUniversity Ethics Committee Covid-19 Guidance

Due to the current circumstances (Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown), research should be conducted using online or remote methods wherever possible.

Guidance update 29 July 2020

New or restarting in-person face-to-face research or research involving travel must adhere to local or national laws and restrictions, such as those of the Scottish Government. Such research must also follow University Guidance. If this is not possible, it must be postponed.

In person face-to-face research can only start with:

  • New studies – the submission and approval of an ethics application to the University Ethics Committee by emailing The application should include an eRisk assessment which details the steps taken to mitigate risk of Covid-19
  • Paused or approved-in-principle studies – the submission and approval of an ethics amendment application

If a researcher thinks that transmission of Covid-19 has occurred during the course of their research, they must inform Safety, Health and Wellbeing  by emailing and

This guidance will remain in place until the restrictions and additional considerations for research involving humans due to Covid-19 are no longer required.

It is expected that this means that this guidance will be in place throughout Phase 3 of the Scottish Government's route-map out of lockdown.

This guidance will be reviewed again at the end of Phase 3. It may continue to be in place after this point, depending on what, if any, safeguards are required as part of Phase 4 and, if so, how these impact research involving humans and the associated processes such as risk assessment.

Guidance issued 17 March 2020

  • Where there is absolutely NO face-to-face contact between researchers and participants there are unlikely to be new ethical issues arising as a result of Covid-19. Research should be able to proceed. If there are issues relating to Covid-19 the lead researcher must contact the Ethics Committee that approved the research (School/Department or University) to discuss any the additional risks or changes to the research protocol already approved.

  • Where there is face-to-face contact between researchers and participants:
    • studies that have not yet begun should be postponed.

    • research that has already started which involves groups of people (whether vulnerable at-risk participants or not) must be put on hold.

    • research that has already started with individuals rather than groups of people must be put on hold. However, where possible research could move to online alternatives (including inter alia Skype/Zoom, online questionnaires, postal questionnaires).

      Online interview methods have different ethical concerns compared to face-to-face in, for example, monitoring participants’ state during the interview and how data are captured. The researcher must contact the Ethics Committee that approved the research (School/Department or University) to ask for a  written change in protocol from a face-to-face to online engagement.  

      The University Ethics Committee will consider any protocol change through its normal fast track process of convenors action.

    • guidance must be sought from the University Ethics Committee (which will be guided as required by the University Safety Team) before restarting research.

    • participants who have already been recruited should be informed that the research has been postponed and that they will be contacted again about a resumption of activity.

    • if the research is sponsored by external funders they should be notified of any likely delay to completion.

For further information please contact:

Professor Philip Winn
Convener of the University Ethics Committee