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Health and social care research

A social care researcher

OU researchers wishing to carry out health and social care research in England may need to submit an application for ethics review to the Health Research Authority (HRA).

You can assess whether your research will need approval from an NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC) using the decision tool provided on the HRA website.

Where a project is solely audit or a service/therapy evaluation, it will not require ethical review by the HRA Research Ethics Service. However, such activities would still require OU HREC review if they involve collecting data from or about people.

Integrated Research Applications System

Research ethics applications are submitted to the HRA using the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS).

The IRAS online guide provides guidance about the application process, as does the step by step guide to using IRAS to apply to conduct research in or through the NHS/HSC.

Research Sponsor

The IRAS application must be reviewed by HREC, and then signed off electronically by the OU research sponsor, before it can be submitted to the HRA. Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, is the named OU sponsor for IRAS applications. 

Process for gaining HREC authorisation

  1. You will need to submit your ethics project application in the Research Ethics Application. You will be prompted to attach a PDF copy of your draft IRAS application form (along with supporting documents e.g. consent forms, participant information sheets and questionnaires) to the Human Research Ethics team.
  2. Your application will be reviewed by HREC.
  3. Once your application has been reviewed by HREC, you can submit your IRAS application for electronic authorisation by the OU sponsor, Professor Kevin Shakesheff, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation. Please use as the OU Sponsor’s email address.

Process for submitting your IRAS application

  1. Once you have received notification that your IRAS application has been authorised by the OU sponsor, you will need to use the online booking service at the Health Research Authority (HRA) to book your application in for review.
  2. Please note that you must be ready to submit your application on the same day that you book the application in for review. You will be able to submit the application once you have been allocated a review date.

When HRA approval has been obtained, you should send a final copy of the IRAS application form and evidence of HRA favourable opinion to the Human Research Ethics team.

Conducting research in the NHS

Non-NHS staff who intend to carry out research on an NHS site are advised to obtain a Research Passport and an honorary NHS contract. The OU contact for guidance on applying for a Research Passport is Angela Lees from the OU Human Resources Department (People Services). Angela Lees will also be able to initiate a DBS check which is required for research passports and honorary contracts. The Research and Development (R&D) Department will be the most appropriate first point of contact for research queries.

Additional resources

The INVOLVE online resourceprovides researchers with useful guidance on how to involve members of the public in NHS public health and social care research.