This update (September 2021) follows previous COVID-19 guidance published in March 2020 and updated in November 2020. It applies to staff and students (undergraduate, taught post-graduate, and post-graduate researchers).
Research in the UK
In accordance with Government advice (that research can take place from beyond level 0 and levels 0-4 provided it is done safely and according to the rules) and University policy on reducing social contact, the University Research Ethics Committee has agreed the following measures for non-clinical research involving human participants, effective immediately:
- It is recommended that where possible, researchers should conduct research remotely or undertake other forms of research (e.g., secondary data analysis). Ethical approval should be sought in the normal way. Face to face research will be considered where it does not expose participants and researchers to unnecessary risks.
- Essential and non-essential research is allowed on campus with measures we would now expect (1m social distancing, face coverings etc.). With regards to people visiting campus, you should refer to health and safety guidance in your School and submit any required information. However, this should only be for visits that are essential for the research.
- For off campus research, only essential research is permitted. You should refer to health and safety guidance in your School and submit any required information. If the research involves travel overseas to a red list country, a business case and health and safety risk assessment should be completed and submitted to the Head of Health and Safety who would discuss the request with the Silver Operations Group.
- For research conducted in Scotland, researchers should be working to the guidance for what is legally allowed within the level and should be aware of current Scottish Government rules. If we move into different levels, the University will need to review and change practices to ensure that researchers do not contradict the Scottish Government rules.
- Researchers are advised to avoid travelling during peak times and should use personal transport rather than public (where possible).
- If a researcher wishes to undertake any face to face research, then a health and safety risk assessment must be built into the research proposal following University COVID-19 guidance. For staff, the health and safety risk assessment form should be completed by the researcher and approved by their line manager. For students, the health and safety risk assessment form should be completed by the student and approved by the supervisor. Researchers must seek advice from the Health and Safety Advisor in their School. Each health and safety risk assessment does not need to be sent to the central Health and Safety team, however the Head of Health and Safety would be happy to look at/assist as required.
- Information on the University’s risk assessment policy and a health and safety risk assessment form are available on the web, along with additional important information and links relating to COVID-19. Researchers considering undertaking face to face research must submit their health and safety risk assessment and detailed mitigation of risk plan with their application for ethical review.
- Researchers should note that there may be a layered approach to School-level guidance and researchers should check within their own School for any local level guidance. Any School-level guidance would be approved at School level, and School Health and Safety Advisors are on hand to provide guidance/assistance if required.
Researchers from the University of Dundee travelling overseas to carry out research
- Researchers must appraise themselves of the University policy on travel overseas and complete any relevant documentation. In addition, they must comply with current University COVID-19 guidance on travel as well as government guidance and regulations.
- Researchers need to be take account of possible quarantine requirements. Individuals who are double vaccinated do not now need to quarantine except if travel involves red list countries. However, this could change and countries on the red list could change, so researchers need to consider these issues and the implications thereof.
Partner(s) in other countries gathering data
- Partner(s) should undertake health and safety risk assessment prior to conducting research and sharing data that will be used by University of Dundee staff. The University should be assured that relevant steps have been taken but cannot insist on partners following our Health and Safety processes. The exception to this would be where there was a contract in place which stipulated that the partner complied with UK Health and Safety regulations. Thus, the partner(s) should be conducting their own health and safety risk assessment unless there is a contract in place which dictates otherwise.
Distance learning students (including postgraduate researchers) overseas wanting to carry out research in own country
- It is recommended that, where possible, researchers should conduct research in a remote fashion or undertake other forms of research (e.g. secondary data analysis). Face to face research will be considered where it does not expose participants and researchers to unnecessary risks.
- Ethical approval should be sought in the normal way. Health and safety risk assessment must be built into the research proposal following University COVID-19 guidance. This includes completion of a health and safety risk assessment form. Researchers must seek advice from their supervisors and the Health and Safety Advisor in their Schools. It is acknowledged that the risks for nationals of other countries may be less than those of a UK resident travelling to those countries. Thus, the standard health and safety risk assessment process must be used but account will be taken of the altered risks to the individuals.
Pausing and Amending Research
Researchers conducting face to face research must maintain awareness of changes to University and local/national guidance and regulations throughout the project, whether in the UK or overseas, and should pause or amend the research (by submitting a Post-Approval Request for an Amendment form) where appropriate.
Clinical Research (in or through the NHS)
If researchers are undertaking or planning to undertake clinical research, they must contact Tayside Academic Science Centre (TASC) research governance.
In March 2020 the Health Research Authority and devolved administrations announced their decision to stop reviewing applications for individual undergraduate and master’s student projects until further notice while they prioritised the urgent review of COVID-19 studies. This was also due to the significant pressure on the NHS, limiting its ability to participate in research studies unrelated to COVID-19.
This has now been extended until September 2021 and they will not review applications for individual undergraduate and master’s student research projects until then.
This decision is in line with national priorities for the NHS to support COVID-19 studies and the restart of clinical trials and studies as well as the continuing pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Platforms to support remote interactions with participants
For audio and video interviews you are recommended to use Microsoft Teams. For online surveys, you are recommended to use JISC Online Surveys and/or Microsoft Forms. All three platforms are GDPR compliant. If researchers are using Microsoft Forms to create surveys, they must provide a privacy notice when collecting personal data (such as first name, last name, personal e-mail address); guidance on data protection and research, specifically with regards to personal data, must be consulted. University of Dundee privacy notice templates specifically for Microsoft Forms do not exist at this time. However, there is a general privacy notice template on the data protection web pages along with self-help guidance for researchers.
Interviews should not be recorded using personal mobile phones.
It is possible to record interviews conducted in Microsoft Teams and set access permissions to the recording. The recording is held securely and can be accessed in either OneDrive or SharePoint. Non-channel meetings will be stored in the OneDrive of the person who clicked the record button in a special folder labelled “Recordings” – that sits at the top of the recorder’s OneDrive. Example: Recorder’s OneDrive for Business/Recordings. Channel meetings will be stored in a folder labelled “Recordings” within the Team’s site document library. Example: Teams name – Channel name/Documents/Recordings.
The recording can be archived in Microsoft Stream, the recorder is the owner of the audio/video and the person/people who were invited to the meeting (for example, a participant who is being interviewed individually, or several people participating in a focus group from different locations) are the viewers. No other people will have access to the recording unless the owner of the recording grants them permission. Sharing of confidential information should only occur in accordance with the approved project protocol.
Researchers must (where possible) work with University approved software and hardware rather than any personal or local alternative. This is particularly important where special category (sensitive) data is collected.
Where research is conducted overseas, researchers must inform the participants that their data will be held on a European server. They should work on any identifiable data locally and store the data securely on University systems. They must inform participants that this is their intention and gain consent. Should researchers wish to share data with their supervisors they must provide an anonymised dataset.
Guidance on the requirements when working with international partners and/or suppliers has been produced by Legal and Information Governance. Countries that have received an EU adequacy decision have been identified by the European Commission as offering an appropriate level of data protection.
Where research is conducted overseas and researchers want to share personal data with colleagues in countries not in the EU or in countries that do not have an EU adequacy decision, or vice versa, they must be aware that any transfer of personal data to a third party (including sharing, transfer or processing on behalf of the University) must be governed by an appropriate agreement that meets the requirements of GDPR. There are no exceptions to this general requirement.
Students (including postgraduate researchers) must discuss the most appropriate technology to use for their project with their supervisor.
Storage of research data
Research data should be stored on JISC Online Surveys, Microsoft Forms, Microsoft Stream, SharePoint or OneDrive. Ideally, the device used should have an encrypted hard drive. Advice on how to encrypt the hard drive on a device can be sought from Help4U.
Researchers must ensure that devices being used to store data are not left unattended and are locked when not in use. Devices should also have strong password protection (use of a 14-digit password is recommended). Finally, researchers should make themselves familiar with the protocol for reporting a data breach should that occur (contact Data Protection immediately).
Students (including postgraduate researchers) should discuss the most appropriate way to ensure that the data are stored and shared securely with their supervisor.
Researchers who paused their research in March because they could not gather data from participants using remote methods may apply to resume their research. A Post-Approval Request for an Amendment form must be submitted to the relevant School Research Ethics Committee (SREC) along with the original application. This should be accompanied by a health and safety risk assessment form (reviewed by a School Health and Safety Advisor).
Applications which are in the process of being reviewed will be subject to current University guidance and you may be asked to revise your documentation.
Researchers may continue to submit applications to the relevant School Research Ethics Committee (SREC) and reviews will continue to be conducted (although they may take longer than normal under the current circumstances).
If you are an undergraduate student, taught postgraduate student, or postgraduate researcher you should discuss your research plans with your project supervisor. This would include consideration of the timeline for your research as this will impact on the scope of your study and the methods used. It is recommended that, where possible, you should conduct research remotely or undertake other forms of research (e.g., secondary data analysis). However, face to face research will be considered where it does not expose participants and researchers to unnecessary risks.
The measures described above are in response to a set of circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and are not intended to be followed indefinitely.
This webpage will be updated as appropriate should the position change. For queries relating to your School Research Ethics Committee (SREC) please see the Contacts page.
Page last updated: 25 October 2021