This updates previous COVID-19 guidance published in March 2020. It applies to staff and students (undergraduate, taught post-graduate, and post-graduate researchers).
Research in the UK
In accordance with Government advice 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:
- Where possible, researchers must conduct research remotely. Ethical approval should be sought in the normal way. Face to face research will only be approved exceptionally and where it does not expose participants and researchers to unnecessary risks.
- A flowchart has been developed to aid researchers considering undertaking
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.
Partner(s) in other countries gathering data
- Partner(s) should undertake 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 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
- Researchers should where possible conduct research in a remote fashion or undertake other forms of research (e.g. secondary data analysis). If a researcher overseas wishes to undertake any face to face research, then they must provide a very clear and strong rationale for undertaking this mode of data collection. Such proposals will be considered on a case by case basis. Risk assessment must be built into the research proposal following University COVID-19 guidance. Researchers must seek advice from their supervisors and 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 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 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 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 or taught postgraduate student with time constraints around conducting your research and cannot conduct remote participant interactions, it is recommended that, where possible, you change your research to involve secondary data analysis only (i.e. data which has already been collected) so that no primary data collection is required. You should discuss this with your supervisor.
If you are a postgraduate researcher you should discuss with your supervisor how you can make adjustments to your research project to allow you to complete it in the allocated time.
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.