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School of Psychology Research Ethics Committee

College-approved online data collection platforms are as follows: Alchemer, Amazon M-Turk, Prolific, Pavlovia, Qualtrics and Survey Monkey. If you wish to use a platform not on the list, approval will need to be sought from dataprotection(at)tcd.ie.

Making an Ethical Application: made easier with the Research Ethics Application Management System (REAMS)

The Research Ethics Application Management system (REAMs) is a new platform developed for processing research ethics applications.

From January 2023:  all applications from Staff researchers or PhD students should be made through REAMs.

From September 2023:  all applications from undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate taught doctoral students should still be submitted using the online application form available on this page.

To become familiar with this system, to make an application to REAMS and for guidance and resources please visit the REAMs web page and you may find these training materials useful.

School of Psychology Research Ethics Committee (SPREC)
2023/2024

Data Protection

A completed copy of the Data Protection Risk Assessment Template must be completed, submitted to the College DPO for consideration, and included with this application, along with the response provide by the DPO. If, on the basis of these submissions, the DPO indicated that a DPIA is required, this must be completed and approved by the DPO prior to submission of this application. If applicable, a copy of the DPIA, and the letter of approval, must also be included with this application. If a requirement for a DPIA is indicated, and this has not been submitted and already approved by the DPO, the application will be returned without review.

***

In accordance with recent College guidance concerning adherence to the 2018 Health Research Regulations which took full effect on 7th August 2019, and in particular the legal requirement that explicit consent which meets the standard set by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) be obtained from research participants, the procedures that will be followed by the School of Psychology Ethics Committee have been changed in a number of ways.

The following should therefore be noted:

  1. The Ethics Application and Checklist Form has been revised.
  2. Only submissions using the revised Application and Checklist Form (i.e. , September 2023 version) will be considered by the Committee.
  3. The School of Psychology Consent Form template must be used as the basis for all Informed Consent forms submitted for consideration by the School of Psychology Ethics Committee.
  4. Please refer to the extensive guidance notes provided, when determining the elements that should be included in each specific Informed Consent form.
  5. All applicants must complete the TCD DPIA form contained on this page and send to dataprotection(at)tcd.ie and be in receipt of DPO approval BEFORE submitting an application to SPREC.
  6. In this regard, a document providing guidelines for completion of a DPIA is available.

PLEASE EMAIL A PDF OR A SCANNED COPY OF THE APPLICATION IN ONE ATTACHMENT TO PSYCH(dot)ETHICS(at)TCD.IE SAVED WITH THE NAME OF THE APPLICANT AND MONTH/YEAR OF APPLICATION; E.G., JOE BLOGGS NOV23

Failure to use versions of ethics forms and attachments that are not accessed directly from the Ethics website at the time of application will be rejected. Alternative/obsolete versions of the forms will not be reviewed.

It is now a requirement that in all applications submitted to the School of Psychology Ethics Committee, and in all requests for amendments to projects approved previously, applicants demonstrate that the proposed research activity will conform to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Members for 2023/2024

  • Prof. Robert Whelan (Chair)
  • Prof. Sonia Bishop
  • Dr. Lorina Naci
  • Dr. Jean Quigley
  • Dr. Daragh Keogh
  • Dr. Alina Cosma (Deputy Chair)
  • Dr. Claire Howlin
  • Prof. Jogin Thakore (Member of the Medical Profession, Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, RCSI)
  • Dr. Rachael Walsh (Legal Expert and Lay Person)
  • Tristian Clemedtson (Committee Secretary)

Please direct all queries to psych(dot)ethics(at)tcd.ie

 All queries regarding submission of the application must be made well in advance of the submission deadline.

PLEASE READ THE AUTOMATIC REJECTION GUIDELINES BELOW BEFORE COMPLETING AND SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATION

Deadlines for Receipt of Applications 2023/2024:

ONE copy of the application containing all relevant inclusions (e.g., information sheets, Garda vetting confirmation, medical ethics approval letters etc.) must be emailed as one overall application to psych(dot)ethics(at)tcd.ie by 4pm on the submission deadline.

Please note that if you have lived abroad for more than 6 months, you are required to obtain Police Clearance from that country (or countries) in order to complete Garda Vetting. Students planning to work with children or vulnerable populations for the Final Year Project should begin the process of obtaining Garda Vetting in advance of beginning their SS year so there are no delays.

Applications with separate attachments will be rejected.

  • Tuesday, 3rd October
  • Tuesday, 14th November
  • Tuesday, 5th December
  • Tuesday, 9th January
  • Tuesday, 6th February
  • Tuesday, 5th March
  • Tuesday, 2nd April
  • Tuesday, 7th May

*The Committee may review applications outside of these scheduled dates when necessary; a request must be made via the Committee Secretary in such instances

 Applicants can usually expect to be emailed with notification of the Committee’s decision within 4 weeks of the date of submission.

Forms

Note: If you require TCD insurance for your research please direct queries to insurance(at)tcd.ie

The procedure to be added as a named researcher to a project that already has ethical approval in place is as follows:

  1. Email ethics(at)tcd.ie formally requesting the addition. Supervisors/Principal Investigators typically make this request but students can make the request if they cc their supervisor in the email.
  2. Include in the email the name of the original applicant who received unconditional approval, the name of the project and the approval number.
  3. Submit by email any relevant supporting documents (please write N/A if any document in the list below is not applicable, plus a brief explanation if necessary);
    1. Data Protection Training certificate (following completion of the Trinity College Data Protection Training). If the named researcher is an undergraduate or masters student, the designated primary supervisor should provide evidence that they (i.e., the supervisor) have successfully completed data protection training at the College since May 2021.
    2. Research Integrity Module Certification. If the named researcher is an undergraduate or masters student then it is highly recommended (not mandatory) that the Research Integrity Module is completed.
    3. Working with Adults form (this form must be sourced at the time of request from this Ethics page). Submission of earlier versions will be automatically rejected.
    4. Garda vetting clearance confirmation (this form must be sourced at the time of request from this Ethics page). Submission of earlier versions will be automatically rejected.
  4. If you intend to add the new researcher’s contact details to any participant forms these must also be provided.
  5. Once relevant documents have been received the person being added as a researcher will receive an approval letter by email.

Helpful tips when completing sections 6, 15, 16 and 23 of the application form

 Guidelines for Section 6:

The Committee will not consider applications unless all relevant letters of permission from external agencies/clinically responsible people are supplied. In the absence of letters of permission (appropriately signed on headed paper – emails are not sufficient), applications will be returned without being assessed.

For those applicants who are undertaking postgraduate programs of one-year duration, it is acceptable to seek approval simultaneously from the School of Psychology Ethics Committee, and an external medical ethics board. In such circumstances, conditional approval may be given, pending the approval from the medical ethics board in question.

Example for Ethics Application Section 15: Specify how confidentiality of participants will be assured.

Example:

 All documents related to this research will be stored in a locked filing cabinet in a secure office in ………….The researcher and the supervisor (hereafter called the research team) named in the Information/Consent Form will have sole access to these documents. 

Each participant will be assigned a code number and all data files will be named according to this code such that the identity of the participants will not be apparent to observers other than the research team. A single file (Excel format) linking the codes to participants will be encrypted (using OSX File Vault2 256-bit keys (AES-256) encryption software) and will be held by the principal researcher.

The Consent Form (and Participant Information Sheet) emphasises the statutory limits upon confidentiality. In particular, it is noted that confidentiality may be breached in circumstances in which;

  1. The research team has a strong belief or evidence exists that there is a serious risk of harm or danger to either the participant or another individual. This may relate to issues surrounding physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, concerns for child protection, rape, self-harm, suicidal intent or criminal activity.
  2. Disclosure is required as part of a legal process or Garda investigation. In such instances, information may be disclosed to significant others or appropriate third parties without permission being sought. Where possible, a full explanation will be given to the participant regarding the necessary procedures and also the intended actions that may need to be taken.

Note: Participants will be provided with a copy of the Information/Consent form.

Example for Ethics Application Section 16: Can participants withdraw from the study at any point without penalty? If so, how will this information be communicated to participants?

Information piece:

Participation in a research study should always be voluntary and research participants have the right to withdraw their involvement in a study at will, without explanation, and without penalty. Withdrawal can happen at any stage of the research process irrespective of whether or not payment or other inducement has been offered. If a participant withdraws their consent retrospectively, all his or her data must be destroyed.

The Information Form should clearly explain participants’ right to withdraw, the latest date or point by which they can retrospectively withdraw (e.g., once they complete and submit an anonymous survey; up to the point where data analysis has been completed or a finished report submitted), and the steps that will be taken regarding data that has already been collected. The Consent Form should ask participants to confirm that they understand this.

Example:

 “Participation in this study is completely voluntary. If you agree to take part, you are free to withdraw from the study at any stage up to the point when data from all participants has been pooled for analyses (scheduled for [insert date]). You can withdraw for any reason, without penalty or consequence. If data has already been collected from you, this data will be destroyed and not included in analyses”

 Children under the age of 18 years who require parent/guardian consent to participate should be made aware that their parents/guardians have the right to withdraw them from the research study at any point and they themselves have the right to withdraw from the research study at any point under the same terms as those listed above.

Example for Ethics Application Section 23: [For guidelines, see https://www.tcd.ie/info_compliance/data-protection/procedures/] With reference to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Freedom of Information Act, specify the measures the study will adopt for storing data.

In completing this section please note the following principles:

  1. i) Data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose for which they were collected.
  2. ii) Data already collected for a specific purpose should not be subject to further processing that is not compatible with the original purpose.

With respect to the proposed period of data retention, specific justification must be provided. The method of disposal must also be indicated.

Example (suitable text for application form):

 In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the screening questionnaires will not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose for which they were collected. It is however desirable to retain the screening questionnaires (and other documentation such as completed Informed Consent forms) for a period of time following data collection. In the unlikely event that an adverse event should occur, these materials may provide important contextual information. It is therefore proposed that the screening questionnaires and consent forms will be retained for a period of twelve months after they have been completed. Thereafter these documents will be destroyed in accordance with standard University procedures.

 Only hard-copy versions of the questionnaires will be completed. There will be no corresponding digital records.

Example (suitable text for application form):

 Data files collected during the course of the experiments will be anonymised irrevocably at the time of collection such that individual responses cannot be identified.

If you are asking a question about a participant's gender then the following text is recommended (2 questions):

With which gender do you identify?

[ ] Woman
[ ] Man
[ ] Non-binary
[ ] None of these describe me, and I’d like to write in my response __________
[ ] Prefer not to answer

Are you trans / do you have a trans history?

[ ] Yes
[ ] No
[ ] Prefer not to answer

Definition of studies requiring ethics clearance:

  • All clinical and non-clinical research conducted in the School of Psychology involving human participants requires ethics approval. Access to research facilities (e.g., laboratory space, computer facilities) within the School is contingent on prior ethics approval.
  • All clinical and non-clinical research involving human participants conducted abroad by a member of the School of Psychology (staff and postgraduate students) also requires approval from the SPREC.
  • Applications for approval for non-invasive, non-clinical research can be couched in such terms as to deem the application all-encompassing (e.g., to cover all experiments using the same paradigm such as reaction time studies), but the SPREC must be notified immediately of any changes; please supply details of the original ethics application form (e.g., title, dates of submission and approval) along with written confirmation of proposed changes plus any supporting documentation (e.g., revised study information sheet). If amendments are substantial (e.g., testing a different participant group), it might be necessary to submit a new application. For advice on amending previously-approved applications, contact the Committee Secretary at psych.ethics(at)tcd.ie and provide the following details about the application: title, dates of submission and approval, a copy of the relevant data protection approval, proposed amendments.
  • All research involving clinical groups of participants (participants who are undergoing active treatment or who have undergone active treatment in the recent past), requires ethics approval from both the School of Psychology and the relevant clinical, medical or hospital governing body (ethics committee).
  • Applications for ethics approval must be submitted by all members of the School of Psychology (staff and students - undergraduate and postgraduate) before undertaking research projects.

Application Guidelines:

  • You must submit the application by email in one document which contains all relevant inclusions.
  • You must submit by 4pm on the scheduled application deadline.
  • Complete ALL sections of the form (1 – 24 inclusive). If a section does not apply to your study it is not acceptable to leave blank/write n/a – you must explain in brief why it does not apply.
  • Supply all required signatures: applicant signature or research supervisor signature (applicable for student applications). If the supervisor is not available to sign the application form please attach an email of consent from him/her. In cases where the project supervisor is not a member of the School of Psychology, a School project supervisor is also required.
  • You must submit a letter of confirmation from the National Vetting Bureau if working with children or vulnerable adults. Please note that if you have lived abroad for more than 6 months, you are required to obtain Police Clearance from that country (or countries) in order to complete Garda Vetting. Students planning to work with children or vulnerable populations for the Final Year Project should begin the process of obtaining Garda Vetting in advance of beginning their SS year so there are no delays.
  • You must submit a signed declaration form of the Guidelines when Interviewing or Testing Adults if applicable.
  • You must supply official letter(s) of agreement from institutions/organisations (e.g. school) agreeing to host the study, assist with participant recruitment etc. Requests to add further institutions/organisations should be submitted subsequently via a letter to the Chair of the SPREC.
  • You must submit a properly composed participant information sheet, consent form and debriefing sheet and provide:
    • The researcher’s and/or supervisor’s FULL work contact details must be provided, i.e., phone number, email address and work postal address (the address for both the researcher and supervisor must always be as follows: School of Psychology, Áras an Phiarsaigh, Trinity College, Dublin 2). Never supply personal phone numbers. Instead either list your supervisor’s TCD office number or use a "pay as you go" mobile phones for this purpose only.
    • In the event that a study may cause distress to a participant, full contact details for psychological support services of which the participant may avail, must be provided on the information/debriefing sheet.
    • The consent form must include spaces for a participant to both print and sign their name.
    • The consent form and participant information sheet must make clear the right of the participant to withdraw from the study, and the procedures that will be followed in the event that a participant wishes to withdraw from the study, including the steps that will be taken in relation to data that has already been collected.
    • The consent form and participant information sheet must emphasise the statutory limits upon confidentiality.
    • The consent form and participant information sheet must emphasise the obligations of the researcher in relation to Freedom of Information legislation.

Application completion guidelines:

  • In the case of applications involving research with participants from clinical groups, applicants should submit a copy of the ethics application that was submitted to the relevant clinical, medical or hospital governing body as a supplement to their application to the SPREC. In relation only to such instances, it is permissible that the application to the relevant clinical, medical or hospital governing body be submitted in parallel with the application to the SPREC. Although “conditional approval” may be granted by the SPREC in such circumstances, “final approval” (i.e. indicating that the research may commence) will in all cases be contingent upon notice that approval by the relevant clinical, medical or hospital governing body has been granted, and upon an official letter of notification to this effect having been provided to the SPREC.
  • All studies involving the use of minors (people under the age of 18 years), requires written consent from parents or legal guardians. 'Negative consent' (absence of a written statement from parents or legal guardians refusing their child’s participation) is not acceptable.
  • Applications concerning research that involves using secondary health and clinical data sources (e.g., audits of pre-existing clinical data-sets) should consult the health research data protection guidelines (see below) in order to ensure that the research project addresses issues such as the anonymisation of data and the informed consent of participants to release their data for research purposes. When submitting applications, applicants must provide written assurance (e.g., covering letter) to the Committee that these guidelines have been consulted and adhered to. Please submit the Proportionate Application in these instances.
  • All researchers are asked to make provisions for their own personal safety when conducting their research (e.g., in the case of one-to-one interviews with violent offenders). Personal contact details should not be mentioned on either the study information sheet or consent form. Whenever possible, each researcher should be accompanied when testing beyond the College grounds. In cases where accompaniment is inconvenient or impossible, applicants should implement a 'report-back' system with an appropriate member of the School of Psychology (e.g., project supervisor).
  • Please use appropriate language in study consent forms (e.g., ‘subjects’ is no longer acceptable); see APA guidelines for a list of appropriate terminology.
  • Only copies of non-standardised questionnaires and bespoke study materials (e.g., interview schedules) need be submitted with application forms. Copies of standardised questionnaires are not required, but their psychometric properties (e.g., reliability) and any other relevant information must be reported in the appropriate section of the application form.
  • All researchers should make themselves and their participants aware of the relevant details of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014; available to access at http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/acts/2014/a3014.pdf. The study consent form and/or information sheet should contain the relevant details with regard to data access, storage and confidentiality. Non-anonymised data stored digitally must in all cases be encrypted. Appropriate steps must be taken to protect the encryption keys and other associated passwords.
  • Every applicant is required to read the ethics guidelines from the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and/or the British Psychological Society (BPS). Furthermore, the SPREC encourages staff and students to undergo a web-based training exercise in ethical practice in research. This training is provided by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), which is a body responsible for approving all proposed research using human participants in the USA. It is a very useful exercise, which takes only 10 minutes.

Following review of applications by SPREC:

  • Any applicant that receives unconditional approval will be sent an approval letter to their TCD email address.
  • Any applicant that receives conditional approval will be notified of all required amendments by email. There is no deadline for submission of amendments; they should be emailed to ethics@tcd.ie
  • Once amendments have been received and approved, applicants will be sent an approval letter to their TCD email address.

Following receipt of unconditional approval by SPREC:

Following approval, if you wish to amend the study in any way, please email psych(dot)ethics(at)tcd.ie explaining the proposed changes and supplying any relevant documents that have been updated. Please submit as one document stating the date of the original application (not the approval date) and clearly title the file in your name, e.g., ‘John Smith amendments’. The Committee endeavour to review and provide feedback in a timely manner.

For projects lasting more than one year in duration

  • Please note that applicants are required to submit a completed Project Annual Report Form on each anniversary of the approval, until such time as an End of Project Report Form is submitted upon completion of the research. Copies of both forms are available for download from this website. In the case of Final Year Projects and postgraduate studies of no more than one-year duration, the submission of a thesis based on the approved research may serve in lieu of these requirements.
  • Adverse events associated with the conduct of the research must be reported immediately to the Chair of the Ethics Committee.

TCD Gift Voucher policy

  • There may be circumstances where it is appropriate to reward an employee, student, non-staff member or participant in a research/medical/survey with a gift voucher. As cash-equivalent instruments, all gift vouchers (including book tokens) purchased using University funds are governed by Revenue obligations and internal control requirements.
  • Briefly, any gift voucher purchased with University funds and given to an employee must be less than €1,000. It is possible to give two vouchers up to the maximum combined value of €1,000.
  • Please read TCD's full guidance on gift vouchers here
  • If providing gift vouchers, researchers should use the attached screening text to ensure eligibility

Digital Survey Tools

Tango is the preferred supplier of digital payments to research participants. If you are interested in paying participants using this service, please reach out to Lisa Gilroy for information. She can get you set up with this software. Digital payments are heavily regulated so please look at the webinar below or view the slide deck, and read the Tango Card Guidelines document below. Webinar recording also available at this link.

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