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Guide to research governance and ethics

Research is governed by a number of bodies in accordance with ethical codes. Find out more below.

Governance and ethics: Definitions

Research governance is the broad range of regulations, principles and standards of good practice that exist to achieve and continuously improve research quality across all aspects of health and social care.

Research ethics describe the principles that underpin undertaking ethical research. There are two fundamental principles:

  • Protection of the rights, safety, dignity and well-being of research participants, researchers and others
  • Undertaking research that is of greatest potential benefit for the greatest number of people, science and society

Health and social care research governance

Research Governance Frameworks for health and social care

These set out the principles, requirements and standards that are expected of all people in health and social care settings who are undertaking, participating in, or managing research in their organisation.

Every health or social care organisation must have mechanisms in place to ensure that all research undertaken by its staff, with its patients or on its premises meets with the standards laid out in the relevant Research Governance Framework.

Each UK country has a separate framework.

The first edition was issued in March 2001. The second edition was issued in April 2005.

The first edition was issued in 2001. The second edition was issued in February 2006.

The Research Governance Framework second edition was published in September 2009.

Organisational approvals and permissions

Most organisations will have a process in place through which permission must be sought in order to undertake research within that organisation.

You are required to obtain NHS R&D approval for every NHS organisation within which you undertake research. See also do I need to obtain ethical approval? and how do I get ethical approval?

The Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) is a UK-wide system that streamlines the process for applying for permissions and approvals to conduct health and social care research.

IRAS allows researchers to enter the information for the relevant permissions and approvals once, instead of having to complete several separate application forms for each review body.

Integrated Research Application System (IRAS)

Other governance and ethics policies and principles

CSP research governance policy

The CSP is currently developing a research governance policy to ensure that research and related knowledge-generating activity carried out by the CSP adheres to research governance requirements.  The CSP policy will also develop arrangements to help members conform to governance and ethical standards.

For updates on the development of this work see (link to policy pages)

UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) Code of practice for research

This is a reference tool to support researchers and research organisations undertake research of the highest quality.  The Code provides principles and standards for research, including a recommended checklist for researchers.

UK Research Integrity Office

World Medical Association (WMA)  Declaration of Helsinki: ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects

WMA has developed the Declaration of Helsinki as a statement of 35 ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects.

(WMA) Declaration of Helsinki

Publication ethics: The Declaration of Helsinki

The Declaration of Helsinki contains a statement in relation to publication ethics:

  • Authors, editors and publishers all have ethical obligations with regard to the publication of the results of research.
  • Authors have a duty to make publicly available the results of their research on human subjects and are accountable for the completeness and accuracy of their reports.
  • They should adhere to accepted guidelines for ethical reporting.
  • Negative and inconclusive as well as positive results should be published or otherwise made publicly available.
  • Sources of funding, institutional affiliations and conflicts of interest should be declared in the publication.
  • Reports of research not in accordance with the principles of this Declaration should not be accepted for publication.



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