Research ethics - what do I need to do?


System change:  Rollout of ERM phase 2

Please be aware that on 15th January 2024 the second, final stage of rollout of Ethics Review Manager (ERM) took place and going forwards it will be used for all PGR student and staff ethics applications (including those administered via Worktribe).  ERM can be accessed at using your UoB log in details. 

Also as part of phase two, from 15th January 2024 the following will apply:

  • Researchers who have previously had applications approved under the old system  of self-assessment forms (SAFs) and Application for Ethical Review (AER) forms (now termed ‘legacy applications’) will be asked to use ERM to submit any future amendments.  
  • Both the Ethical Review Form and Ethical Amendment Form will be updated to version 2.0.  If you haven’t yet started a form in ERM this change will not affect you. This change will also not affect applications which have already been approved. This update will only affect those who have partially completed version 1.0 forms already in the system.  If you have a partially completed Version 1.0 form, when you next access the form, a pop up will appear on screen asking you to update the form. Please click the blue ‘update’ button. When you click the button, it will bring up a list of the changes which have been made to the questions. Please click ‘update’ again to bring the new questions into the form. Any existing answers you had already typed should remain within the form.  

Please note that All University of Birmingham academics and postgraduate research students should automatically have an account in the system. If you do not have access to ERM, you can request an account in IT Service now ( When logged in, click ‘Make a Request’, then ‘Administrative Systems’, there will be a button called “Request access to Research Ethics” (please note it may take up to 24 hours to action).

Further information about ERM can be found below.



System status update

Please be aware that due to a forthcoming software update, you may experience a brief interruption whilst using ERM during the period 7.00-9.00am on 7th May 2024.

Ethics review is one of the key ways in which the University seeks to protect all stakeholders in its research projects, including both participants and researchers.  As such, the requirement for appropriate ethics review is part of the University’s Code of Practice for Research.  Further information about our ethics review process can be found below. 

All new applications for postgraduate research (PGR) student and staff research projects, both funded and unfunded

 From 15 January 2024, all new PGR and staff research project should be submitted for review via Ethics Review Manager (ERM) which can be accessed at

All University of Birmingham academics and postgraduate research students should automatically be given an account in the system. If you do not have access to ERM, you can request an account in IT Service now ( When logged in, click ‘Make a Request’, then ‘Administrative Systems’, there will be a button called “Request access to Research Ethics” (please note it may take up to 24 hours to action).

ERM replaces both the previous online self-assessment form (SAF) and application for ethics review (AER) form for all PGR and unfunded staff research projects, and acts as a one-stop online gateway for both new ethics applications and amendments.

Please note that if a SAF has been submitted prior to 15th January 2024 that indicated the need for a full research ethics application, then from 15th January 2024 this should be done via the ERM system.

For all projects, ethics approval should be obtained prior to the beginning of the proposed work.  In addition, for PGR student projects ethics approval should usually be sought within the first year of registration. 

For some projects, there may be requirements for ethics review from an external body (e.g. an NHS REC, MODREC, etc).  ERM will identify and record this and you will be directed towards the appropriate review pathways.  For projects with existing ethics approval (e.g. from another University) you will be asked to upload the relevant documentation into ERM.  

More information on how to answer the questions in ERM and further training materials including a video demo are available on our canvas course at

 A series of online Q&A sessions will take place shortly after the final stage of rollout – if you have any questions about the new system you are encouraged to register via the following links to attend one of these:

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 16 January 2024, 1.00-1.30pm
Meeting ID: 853 8726 3824  Passcode: 874228

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 18 January 2024, 10.30-11.00am
Meeting ID: 870 0509 3731   Passcode: 086274 

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 23 January 2024, 1.00-1.30pm
Meeting ID: 879 4806 8384    Passcode: 440680 

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 1 February 2024, 10.00-10.30am
Meeting ID: 880 9094 1596   Passcode: 056316 

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 5 February 2024, 2.00-2.30pm   
Meeting ID: 830 8617 0320  Passcode: 165318 

ERM phase 2 Q&A session – 15 February 2024, 10.00-10.30am
Meeting ID: 838 9046 7084   Passcode: 751964

Amendments to approved PGR student and staff research projects

As your research progresses, if the details of the project change from those originally provided to the University research ethics committee you may need to submit an amendment for approval. 

Amendments requiring approval may include, but are not limited to, additions to the research protocol, study population, recruitment of participants, access to personal records, research instruments, or participant information and consent documentation.  If the details of your project do not change (i.e. there are no changes that impact upon the ethical issues raised within the project) then your approval is valid until the completion of the project. 

Both those projects originally submitted via ERM and those submitted via an old AER form should now use ERM for amendments, as follows: 

  1. If you wish to amend an Application for Ethical Review which has previously received ethical approval in ERM (, you can do this by creating a ‘subform’ to your existing project. For step-by-step details on how to do this, please see our amendments manual at: 

  2. If your last approval was outside of ERM, you can apply for an amendment to this by creating a ‘new project’ in ERM.  These are termed ‘legacy amendments’. Please note that the form questions will ask you to re-enter some basic information about your original project, to ensure your project details are consistent with our new reporting processes.  Please note that to apply for a legacy amendment you will need to know the original reference number of the approval (in the format ERN_XX-XXXX).  More information on how to answer the legacy questions in available on our canvas course in the form questions manual at:

Note: Once you have had a legacy amendment approved, if you need to make further changes to the project, this can be done using the amendment route in point 1.

Programmes of Work 

University researchers may apply for ethical approval for a Programme of Work if they are undertaking a number of linked studies with common research objectives and methodology.  A guidance note on Programmes can be accessed here.  Programme Applications are intended to allow investigators to gain ‘umbrella’ ethical approval for interlinked studies without needing to submit a Full Application for ethical review to the Committee for each individual study.  You are encouraged to contact the Ethics Team to discuss any plans to set up Programmes.

Please be aware that the Programme of Work scheme will shortly be reviewed and the way it operates may change – please check back here for the latest news on this.

Ethics for undergraduate and postgraduate taught (PGT) student research projects

Undergraduate and taught postgraduate students are not subject to the University's central ethical review process. Instead, Schools/Colleges have a mechanism in place to identify undergraduate and postgraduate taught student projects which may raise ethical issues.

As a minimum, ethics review should be carried out by at least 2 members of academic staff within the relevant School/College, one of whom may be the student’s supervisor.   It is understood that individual Schools/Colleges may choose to go beyond these requirements, and that implementation may differ in nature across different subject areas.  Please consult colleagues within your School/College to confirm your local arrangements for this. 

Under certain circumstances (e.g. particularly high risk or complex studies) applications for undergraduate or taught postgraduate student projects may be accepted by the University's central ethics committees on request. 

For those subject areas in which research is likely to require sponsorship in accordance with the Department of Health’s Research Governance Framework, additional work may be required to ensure that the ethics approval process meets regulatory requirements. 

Where ethics review is required, no project should commence until ethics approval has been granted.  


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