Applying to a Research Ethics Committee

Last updated on 27 Oct 2022

Whether you are following the HRA Approval or REC-only route, the following steps apply:

  1. Complete a research application form on the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS)

Guidance on completing the form is available on the IRAS site.

  1. Prepare your study documents
  2. Book your application in through the Online Booking Service
  3. E-submit your applications in IRAS

The following information describes the ethical review process - depending on your study, this may form part of your overall HRA Approval or may be a stand-alone process for studies which require ethical review only. To help you understand what your study needs, visit the What approvals and decisions do I need? page.

Phase 1 studies in healthy volunteers may be booked through the Online Booking Service or direct with your preferred REC, which is recognised to review this type of research. ‘Recognised’ RECs are recognised by the United Kingdom Ethics Committee Authority (UKECA) for the review of Clinical Trials of Investigational Medicinal Products (CTIMPs), in accordance with The Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004.

If you’re making a CTIMP application, please check our dedicated page for the booking and submission process.


For HRA Approval applications, you will receive a status update sent by email informing you of the outcome of the validation of the study. Once the application is valid, you will receive the details for the ethical review and an initial assessment letter which will allow you to  provide the local information pack to NHS organisations in England and Wales. For studies which do not need HRA Approval but require an ethical review, you will receive the details for the ethical review once the application is valid but you will not need an initial assessment letter. 

To ensure your application is 'valid first time' then you are encouraged to read the information contained in our research planning section.

Proportionate review 

Your study may be eligible for proportionate review. If this is the case then you will be notified when you book your application in through the Online Booking Service. We strongly recommend that you use the Proportionate Review toolkit to consider whether your study might be suitable for Proportionate Review or whether it requires a full REC review before submitting. The toolkit must be used MS PowerPoint slide show view – you can then answer the questions by selecting the appropriate box.​ You can also access a text version of the toolkit.

The Proportionate Review Service (PRS) provides an accelerated, proportionate review of research studies which raise no material ethical issues. Studies are reviewed via email correspondence, teleconference or at a face to face meeting by a sub-committee (comprised of experienced expert and lay members) rather than at a full meeting of a REC.

All other applications are considered at a full Research Ethics Committee (REC) meeting

Attending a Research Ethics Committee meeting

Unless your application is being processed under the Proportionate Review Service, you should attend the REC meeting if possible. Find out what you need to do.

After the meeting 

You will be notified of the REC’s decision, usually within 10 working days, and will receive one of the following decisions:

  • Favourable opinion
  • Favourable opinion with additional condition
  • Provisional opinion
  • Unfavourable opinion

Detailed information on what these decisions mean can be found in the REC Standard Operating Procedures.

The letter may contain details of any revisions and clarification the REC requires and sometimes the REC may make some suggestions about your research. If this is the case, you may be required to submit further clarification, information or revised documents to the REC which will be reviewed, usually by the REC Chair or a sub committee of the REC, before confirming a final opinion.

If you receive an unfavourable ethical opinion, this does not necessarily mean that the research can never go ahead. Your letter will provide detailed reasons as to why an unfavourable opinion was issued, and you can submit a revised application to take account of the ethical issues raised and to demonstrate how the points highlighted by the REC have been addressed.

If you have any queries or wish to discuss the content of your letter, you should contact the REC manager or the named person in your decision letter. 

Standard conditions

There are standard conditions which should be followed after a REC favourable opinion has been issued or for non REC studies after HRA Approval has been issued:

When will I receive the outcome of the REC review?

A REC is required to give an ethical opinion on an application within 60 calendar days of the receipt of a valid application. If you chose not to attend the first meeting available, the 60 calendar days will start from the cut-off date for the meeting (which is 14 calendar days before the meeting date). 

Where the REC considers that further information is required in order to give an opinion, it may make one request in writing for further information. The period of 60 days will be suspended pending receipt of this information. 

It is increasingly likely that the REC decision will be communicated to you as part of the overall HRA Approval process.

Resolving issues 

If your application has received an unfavourable opinion and you can address the reasons given for this by the REC, you should revise your research proposal accordingly. You should submit it to the same REC, if convenient, as a new application. We recommend that you follow this course of action wherever possible. However, it is possible to submit the application to a new REC if you prefer. 


If your application has received an unfavourable opinion and you do not feel it is possible to make all of the changes required by the reviewing REC, you can appeal. In this instance you should email the Appeals Manager who will consider the most appropriate way forward. 

If your appeal goes ahead, we will arrange for your original application to be reviewed by a different REC. For more information please refer to REC Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS)

Raising concerns

If you believe that your application has not been reviewed fairly or you are unhappy about the way that a REC has dealt with you or your application, visit our feedback and raising concerns page.

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