Research ethics review

All researchers at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (FSS-VU) should review their upcoming research projects for any ethics issues.

The Research Ethics Review Committee (RERC) provides guidance in dealing with these issues, as well as a standardized review procedure. 

1. Self-Check

Complete the online ethics Self-Check form, consisting of 15 yes/no questions dealing with possible risks your research may entail. Make sure you click ‘yes’ to receive a confirmation message displaying your responses and the result of the check. You will get a confirmation that you have gone through the checklist and your research complies with FSS-VU ethical guidelines. Save the pdf you get via e-mail. 

If the result is that your research does not need further review, you can start with your research. 

If the result is that your research needs further review, go to step 2. 

2. Discuss the risks

It is important to consider whether identified risks can be avoided by adapting your research plan. Discuss your research plan with your supervisor and your department’s RERC member. Revise your research plan to reduce and tackle risks. Go back to step 1: complete the self-check again based on the revised plan. If the result is still that full ethics review is necessary, proceed to Step 3.

3. Prepare full ethics review

With your research team, create 

  1. A short description of the research questions, the societal and scientific relevance of the research, and the research design (max. 1 A4);  
  2. the information for participants, 
  3. the consent form, 
  4. the research materials (manipulations, questionnaire, topic list), 
  5. the anonymization procedure, and 
  6. the data management plan. 

You can find examples of these materials under “Guidelines and documents” below.

If you have everything (i.e, 6 documents), go to step 4. 

4. Submit materials for ethics review

Complete the online Ethics Review Application Form and upload the required documents. Note that only research project leaders can submit an application for ethics review. If you are a PhD student, ask your supervisor to submit the materials.

5. Revise and resubmit

Once your application is received, the secretary will screen it. Be ready to answer clarification questions and revise, resubmit or add materials. When your application is complete, the secretary will send it out for review to two members of the Research Ethics Review Committee. The full committee will discuss your research at the next meeting. The committee meets once a month during the academic season (September – June), on the last Monday of the month:

September 28, 2020;

November 2, 2020;

December 21, 2020

After the discussion of the reviews of your application in the RERC meeting, you will receive a letter from the chair of the committee via email. The letter either states that your research complies with the ethics guidelines of the faculty, or asks you to revise the research materials and resubmit them for further review.

Timeline

If your research involves possible risks, be advised that you should apply for the ethics review procedure well before you start collecting your data. If your research requires a full ethics review, the review committee requires at least ten days to study your application, and must subsequently discuss your application at the next monthly meeting. If concerns remain, you may need to resubmit your application.

Guidelines, codes, and regulations

Templates, and examples

  • FSS Informed consent template
  • Example informed consent form 1 (online surveys and experiments)
  • Example informed consent form 2 (lab research, face-to-face assessments)
  • Example informed consent form 3 (children, parents)
  • Example informed consent form 4 (ethnographic research)
  • Example data management plan 1
  • Example data management plan 2 (Open data)
  • Example data management plan 3 (non-anonymous data)
  • Example data management plan 4 (ethnographic research)
  • Example form field work in hazardous areas (researcher safety)
  • Suggest a form or example: e-mail 


Stakeholders in research that is reviewed by the RERC can submit a complaint. The complaint procedure is as follows:

  • Persons who have a complaint about the research of employees of FSS-VU should first contact the project leader of the relevant research to see if they can reach a joint solution 
  • If this does not lead to an acceptable outcome, the complainant may contact the research portfolio holder of the faculty via the Research Support Office (onderzoeksbureau.fsw@vu.nl)
  • The research portfolio holder responds to the complaint on behalf of the Faculty Board and, if desired, seeks advice from other faculty members (including the Research Ethics Review Committee and/or the head of the relevant department). 
  • Depending on the severity of the complaint, the portfolio holder may also decide to forward the complaint directly to the VU-VUmc comittee for scientific integrity (in Dutch) 
  • If the complainant considers the response of the faculty insufficient, or at the faculty's own recommendation, the complaint can be submitted to the VU-VUmc committee for scientific integrity 
  • For further guidance in the complaint procedure and in the choices to take, complainants can contact a representative for scientific integrity at VU Amsterdam (in Dutch)

Research ethics reviews are carried out by the Research Ethics Review Committee.

Contact the committee secretary for any questions:

Koen Leuveld 
RERC secretary
E rerc.fsw@vu.nl
T +31 20 59 84034 (Mondays, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays)