Faculty of Science Research Ethics

All research in the Faculty of Science must be conducted in alignment with the UCT policy for responsible conduct of research. Your research may also require additional review from an institutional review board (IRB) or research ethics committee (REC). Research on animals needs to be approved by the Faculty’s Animal Ethics Committee (See SCI01 and SCI02 on UCT Forms - https://forms.uct.ac.za/forms.htm); and research that uses biological materials from humans (e.g. fresh tissues, blood or body fluids) needs also to be approved by the Faculty’s Biological Safety Committee (See https://uct.ac.za/research-support-hub/integrity/biosafety). Research with human subjects needs to be reviewed by the Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee (FSREC).  Research with anonymized third-party data does not require REC approval.

While ethics clearance constitutes a significant milestone for research, clearance does not mean that all ethics issues have been dealt with. Researchers must consider ethical implications throughout the research and as their projects close.

Human Subjects Research

The 2023 application review cycle opened on 16 January 2023. The 2023 application review cycle closes on 7 Dec 2023. New applications will not be accepted after this date. Applications submitted on 4 December 2022 or after may not receive a response until January. 
•    Research Ethics Statement Form
•    Submit applications to the “Faculty of Science REC – 2023” on Submittable: https://universityofcapetown.submittable.com/submit

Applications for clearance to do research with human subjects must be made to the Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee (FSREC). A key function of the Science Faculty Research Ethics Committee is to screen and approve, or otherwise refuse, all research proposals in the Faculty that relate to human subjects, including questionnaires involving human participants; this includes proposed research involving students or staff, by UCT researchers. Outside visiting researchers seeking to work with UCT staff or students must do so in collaboration with a member of UCT staff.

Human subject means a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information, which includes a subject's opinion on a given topic.

This research ethics statement form and the appended informed consent form should be completed and submitted by the actual person undertaking the research (‘the applicant’). All details must be typed. Please read these instructions and the UCT Code for Research involving Human Subjects in full before completing the form: http://www.uct.ac.za/downloads/uct.ac.za/about/policies/ethicscode.pdf

In the case of research that involves a number of researchers, this form should be endorsed and signed by the Principal Investigator (PI). If the applicant is a student, the supervisor must endorse and sign the form and ensure that the student is fully informed of his/her ethical responsibilities. Where the research is part of a project that is being co–ordinated from outside the Science Faculty, the researcher should fill in the form in relation to her or his part of the larger research project. We aim to provide an initial response to applications within 15 working days. Full ethics review and revisions frequently take up to a month or longer. Please plan your research accordingly.

All applicants

First time applicants should refer to the Additional Guidelines for more information on how to complete the form and avoid common errors.

Please submit your ethics application form (in the original MS Word format) to: https://universityofcapetown.submittable.com/submit

This form must be completed electronically (i.e.typed) by students and supervisors, and submitted as a Word document as indicated above.  The fields are expandable (horizontally and vertically).  Use Enter when you get to the end of the page, to prevent the fields from spilling too far on the horizontal axis.  Attachments will not be considered except as specified in the form.

Expedited Review

Researchers from the Departments of Computer Science or Environmental & Geographical Science conducting studies which entail only minimal risk, that do not involve the collection of any privately identifiable or sensitive personal data, are not contentious, or are not working with any vulnerable populations (e.g. pregnant women, minors, prisoners, low-income communities) may apply for expedited review by ticking 'Yes' in section B2.  Applications for expedited review are not necessarily faster, but only require the approval of one member of the Science Faculty Research Ethics Committee in addition to the Chair.  For CS applications, this typically (but not necessarily) entails testing the usability of programmes and applications.  'Usability' in this context is defined to include learnability, efficiency, memorability, accuracy, ease of use and user experience, typically with an artefact of prototype.  However if the research also involves the collection of any privately identifiable or sensitive personal data about participants (e.g. information on disabilities, vulnerabilities, health/ medical conditions and/ or treatments) then the proposal is NOT eligible for expedited review.  Projects using human subjects and not judged to be of minimal risk will be submitted for review by the full committee.

Third Party Human Data

Please note that a clearance certificate is not required by the Faculty for use of anonymised third-party data about human-participants, although you should still consider ethical implications of your work and seek proper permissions from the custodian of the data for its use. However, if the data custodian or another entity requires ethics clearance for use of third-party data about human subjects, please submit an application with the appropriate details to the FSREC.

Committee Contacts

  • Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee

    • Servicing Officer: Shanaaz Smith shanaaz.smith@uct.ac.za
    • Chair: A/ Professor Melissa Densmore melissa.densmore@uct.ac.za
    • Members: Philile Mbatha (EGS), Shari Daya (EGS), Leanne Scott (Stats), Timm Hoffman (Bio), Thomas Oelgeschlager (MCB), Rachel Wynberg (eGS), Patrick Marais (CS), Jan Buys (CS)
  • Faculty of Science Animal Ethics Committee
  • Faculty of Science Biosafety Committe

Additional Resources


Page last updated 27 January 2023