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 SCI001 and SCI002 on UCT Administrative Forms; 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. Research with human subjects needs to be reviewed by the Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee (FSREC).  Research with anonymised 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.

EGS Researchers: We are currently piloting a new application system on eRA. Please submit non-PSQ applications on eRA. See instructions.

Pre-Screening Questionnaire 
The pre-screening questionnaire (PSQ) will help determine whether or not ethics review and approval is needed for your research. Complete if you think your research project does not require ethics approval by a Research Ethics Committee (REC) because it does not prospectively involve humans or their data. (See comment below for animal research) 

The PSQ also captures issues that may trigger the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and require review by a REC as a safeguard. Researchers, including students and their supervisors, are responsible for ensuring they get appropriate ethics approval for all projects that require such approval, and if in doubt consult appropriately e.g., with supervisors, REC EXCO or Administrator, or the Office of Research Integrity. 

Animal Research and Biosafety: This pre-screening questionnaire does not cover animal research or research with Biosafety concerns. If you plan any form of animal research or research with biohazards, please consult with the Animal Ethics Committee or the Biosafety Committee, as appropriate.  

•    Submit a PSQ on eRA   

•   The departmental authority for all departments in the Science Faculty is Melissa Densmore (Chair, FSREC)

​​​​​​​•  eRA

           o    PSQ process manual 
           o    Exporting the outcome letter 
           o    Reviewing the PSQ as a Supervisor 

For assistance: Refer to the FAQs or log a call with the Research Support Hub

Human Subjects Research

The 2023 application review cycle runs from 16 January to 7 December. New applications will not be accepted after this date. Applications submitted on or after 4 December may not receive a response until January of the following year. 
The 2024 application review cycle runs from 15 January to 6 December. New applications will not be accepted after this date. Applications submitted on or after 2 December may not receive a response until January of the following year.
•    Research Ethics Statement Form
•    Submit applications via FSREC 2023 Ethics Applications.

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 FSREC 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 the instructions and the UCT Research Ethics Code for Research involving Human Subjects in full before completing the form.

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 his/her 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 the FSREC 2023 Ethics Applications

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 on the ethics application form. 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 Computer Science 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 or 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.

Giving Feedback

If your study included human participants it is required that you give feedback to them, or, depending on your topic, to broader society. Feedback may take many forms, depending on your time, budget and the local context. Circulating your thesis or research report may be useful for some participants, but is unlikely to be the preferred format for most people. A summary form of the research findings will typically be more helpful for most. It is good practice to ask participants how best they would like to receive feedback.

The most common form of accessible feedback is a pamphlet or similar, written in accessible language and if needed, translated into local languages so that your research participants can understand the contents. If appropriate, you may produce a pamphlet which broader society will benefit from reading - your language should be adjusted to suit the "general reader" and not contain academic terms. You may choose, however, to do something more creative such as an art piece, a podcast, give an interview on a local radio station, or host a feedback seminar. Posters are also popular as these can be used in schools and public places.

Please make sure to indicate in section D.1 Information how you plan to give feedback and who your target audience will be.

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 the 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.

Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee 

Servicing Officer

Portia Sithole
Ka Wai Cawood (for MS Teams)

Chair A/Professor Melissa Densmore

Dr Philile Mbatha | Department of Environmental & Geographical Science
A/Professor Leanne Scott | Department of Statistical Sciences
Professor Timm Hoffman | Department of Biological Sciences
Dr Thomas Oelgeschlager | Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
Professor Rachel Wynberg | Department of Environmental & Geographical Science (on sabbatical until end 2023)
A/Professor Patrick Marais | School of IT (on sabbatical until end 2023)
Dr Jan Buys | School of IT (on sasbbatical until end 2023)
Professor Robert Simmonds (until end of 2023) | School of IT
A/Professor Sonia Berman (until end of 2023) | School of IT
Ms Jaci van Niekerk (until end of 2023) | Department of Environmental & Geographical Science

Page last updated 20 November 2023