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Department of Psychology




The Department of Psychology Ethics Committee (PEC) works in conjunction with the two main Ethics Committees in Cambridge (the Psychology Research Ethics Committee (PREC) and the NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC)).

It cannot replace those committees in many cases, as outlined below. Instead, the PEC acts as a filter for relatively straight-forward research projects because of the sheer volume of these each year, and because many of these may not require the level of scrutiny that PREC or REC would expect, using the concept of “proportionality”: if there are few, if any, ethical issues raised by a research project, and if the PEC is satisfied risks have been appropriately assessed, it will typically approve it. However, if the PEC feels a project may raise ethical issues that require the PREC or REC, it will advise the supervisor to apply to the relevant committee.

The PEC is also available for occasional consultation on ethical issues to any member of the Department of Psychology.

Working methods

The Committee only assesses research projects conducted by academic members of the Department of Psychology, or students and post-docs working under their supervision. Applications are typically reviewed by several committee members on a rolling basis.  Initial review usually takes at least two weeks, which is often followed by requests for revisions, so applicants are urged to plan accordingly to avoid delays to their research.

The Committee can review and approve projects if they raise few or no ethical issues, as indexed by the following criteria:

  • Written informed consent forms are used
  • The project complies with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
  • No young people under the age of 18, vulnerable adults or patients take part in the project
  • No requirement for participants to have any formal psychiatric diagnosis (e.g. dyslexia, depression)
  • No obligation for participants to reveal personal or intimate information
  • No stimuli used that could cause high levels of stress
  • No clinical scales/questionnaires that could suggest undiagnosed mental health problems
  • No experiments involving deception (e.g. providing false or misleading information, using hidden recordings). However, withholding certain information, such as the purpose of carrying out the study, may be acceptable if there are no adverse consequences to the participants
  • No risk to the reputation of the Department or University if web-based recruitment is used
  • No physiological measurements are taken
  • No ingestion of food/drink
  • The project is conducted under the responsibility of a University employee or affiliate based in the Department of Psychology

Any project that is outside the above criteria should be sent to the Psychology Research Ethics Committee instead. 

If the project involves recruiting patients from the NHS, the project should go to the NHS Research Ethics Committee for approval.

Conflicts of Interest

Applicants are asked to declare any personal or professional conflict of interest they have that is relevant to the research project under review and any actions they have taken or will take to manage the identified conflict of interest.

How to apply

To apply to the Committee complete the online application form. Attach any relevant materials to the application (such as consent form, questionnaires, debriefing etc, or whatever information is required for the committee to evaluate what the research involves). 

For any enquiries please contact the PEC secretary Kayleigh Paske.


Useful Links, Documents & Contacts


  • Click here for approved text to give to your participants about how their data is used.