When should a request for approval of a research project be addressed to the ethics commission?
The answer is simple: in good time, not too early or too late.
Too early: when the methodology of the experiment has not yet been specified. An essential element in the reflection concerns the free and informed consent of participants. The latter should be informed about the nature of the experiment, its duration, possible disadvantages and benefits, etc. These elements cannot be provided in the preliminary phase of the project, for example when applying for funding from the RSF-NSRF or the RSF. At this stage, researchers may undertake to submit a request for an opinion at a later stage, using the commitment form available on the site, but are generally not in a position to complete the request for approval form. This form will be completed if funding is granted
Too late: the Ethics Commission cannot give an opinion retrospectively. The request must therefore be sent to the Commission well in advance of the drafting of a publication stating the favourable opinion it would have given on the project.
The Ethics Commission's concern is to avoid any administrative burden and for this purpose, it wishes to evaluate research programmes (which may include several experiments), rather than each experiment in isolation. In the event of major changes during the study, researchers are invited to refer to the advice received previously, indicating the nature and motivation for the change. A minor change, for example in the choice of equipment used or in the formulation of an instruction, does not require a new request for an opinion, provided that this change is not likely to influence the participants' decision to consent or not to the research.