Ethics: The bit they don’t tell you about!

So for those who haven’t ever submitted an NHS ethics application well phew… is a long old slog. Others of you who have – particularly if it was recently then you hear my pain. You may have read the summary of tips and hints I wrote. All I can think of is sharing as much of the experience as possible – I think I may need a virtual ethics emotional support group – for me!

My ethics application has felt like the bit of research people don’t talk about in advance perhaps similar to the parenting stuff people don’t like to talk about in advance either (eg the bit of pregnancy where I got super angry, the whole AWFUL embarrassing things children say in public and the stress of juggling school homework eurgh… I didn’t realise it would feel like MY homework).

Anyhow I am sharing my pain! Sure people said start the ethics application early- my supervisor, my funder and colleagues who had started their PhD ahead of me. So I did start earlier than I had intended- but now I realise I really should have started even earlier. It took forever! Tip no. 1: believe people when they say start early and then start as soon as humanly possible.

Then- don’t give up. It may feel like a test, or a torturous painstaking process to put you off research. However keep in the forefront of your mind that this is for the safety of you and your participants it really is. It is worth reading the horror stories of what previous (horribly unethical) researchers have done. This is why the process is there and it is for the good of the people. Tip no. 2: Remember it is for the good of the people.

Anyhow here I am 9 months later- see I told you it was like having a baby! Today I attended my research ethics committee meeting. The last hurdle- this group of 14 expert and lay committee members are the last hurdle to getting my ethics. So I went at my allotted time- 2.50pm and waited in an empty room until they were ready. And was then invited in for “questioning”. Tip no. 3: They are not mean, they are lovely and will give you helpful guidance and advice (Take in a notepad and pen to make notes- you will look attentive and interested in their feedback then, you also feel better clutching something!)

And the questions begin:
“This is a very interesting and worthwhile area of research”
(So lovely)
“Tell us a bit about it”
“Expand on this (consent)”
“Describe that process again (videoing)”
“Hmmm you may like to change this (images on a questionnaire and use of language on another questionnaire measure)”
“Great use of PPI”

Some frowning, mostly smiles I think!? Am I remembering this correctly? I may be delirious but I seem to have survived (just like giving birth). Tip no. 4: Remember your research is interesting and will be better for having as many eyes on it as possible.

Now I must wait a few more weeks (which seems an awfully long time!) for the final word….I will let you know what they say!

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