Ethical approval for research for CBR projects is generally needed where data are being collected in the course of an empirical research project or in the case of projects which involve the collection of new data, not already in the public domain, concerning living persons. Advice on whether approval is needed should be sought at an early stage in research planning, and in any event before the research begins, from the Director of the Centre.  

In the first instance please refer to the Centre’s research ethics and data protection policies outlined below and then contact Rachel Wagstaff.

Research ethics policy

The CBR Research Ethics Policy is part of a wider process of ethics review which is set out in the policy of the School of Technology.

The departmental Research Ethics Review Group consists of the CBR’s Executive Committee (EC). The EC will assess ethical issues arising from projects which cannot be dealt with by self-assessment under para. 6 of the School Code.

In such a case, CBR form Application for Ethical Approval of a Research Projects should be completed and submitted to the EC. The EC will provide guidance and, where necessary, expedited approval. The EC may seek external specialist advice. Any project flagged by the applicant, or identified by the Committee, as potentially including very high-risk personal data processing, will be escalated to the School-level Research Ethics Committee.

Where data are held or stored in relation to a project, the PI and other members of the project team must ensure full compliance with relevant data protection laws and principles. The terms of the CBR’s Data Protection Policy should be observed for projects involving the collection and storage of new data.

If an ethics-related complaint is received from a participant in a research project, any work relating to that participant must cease until the complaint is resolved. The PI should forward to the EC the following:

  1. the complaint itself
  2. a summary of the project
  3. any documents given to participants before, during or after the project
  4. the PI’s own assessment of the validity of the complaint
  5. what the PI proposes should be done
  6. any changes to be made make to avoid any future recurrence of the complaint

The EC will deal with the matter promptly, if necessary, in between meetings, by circulation.

Download the CBR research ethics policy (pdf, 142KB)

Ethics approval form

Complete the application for ethical approval of a research project:

Download the application form (pdf, 199KB)

Data protection policy

The following guidelines relate to the collection and storage of data on CBR projects. They may be customised for particular projects after consulting the Director.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance in the construction in case of coded data should wherever possible be ensured through parallel coding, mutual monitoring, and feedback between the project researchers. In the case of field work, interviews should normally be conducted by two members of the project team, recorded (unless the respondent does not agree to this, in which case contemporaneous notes will be taken), and transcribed. There should be checks on transcription quality. The coding of the qualitative data should normally be checked using parallel coding, mutual monitoring, and group-level feedback between the researchers.

Background details to the data collection process should where relevant be provided to ensure that the datasets can be understood in context. In the case of the field work, an explanatory file should normally be created, providing details of the location and period of the fieldwork and anonymised data on the interviewees.  Where appropriate, details of the links between the different data sources used as part of the multi-methods of the project should be provided.

Storage, backup and security of data

Project data should be stored in relevant standard file formats. Datasets of coded material should normally be prepared as Excel files. Quantitative data collected through field work and data drawn from publicly and commercially available datasets to be used in the project should normally be held in Excel and Stata files for analysis. Coded material from the qualitative interviews should normally be stored in Word and PDF files.

During fieldwork, data should normally be backed up on a daily basis using portable hard disks and, where possible, CDs. Once collected, confidential and private data in the form of the interview transcripts should be held on password-protected network files. For back-up purposes, these data may where appropriate also be held on CDs which should be kept in a secure place.

Data sharing

Team members should be made fully aware of data protection, confidentiality and privacy issues attaching to the use of data from interview transcripts and other relevant sources. Transcripts should not normally be shared with third parties. Where transcripts are made available through the UK Data Archive once the project has been completed, the relevant material should first be anonymised.

Copyright and IPR issues

Copyright and database rights from datasets vest initially in the CBR and then in individual members of the project team according to the terms of University of Cambridge’s Intellectual Property policies as from time to time amended.


The PI has overall responsibility for quality assurance and legal and regulatory compliance in the collection, storage and analysis of the data.

Preparation of data for sharing and archiving in the UK Data Archive

The CBR’s database manager or other relevant CBR officer should where necessary liaise with UK Data Archive staff once the fieldwork phase of the project gets underway in order to ensure that the Archive’s needs in relation to file formats, documentation and contextual information will be met. Once data collection has been completed and the data can be archived, the database manager or other relevant officer should make contact with the UK Data Archive to ensure that the archiving process is completed promptly.

Download the CBR data protection policy (pdf, 71KB)