Human Ethical Review Committee (HERC)


The aim of this page is to clarify the role and remit of the HERC and provide guidance on applications to staff and students who wish to undertake research using human participants.

Research involving animals should receive ethical approval from either the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) for research covered under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (A(SP)A) or the Veterinary Ethical Review Committee (VERC) for research on animals that is not covered under A(SP)A.

The University of Edinburgh complies with the 5 commitments set out in the Universities UK Concordat to support research integrity which includes conducting research in an ethical manner ( In addition, the majority of scientific journals now require confirmation that institutional ethical approval has been obtained for research using human participants, as part of their review process prior to publication.

The definition of what needs HERC approval is projects where the participant is a human subject, for example they are being asked to complete a questionnaire or take part in an interview or focus group. Where the participant is a co-researcher or what is being asked of them could be deemed to be part of their normal clinical duties HERC approval is not required. HERC does not cover clinical trials involving treatments or procedures performed on human participants, their tissue or medical data as these are reviewed elsewhere (

HERC does not provide approval for projects involving collecting samples from humans e.g. blood. These projects required a sponsor and are reviewed at college level by the Academic and Clinical Central Office of Research and Development (ACCORD), contact for advice. Please feel free to also contact HERC for advice on this in the first instance and please do inform HERC that these projects are taking place for our school records as well.

The role of the HERC is to consider and approve research projects using human participants in research carried out at the R(D)SVS by staff or students.