Human Ethical Review Committee (HERC)

Purpose and Remit

The R(D)SVS HERC’s role is to consider and regulate all research involving human participants, being pursued by staff and supervised students of the R(D)SVS.

The purpose of this is to:

  • Ensure that participants are not being coerced into taking part in the research or caused harm by doing so
  • Ensure that ethical standards are met
  • Ensure that legal requirements are met
  • Safeguard the reputation of the School and its staff and students

Human participants may include fellow students or members of staff at the R(D)SVS, veterinarians or their clients out with the R(D)SVS; farmers, pet owners or any members of the public both in the UK and overseas. Ethical approval by other agencies or institutions in the UK or overseas does not remove the necessity for HERC approval and all projects “owned” by the R(D)SVS must be approved through HERC before the project commences. For students conducting research in other Institutions HERC approval must be sought even if the host Institution has its own ethical procedures. For staff and students conducting research within the University but not within the School central ethical approval must be sought with approved paperwork sent to HERC before the project proceeds.

Remit and procedures for the R(D)SVS HERC.

  1. HERC application forms are available from the R(D)SVS intranet (Documents & Links), for SRC students through PebblePad or for PGT students through the course coordinator. Completed forms should be sent via the same route. Applicants must also submit any information sheets, consent forms or statements and recruitment materials at the time of submission. Partial approval can be given if these are not submitted with full approval (and permission to proceed from HERC side) only given once these are submitted and approved.
  2. HERC business is carried out monthly. All applications to be considered that month must be submitted by the end of the second last Monday of the month. These will be reviewed on the last Monday of the month (or shortly thereafter) and feedback sent back to applicants shortly afterwards. Responses to feedback will be dealt with between monthly deadlines. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they allow adequate time for the HERC process.
  3. Research project ethics forms will be viewed by at least two members of the HERC team. If it is agreed that the proposal meets its ethical standards, written approval will be granted.
  4. Written approval must be obtained prior to the commencement of any research project using human participants. Retrospective approval will not be granted.
  5. Any ethical questions concerning a project proposal, which are not resolved after responses from the applicant to comments by the HERC applicants will be advised that they must re-submit a new application at a later date once the issues have been rectified. Projects cannot commence until HERC approval is obtained.
  6. Scientific refereeing/criticism of project proposals or questionnaires is not a part of the remit of the HERC. However, there may be comments made on the background, aims, or design of the proposal to the applicant.
  7. To prevent student overload, the number of survey questionnaires targeting R(D)SVS students is closely monitored. If the subject or timing is not considered appropriate by the committee the study will not be approved. Additionally, mass email contact to students of university is not permitted for the sending out of survey questionnaires and an alternative must be suggested. However, within the School provided the survey is anonymous and is supplied as a link to an online survey the student email lists can be used (not the official School business ones).
  8. Records of all decisions and correspondence will be electronically and are accessible to the HERC convenor, co-convenors and administrator assisting with the HERC process.
  9. All HERC business should be addressed to HERC.Vets@ed.ac.uk rather than any individual member of the committee. The committee actively encourages informal queries about anything relating to HERC and in particular queries relating to whether HERC is required or not.