Aston University is committed to promoting excellent research which observes the highest possible standards of integrity. Research governance is the framing within which we manage research to ensure research integrity is achieved. This framing includes principles, legal and regulatory provisions, standards of good practice, policies, guidance, systems, management, and supervision.

Appropriate governance of research and innovation activities is mandated by all research and higher education funders. Responsibility for governance (including when research or innovation activities are conducted for educational purposes) lies initially with the member of staff responsible for the project/student followed by their department/school head, followed by executive dean of the College, and ultimately the PVC Research.

The Research Integrity Office provide governance advice and support for more specialist areas such as researching with children or vulnerable groups, human tissue research or working with statutory organisations such as the NHS.

We can also signpost researchers to further specialist advice available within Aston University, such as:

  • Collaboration agreements for research projects
  • Obtaining ethics approvals
  • Completing research risk assessments
  • Compliance with data protection legislation or understanding insurances for research projects.

It is the researcher's responsibility to ensure that the research conforms to relevant legal or regulatory requirements and to seek appropriate guidance if needed.

Trusted Research

The UK Government has developed Trusted Research guidance to help UK academic and research organisations understand and manage the potential risks associated with international research collaboration. More information is available here.

The use of animals in research

Where no alternatives exist and where their use is essential for medical research, Aston University undertakes research using animals. For more information on use of animals in research, visit our Animals in Research webpage.

Research misconduct

In line with Concordat to Support Research Integrity Aston University has set in place specific procedures for dealing with allegations of research misconduct. If you want to find out more please visit our Research Misconduct page or you can contact Matt Richards (Research Integrity Officer) in the first instance.


If your research involves the NHS, or Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Aston University may act as Sponsor for the research. For more information please see our sponsorship webpage.

Letters of Access or Honorary Contracts - the Research Passport process

If your project will be undertaken within the NHS then you may need a letter of access or an honorary research contract to be put in place before you commence your project. Some researchers may not need this, for example, members of the research team who are already employed by an NHS organisation or academics who already have an honorary contract with an NHS Trust.

If required, you will need to apply for this via Research Passport, which is a way for Aston to share information with the NHS about what pre-engagement checks have been carried out. This can include confirmation of qualifications, health screening, DBS check and so on.

You can establish what checks are needed by consulting the Research Passport algorithm within the IRAS help section.

If you require a Research Passport then please engage with the Research Integrity and Governance team as early as possible.

Human tissue

Aston University is licensed by the Human Tissue Authority for “storage of relevant human material for a scheduled purpose" under the Human Tissue Act (2004), subject to compliance with its strictly regulated code of practice. If you are working or intend to work with relevant human material as defined by the Act, you must contact research governance before the research begins. For more information, please visit our Human Tissue in Research page.

External ethics approval

Occasionally, staff or PhD researchers may be invited to collaborate on projects which are in receipt of ethics from another institution or are in receipt of an NHS REC favourable opinion but where Aston University is not the Sponsor. If this is the case, please contact the Research Integrity Office as a light-touch governance review will be undertaken before any research can commence on site. This will include collating copies of the confirmation of favourable ethical opinion/ethics approval, a protocol for any work being undertaken at Aston (or by Aston staff) and copies of any localised study documents. Please notify us as early as possible in this process.

Please note that we would ordinarily expect that ethics approval is sought from Aston University, if an Aston colleague is the lead researcher.

Due diligence

Working with any partner involves risk, which could be reputational, financial or operational. All colleagues are responsible for ensuring that relationships with external partners are properly considered and (where appropriate) authorised. This is in line with the approach taken by most public sector and charitable funders of research require universities to undertake due diligence checks on all collaborators, or sub-contractors to whom we pass on grant funding. For more information and guidance, please visit our due diligence pages.

Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (the ‘ABS’ Protocol) is an international agreement that implements the access and benefit-sharing obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Genetic resources in this context include any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity which is of actual or potential value, or derivatives.

Researchers who source or use such material are required to 'exercise diligence' to ensure that genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with those resources have been accessed in accordance with applicable access and benefit sharing laws implemented by the source country.

If the Nagoya Protocol will apply to your research, more information is available on how to comply.

Transfer of projects in or out of Aston University

If you have recently joined Aston University and wish to transfer a project in receipt of a favourable ethical opinion/ethics approval from a non-Aston REC or an NHS REC and it is actively recruiting participants then we ask that you notify the Research Integrity and Governance team as soon as possible. This is of particular importance if your study involves human tissue as confirmation of Sponsorship and signed Material Transfer Agreements must be in place before any samples can be received.

Similarly, if you will be leaving Aston and wish to transfer a current project to another institution, please notify us as soon as possible as we will need to ensure that study Sponsorship is transferred and/or new Chief Investigators are appointed.

Data protection

If your research involves the collection and storage of personal data you have responsibilities under the UK GDPR. The participant information sheet explains to participants how Aston University will process their personal data, and as an Aston employee you must ensure that you adhere to the University’s data protection and record management procedures. You must only collect the data you need, and only hold it for as long as you need to. Participants have the right to request that their personal data be deleted at any time, and you must respond to that request as quickly as possible. Suspected data breaches must be reported to the REC and Data Protection Officer. View the University’s mandatory training on GDPR.

Your funder may require you to share your data at the point of publication. This needs to be taken into consideration throughout your research process in order to ensure you have full participant consent for publication and that you have mechanisms in place to ensure data privacy is upheld.

Page last updated on: 30/05/2022