Doctoral Office
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​DRDSI  |  Tygerberg Doctoral Office

PhD Ethics

 

All researchers must apply for ethical approval of a study before they may commence with research. A particular responsibility for oversight rests with the institution in the case of researchers in training, such as PhD candidates. Every PhD candidate must apply for ethics approval, to the most suitable Research Ethics Committee (REC) within Stellenbosch University. Most PhD projects can be assessed by one, particular REC, but some projects will straddle the domain of more than one REC. Stellenbosch University has five RECs, all functioning under the SU Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC), as follows:

  1. Animal Care and Use (REC: ACU)
  2. Biosafety and Environmental Ethics (REC: BEE)
  3. Health Research Ethics Committee 1 (HREC1)
  4. Health Research Ethics Committee 2 (HREC2)
  5. Social, Behavioural and Education Research (REC: SBE)

A majority of doctoral research projects in the SU Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences are considered by the respective RECs for Animal Care and Use, or Biosafety and Environmental Ethics, or the Health Research Ethics Committees. Each committee has its own rules and procedures. Following successful completion of the proposal review process, candidates should allow up to three months for the ethics process of a doctoral study, from application to outcome.

On receipt of the ethics approval letter bearing your name, this must be submitted to the Tygerberg Doctoral Office at tyg-phd@sun.ac.za, right away. Ethics approval for an individual study, OR a letter adding a student as investigator to an existing, ethics-approved study, is acceptable. In case of the latter, we also request the original or most recent ethics approval of the larger study.

At this stage, your practical research may begin, while we proceed to submit your project to the Committee for Postgraduate Research on behalf of your department. From there it travels to the Faculty Board and Senate, for formal approval of your doctoral study. This is a quarterly process which takes about three months.

​Note on Confirmation of Proposal Review

  • Before accepting a doctoral study for ethics review, the Health Research Ethics Committees (only) require a letter to confirm that the relevant faculty proposal review process was followed correctly, and the review completed successfully.
  • The Head of the Tygerberg Doctoral Office will provide confirmation that the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences proposal review procedures were followed in the case of all FMHS students. Turnaround is fast, but do submit your five review documents to tyg-phd@sun.ac.za in good order, and in a single email, by three workdays prior to your ethics deadline. There is no need to request the letter - it will be issued automatically on receipt of your five review documents (and not before).
  • Doctoral candidates from other faculties may obtain a formal letter from a suitable independent party in their own faculty - such as the HoD, but not the supervisor, in order to facilitate an ethics application to the HREC.​


For clinicians only:

In the case of clinical trials, a separate ethics process governed by the Department of Health follows.

In addition, the trial may be registered on the South African National Clinical Trials Register (SANCTR), housed on the website of the Medical Research Council, at this link.


Ethics FAQs and videos developed by the UREC office:
At this link, a number of useful videos on various aspects of health research ethics have been published by the Undergraduate Research Office within the FMHS Division for Research Development & Support and Internationalisation. Staff members who watch these videos can also return to the same page to complete the relevant multiple choice quizzes in order to earn CPD points.

At this link, a number of core questions about health research ethics are answered.