Permission and approval

Permission and approval

Social science research often depends on gaining access to either people or data. That means you need the cooperation of the ‘gatekeepers’ to the data you want to access, or to the people you want to talk with – before you can get to the stage of asking permission from potential research participants themselves. In practice, that means you may need to secure permission or approval from different organisations or bodies before you can go ahead with your research.

As governance arrangements for research have become more common, formal permission is increasingly likely to be required in order to conduct your study. Most commonly, this concerns ethics approval. Almost all social science research now requires approval from an ethics committee – perhaps within your organisation, perhaps an external committee. But, ethics approval may not be the only permission you need. There are two key points here:

  • First, you need to find out what research governance requirements apply to your research, and go through those processes. This bit of the guidebook website aims to help you do that.
  • Second, it is important to recognise – and to accept – that negotiating these requirements can take some time. You can speed up the process by making sure you are well prepared, but some forms of approval just do take a bit of time. You might need to remind the funder of that – and wherever possible, allow for this process in your project timescale.

This section of the guidebook aims to help you identify whose permission and approval you need, before you can go ahead with your research. One of the reasons that this can be complicated is that requirements come from a number of different sources. Some requirements come from funders, others from legislation or from your own institution, and some come from organisations or people holding data or acting as gatekeepers to your participants.

Before you go to the section on applying for ethics approval, follow our key questions to help you decide to which ethics committee you should apply and to check if you need permission or approval from any other agencies.