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Ethics Committee

Amsterdam Research Institute for Legal Studies

Research ethics concerns the application of fundamental ethical and legal principles to scientific research. It is the primary responsibility of every researcher to make sure research is conducted in an ethically and legally correct manner. However, a growing number of academic journals as well as Dutch and European funding bodies now require the formal approval of an Ethics Committee before an article can be published or a subsidy can be granted.

When do you need approval from the Ethics Committee? 

The Ethics Committee focuses on scientific research with human subjects. A researcher has the moral responsibility to prevent the exploitation of research subjects and to protect their rights, interests, autonomy and dignity, as well as those of society at large. 

The Ethics Committee focuses on research involving one or more of the following aspects: 

  • human subjects; 
  • the use of certain research methods (interviews, questionnaires, experiments and/or observations) and/or the human subjects involved can raise ethical dilemmas; 
  • the processing of personal data; 
  • possible conflicts of interest and integrity issues. 

If you will be conducting this type of research, you are required to submit a request for approval to the Ethics Committee Law before you start. 

Please note: the Ethics Committee aims to review the research of all academic staff, from PhD candidates to full professors. When Bachelor’s or Master’s students conduct research including one or more of the aspects mentioned above, it is primarily up to the supervisor(s) to properly inform and/or instruct the student on ethical dilemmas, privacy regulations and data handling.

The Ethics Committee Law consists of the following members

Prof. J. (Johan) Legemaate

Chair

Dr K. (Kristina) Irion

Faculty of Law

Information Law

Prof. dr. A. (Agnes) Akkerman

Faculty of Law

Labour Law

S.E. (Susanne) de Gooijer

Secretary

Procedures

The Ethics Committee Law will deal with the submitted documents in confidence. After reviewing the documents, the committee will issue a statement. The Committee will indicate – possibly after some modification – whether it will or will not object to the research proposal. Regardless of the outcome, it is always primarily the responsibility of the researcher to comply with the rules of research ethics.

Please note that you should only use the RMS if you will be conducting research in- or connected with the field of law. Our ethics committee has no expertise to critically assess others types of research. If you need ethical clearance, we recommend you to research out to an ethics committee of another faculty.

Step 1 Ask for advice 

The Ethics Committee Law reviews the ethical acceptability of research proposals, focusing among other things on data management (including privacy aspects). 

The Committee strongly advises researchers to prepare the documents needed for review thoroughly. We therefore request that, before you submit a proposal, you first familiarise yourself with the UvA and faculty policy on Research Data Management and the GDPR and contact colleagues who can offer support in such matters. This will save both the Ethics Committee and yourself considerable time. 

Research Data Management

Datasteward Amsterdam Law School: Thomas Gales, rdm-fdr@uva.nl.

V.P.C. (Victor) Ewald

Privacy contact person Amsterdam Law School

Step 2 Submit your request 

Research Management Services (RMS)

Since 2022, the faculty started working within the online environment Research Management Services (RMS). This online environment will guide you through the necessary steps for your research project all at once, in the proper order. For the researcher, it contains the following topics:

  • Data Protection Review - GDPR/privacy: You will receive security recommendations from the CISO, the Central Information Security Officer of the UvA/AUAS. Based on the details you enter in RMS, you will receive a recommendation on how to effectively secure the personal and/or research data.
  • Data Management Plan.
  • The purpose of a Data Management Plan is to describe how you will handle the data during your research project. Ethics Committee review. The Ethics Committee checks the ethical aspects of your research proposal, gives feedback and/or grants approval to carry out the project.

You'll find everything you need to know about using RMS for your research on the Employeesite. RMS shows users an explanation for every step they need to complete. For this reason, no separate user manual exists.

Required documents

When submitting a request to the Ethics Committee, please include the following documents:

  • your survey or questionnaire
  • participant information letter / brochure
  • informed consent
  • recruitment texts (advertisement) for participants (if applicable)
  • confidentiality agreement for researchers (if applicable)

The documents can be submitted in English or Dutch. Please make sure you have these documents ready so you can upload them in the online RMS environment.

Go straight to the RMS for the Amsterdam Law School.

Please note: when filling in the portal, you will receive separate emails about the submission and/or processing of the three topics in the portal (Data Protection Review, data management and ethical review). However, you can only start your research when you have received approval from the ethics committee itself. They look at all the information you provide and formulate their opinion based on the overall picture of your research project.

Terms

We advise you to submit your request well in advance, as the Ethics Committee Law may take up to four weeks to perform its review. Based on the submitted documents, the Committee may raise additional questions. If you are confronted with deadlines from external parties, please contact the Ethics Committee’s secretary to discuss the possibility of speeding up the process.

If you are confronted with deadlines from external parties, please contact the Ethics Committee’s secretary to discuss the possibility of speeding up the process (ethics-fdr@uva.nl).

Practical examples and/or formats

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The organization funding my research does not ask for ethical approval. Do I still need to submit a proposal to the Ethics Committee?

    If you conduct research involving human subjects and/or personal data, and/or there is a possible conflict of interest, you need to submit your proposal to the Ethics Committee. The ethical acceptability of the proposal, data management and privacy aspects need to be reviewed before you start conducting research.

  • What are examples of ethical dilemmas?

    Ethical dilemmas may be present when conducting research with minors, a vulnerable target group or a subject in a relationship of dependence. 

    They may also include conflicts of interest. Examples are a lawyer who, in the role of deputy judge, also judges the court cases of colleagues, a full professor whose appointment is partially or wholly funded by a reputable accounting firm and who simultaneously conducts research into the compliance of the auditors of that same firm, or the risk that a private party that is willing to fund your research might jeopardise your academic independence if it is not satisfied with the outcomes of your research.

  • I will only conduct one interview. Do I also need to submit a request to the Ethics Committee?

    Yes. If you conduct research involving human subjects and/or personal data, and/or there is a possible conflict of interest, you need to submit your proposal to the Ethics Committee.

  • What will happen if the Ethics Committee objects to my research proposal?

    If the Ethics Committee does not issue a declaration of no objection, you cannot start your research. You need to process the feedback of the Committee and resubmit your proposal.

  • What is the difference between anonymising and pseudonymising?

    If you work with personal data it is important to get informed about the privacy regulations. A researcher must make clear exactly which data has been collected, and how research participants have given their consent, who has access to the data, how the data is being stored and for how long the data is being stored. 

    Since it is not allowed to publish personal data, datasets with personal data must be anonymized or pseudonymised. This difference between anonymisation and pseudonymisation: the original identification elements are still present in the event of pseudonymisation. This is not the case for anonymisation. 

    Anonymisation: encrypting personal data irreversibly in such a way that these can no longer be traced back to a natural person by any means. The great thing about anonymisation is that the GDPR no longer applies. However, the problem with it is that anonymising personal data can make research difficult, given that research results must be traceable and reproducible. In addition, new technology and techniques mean that there are fewer and fewer truly anonymous data.

    Pseudonymisation: this entails using personal data to create a data set that cannot be traced to an individual, whether directly or indirectly. In order to do so, directly identifiable elements of personal data are removed, such as names or student ID numbers, or these are coded as a number.