Lecturers Researchers Tilburg University

TLS Ethics Review Board

The Ethics Review Board (ERB) is an advisory body reporting to the TLS Faculty Board. The ERB reviews all research projects with a link to TLS that process personal data, and that are submitted to the ERB, whether they are in line with the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and relevant laws and regulations.

Why an ethics review

The ERB has been established in order to protect the privacy of and to prevent harm to research subjects and to increase ethical awareness amongst TLS researchers. The existence of an ethics board also ensures compliance with the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and relevant laws and regulations. Furthermore high ranked journals increasingly require ethical clearance before publication.

When to apply for ethical clearance

It is mandatory to file an application in GED Started prior to all research that will process personal data. This ensures that all processing activities are included in the Data Processing Register of the university and that all relevant research is checked on possible risks for the participants. Note that this also applies to researchers who conduct this type of research for other organizations or companies in addition to their appointment at TLS, in so far that they use their TLS affiliation in publications and/or register their output in Pure. If the research proposal has already received ethics approval from another ERB in the Netherlands, a shortened review procedure suffices. 

If you have any questions about applying for ethical clearance and GED Started, please send an email to erb-tls@tilburguniversity.edu.

How to apply for ethical clearance: G.E.D. Started

G.E.D. Started (GDPR, Ethics, and Data Management) is the online platform within Tilburg University for the ethics review, the data management plan, and the processing register (GDPR). As a researcher, you can submit an application here. By clicking the button below, you will automatically be redirected to the tool. Via the dashboard, you can see your previous and open applications or start a new application.

If you have any questions or are unsure how to fill in parts of the tool, you can contact the data representative of TLS to schedule a meeting (erb-tls@tilburguniversity.edu).

Information about research data management can be found on the following page Research Data Management (RDM). Note that the informed consent and information letter must meet certain requirements. These can be found on the following page Informed consent and information letters. Please read this information carefully before submitting an application. 

The ERB will be closed during summer from the 22nd of July until the 18th of August. Please submit your application on time. 

Apply through G.E.D. Started

How does the process work?

The process always begins at the start of a new research project. As soon as you, as a researcher, want to start a new project which includes the processing of personal data, you have to apply for ethical approval at the start phase of the project. Ethical approval is not possible after the start of the data collection so make sure you submit your application on time.

Once you have submitted your application via G.E.D. Started, it will be sent to the ERB. The proposal is usually assessed by 3 people: 2 reviewers and the data representative of TLS. After accordance of the ERB members and the data representative, the chairperson reviews the proposal and carries out the final assessment. 

The review covers three aspects: an ethical review (including information to and consent from participants), the management of data during and after the study, and a review of compliance with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

The board strives to carry out reviews within three weeks and the review is free of charge. It is recommended to submit an application at least two months before the start of the data collection. If you expect that a Data Protection Impact Assessment is needed, it is advisable to submit an application in GED Started three months before the start of the data collection.

In the case of a revision, you will be asked to answer the Board’s questions or amend parts of the research proposal. Please mention in the comments which changes you have made when you resubmit your application. Note that this is often needed because parts of the application are insufficient or unclear. In case of approval, you will receive an approval letter by email. The validity of the approval for data collection is 2 years. Ethical approval has a validity of 10 years. Note that the responsibility of the researchers does not end when the study receives ethics approval but continues for the entire lifecycle of the research. 

Amendments

It is possible that certain aspects of the originally approved application are changed along the way. For instance, a different group of participants will participate in the project, questions are added to the originally approved questionnaire, there is a delay or researchers want to extent the data collection period. If you want to change something in the original application, please send an email to erb-tls@tilburguniversity.edu

Complaints procedure

Researchers can appeal and complain about the outcome of the review process or the review procedure. The ERB treats these appeals and complaints in an open and solution-focused atmosphere. The appeal and complaint procedure of the ERB is as follows:

Step 1: The researcher discusses their appeal and/or complaint with their immediate supervisor and with the ERB secretary to provide clarification and/or find a satisfactory solution.

Step 2: If step 1 does not lead to a satisfactory solution, a written appeal and/or complaint is submitted to the ERB chairperson (erb-tls@tilburguniversity.edu), who responds in writing within 5 working days.

Step 3: If step 2 does not lead to a satisfactory solution, a written appeal and/or complaint is submitted to the Vice-Dean for Research, who makes a final decision and communicates this, including the reasoning, to the researcher involved and the ERB chairperson.

Important links:

Compliance with ERB principles

It is the responsibility of individual researchers:

  • To obtain ERB approval before conducting research that falls within the scope of the ERB.
  • To provide correct and complete information about the planned research to the ERB with the purpose of obtaining approval.
  • To start the research only after having obtained ERB approval.
  • To only deviate from an approved research proposal after having obtained permission of the ERB for this.
  • To discuss own or another researcher’s noncompliance with these principles with the Tilburg University confidential advisor on research integrity and/or to report the issue to the Tilburg University Committee for Scientific Integrity.

Investigating noncompliance with the ERB principles by researchers is not within the scope of the ERB.

Student research

When does research fall under student research? Which steps have to be taken for student research?

Student research is research that is done for educational purposes (e.g. a thesis). If a student does research with the intention to publish or if the collected data will be reused, we treat that research like any other scientific research. So one should always check first what the purpose of the research is. As to educational purposes, we mean research in the context of a thesis or for a course. Student research using only anonymous secondary data or student research that is not done with the intention to publish nor will the data be reused, does not need to be reviewed. However, it is important to still draw up an informed consent and information letter. The ERB can offer guidance and review these documents.

Note that if you will collect sensitive data, if the participants are part of a vulnerable group or when participants can experience physical pain or mental distress, you should contact the ERB even if there is no intention to reuse or publish the data. 

The supervisor has the final responsibility. The submission of the application must be done by the supervisor, since students do not have access to G.E.D. Started. When an ERB review is not necessary, the supervisors should still make sure that students adhere to the standards of responsible research. 

When in doubt or if you have questions, please contact the ERB (erb-tls@tilburguniversity.edu).

To give students more information about data management and the GDPR, a LibGuide and a handout have been created. Supervisors can distribute these to their students.

Members:

The ERB consists of at least one representative of each of the five TLS departments. An ERB member acts as contact person for ERB-related issues to the department the ERB member is part of. Additionally, they do not act in a personal capacity but in function of TLS. ERB members and the ERB secretary observe strict confidentiality about all information concerning the content of the research applications and the review procedure of the ERB.