EPFL is committed to respect for the basic principles of research ethics. The EPFL Human Research Ethics Committee reviews projects conducted by EPFL researchers that involve human participants and/or personal data. These projects do not fall within the scope of the Federal Act on Research with Human Beings (HRA).
The EPFL Human Research Ethics Committee reviews projects conducted by EPFL researchers that involve human participants and/or personal data. These projects do not fall within the scope of the Federal Act on Research involving Human Beings (Human Research Act, HRA).
The cantonal ethics committees (CER-VD and CCER ) evaluate projects that fall within the scope of the HRA. The Federal Act applies to projects related to human diseases and the structure and function of the human body and those that involve the use of health-related personal data. If the cantonal ethics committee is competent to review a project, the HREC is not.
The HREC reviews, for example, projects that involve non-invasive experiments, the collection or processing of personal data (privacy issues) and projects that make use of interviews, observations, questionnaires/surveys, tracking of participants, or that use secondary use of information provided for other purposes (e.g. social media sites).
The membership of the Committee is composed of experts in different areas: ethics, legal, medical, information and communication systems, engineering, and social humanities.
More information about the mandate of the HREC can be found in the HREC Bylaws (see LEX 1.3.4 on this page).
The Committee uses three different review procedures: simplified review, normal review and short-track review (for amendments of previously approved projects and sub-projects covered by a general protocol). The review procedure depends on the complexity and the risks related to the project. The Committee is not in a position to do a retro-active review of a project.
The HREC review is an on-line process. However, a meeting with the PI can be requested if needed. The entire evaluation takes approximately 5-6 weeks, after submission to the Committee (and if there are no major questions and comments).
HREC applications need to be submitted via the on-line application platform. The application form needs to be completed and submitted to the Research Office/Ethics Affairs (ReO/EA). The ReO/EA is the liaison between the researchers and the HREC during the evaluation process.
- HREC – Template Research Protocol and Ethical Issues (English – login with your Gaspar account)
- HREC – Information Sheet Template (English/French)
- HREC – Consent form for research participants template (English/French)
A Data Management Plan needs to be included as part of your HREC submission. For DMP templates, see the Library web-page.
Focus on web-based data collection
Social media platforms provide an interesting opportunity for researchers to collect data.
This guidance document (available here, with your Gaspar account) for EPFL researchers outlines the legal framework that applies to research projects that involve web-based data collection. The document summarizes some basic data protection concepts, presents the different options for on-line data collection and the legal framework that must be respected.