Global health ethics

Guidelines on submitting research proposals for ethics review

Developing proposals that meet Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC) requirements

A researcher interviews a mother with her baby

Most WHO departments have their own procedures for supporting research in priority areas - these vary from requesting letters of intent to issuing a call for proposals to commissioning research. If you wish to know how you can get involved with research supported by WHO, please consult the WHO website for more information on research initiatives.

What is research?

The WHO ERC defines "research involving human participants" as any social science, biomedical, behavioral, or epidemiological activity that entails systematic collection or analysis of data with the intent to generate new knowledge; in which human beings (i) are exposed to manipulation, intervention, observation, or other interaction with investigators either directly or through alteration of their environment, or (ii) become individually identifiable through investigators’ collection, preparation, or use of biological material or medical or other records.

All research involving human participants that is supported by WHO undergoes final review by the ERC. The ERC does not accept proposals directly from the investigators. Proposals are submitted to the ERC by the WHO responsible technical officers from technical departments who work closely with the Principal Investigators and are in-charge of that particular project. However, if you are planning to apply for a call for grants you are encouraged to develop your project based on the guidance provided here.

The ERC has developed a series of documents to assist researchers and technical officers to meet the requirements of the ERC.

Writing a research protocol

Preparing informed consent documents