Course overview

Course created: January 2020

This short course should take 60–90 minutes to complete.

A certificate is issued once a minimum of 80% is achieved in the final quiz section.

Increasingly biomedical ethics committees are being asked to review applications to conduct social research (SR) on health-related topics. As with medical research, SR can involve risks of harm as well as potential benefits that need to be assessed in an ethics review process. However, these risks and benefits can be different from those in medical research. Ethics review of SR should be sensitive to how ethical issues in social research depart from the so-called ‘medical model’ of review.

Who should take this course?
This course is designed for biomedical research ethics committee members and managers who review health-related research protocols that use SR approaches, as well as for social researchers who are preparing protocols for review by biomedical research ethics committees. In particular, it aims to highlight some of the ethical issues that can arise in the conduct of qualitative SR.

Upon completion of this course, you will have an understanding of:

  • What SR is; including its disciplinary approaches, the types of data involved and common methods of data collection

  • Ethical considerations relevant to SR review and ways of addressing them

  • Governing SR: systems for administration and ethics governance


The Global Health Training Centre is built through the support and partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The authors thank both the internal and external peer reviewers who reviewed this course material.


  • Kate Sahan – Postdoctoral researcher in Responsible Research and Innovation as a global challenge, Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

  • Patricia Kingori – Associate Professor and Wellcome Senior Investigator, The Ethox Centre and Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford



  • Nicola Desmond – Senior Lecturer & Head of Behaviour & Health Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine & Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Programme

  • Jennifer Ilo Van Nuil – Global Health Bioethics Network Research Fellow, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Ho Chi Minh City

  • Kathryn Dally – Senior Assistant Registrar (Ethics and Integrity), Research Services, University of Oxford

Application developer

  • Kehkashan Shah – Training Assistant, The Global Health Network


Use and reproduction of these e-learning materials:

These e-learning materials are owned by The Global Health Network. You are free to share or adapt this material but you must attribute it to The Global Health Network using the link:


 Your feedback is greatly appreciated; please take a couple of minutes to tell us your thoughts on this course: 

Click here to take survey