Dealing with ethics

Ethics committees vary greatly in their requirement to be involved in developing animated video. Ethics committees cannot vet every tweet that comes from a study Twitter feed and so there appears to have been a loosening of restrictions in regard to section A28 of the IRAS form (other forms also) regarding 'publicity'.  Most videos are clearly unlikely to cause any issues i.e., those promoting actual findings of a study. However others do, for example if a researcher were recruiting for particular racial groups to optimize drug selection based on genotype. That researcher would really want the cushion of ethical approval on any publicity they created.

As an ex-researcher and academic involved in many ethics applications I am always mindful of these questions. Often ethics is not an issue at all but when it is; I suggest the following.

  • Engage as early as possible with your ethics committee and try to get them to agree to a two step process.

  • Step one is to provide the storyboard and script to the entire board.

  • For step two, you ask the board to nominate a single member that is required to check that the animated video takes into account the committee's comments and does not fundamentally differ otherwise from the first proposal.

Below are some sample bits of text to pop into your emails if need be.


As part of our study we plan to have an animated video developed to [ADD AIM].  The linear processes of video creation are:

a) Script writing

b) Storyboard development

c) First rough draft of animated video

d) Final animated video production.

Seeking ethical approval at the last stage is inappropriate as we would not be able to make changes to the video at that point. Multiple, long duration,  stops, starts and requested minor rewrites during the creative process would increase cost substantially. There are two points where our animator says substantive changes can be made:

1. After the script and storyboard are finalized

2. After the first draft of the video is created.

We would like to have your thoughts on how best to proceed. Our suggestion would be to submit the 'script and storyboard' for a full panel scrutiny but to ask the panel to nominate a member that could check that subsequent versions implement the changes suggested and do not otherwise deviate from what was presented. Would something like that be possible? What would you propose?