We did a student project - which included a questionnaire and anthropometric measurements. Since it was a student project, and the topic was decided in a short time, we did not take an ethical approval from our institute committee. Our institute doesn't have a provision for fast track approvals for student projects.

But we took a written informed consent for each participant. Since we got interesting results (unexpexted) we thought of publishing our study. The institute ethical committe denied a post hoc approval.

Do surveys actually require an ethical approval from a journal point of a view?

Since we have the forms of informed consent, aren't they sufficient?

If none work out, is there a repository for unpublished work like ArXiv in epidemiology?

  • 2
    If you read the Declaration of Helsinki, which some journals expect authors to follow, they clearly state that an ethics committee must approve research before the study begins. I suspect that by not seeking approval before conducting the research you may have limited the number of journals you can submit to.
    – Ian_Fin
    Oct 16, 2016 at 15:47
  • 6
    I disagree with the close vote. I think it is a legitimate question although the OP may have made a mistake by not doing IRB before the project. But, that's exactly why the OP needs to ask if he did it wrong.
    – Nobody
    Oct 16, 2016 at 16:01
  • 1
    Consider yourself very lucky you were not failed outright and chalk it up to experience. Many departments would fail students who carried out experiments without obtaining appropriate ethical approval. Oct 16, 2016 at 21:19
  • Ya, I understand that an ethical approval is a must. we do these projects as research methodology coursework in a fixed time (ethical approval at least at our place requires submission of the proposal before a month or so and we are supposedto decide the project and finish in a month itself). Since it is a practical issue, we do it just with consent and these are generally not thought of being published.
    – Polisetty
    Oct 17, 2016 at 6:30
  • If you were so fast in collecting meaningful data the first time around, why don’t you re-do the experiment from scratch? This time with prior approval. You should get the same results.
    – mritz_p
    Jul 31, 2022 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


The question of what sort of ethical approval is required is a complicated one, depending on the local laws, funding sources, university policies, and journal policies. I don't think anyone can give a definitive answer without knowing these details. For example, see these charts for an indication of the rules imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since we have the forms of informed consent, aren't they sufficient?

No. If ethical review consisted of nothing but saying "be sure to obtain informed consent", then it would be replaced by a simple rule requiring informed consent. Even that is tricky (what exactly are the risks you need to inform participants of?), and there are other issues for a survey. For example, are you following best practices to ensure anonymity of survey respondents?

If none work out, is there a repository for unpublished work like ArXiv in epidemiology?

I don't know, but I can't really imagine the community would look kindly on using such a repository to avoid ethical review.

The institute ethical committee denied a post hoc approval.

It makes sense for ethics committees to be reluctant to approve research after the fact. One reason is that it puts a lot of pressure on them to approve research that's not perfect but can no longer be fixed; another reason is that if post hoc approval is an option, it creates an incentive for researchers to skip the initial approval in the hope of forcing it through the process later.

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