Research Ethics Review Committee

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that any investigation carried out by themselves, or by others under their supervision or responsibility, is ethically acceptable, and thus meets the requirements listed in the code of ethics. To help researchers obtain that goal, the BETCHIE is put into place. On this site you can see which tools and procedures are available for researcher to check their research on ethical and integrity questions.

Researchers at the VU Amsterdam Faculty of Science are highly advised to review their upcoming research projects in which human subjects participate for any ethics issues. The BETHCIE provides guidance in dealing with these issues, first and foremost with a standardized review procedure.

Tasks of BETCHIE:

  • Review of research with human participants which do not fall under the Medical Research Involving Human Subjects Act (WMO). 
  • Give advice about ethics and integrity of research to the FB, departments, research groups and individual researchers. 
  • Carry out unexpected checks to assess whether the applicant has filled in the Self-Check correctly.  
  • Stimulate ethical research practices in general.


Members of BETCHIE

Before submitting a new research project for an ethics review, you should have prepared the following documents:

  1. Information for participants 
  2. Consent form for participants 
  3. Data management plan 
  4. Research data anonymization procedure (if you collect personal or sensitive data)
  5. Short description of the research questions, the societal and scientific relevance of the research, and the research design (max. 1 A4)

1. Do the online Self-Check
The first step in the review procedure of your planned research with human participants is to do the online Self-Check. The online Self-Check tells you whether your research requires a full ethics review. If the Self-Check concludes that your research does not require an ethics review, you will receive an email containing your Self-Check, together with a statement by the BETHCIE that your research complies with the Code Of Ethics of the Faculty of Science. You can then start your research.
Link to online Self-Check: https://vuamsterdam.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dpwvbfbxJkPdiTP
If the online Self-Check concludes that your research does require an ethics review, proceed with the following step.
Please note that when you are a master or PhD student your supervisor has to fill in the Self-Check.

2. Ethics Review Application
Complete the (online) Ethics Review Application Form and send the required documents to bethcie.beta@vu.nl: the information letter, the consent form and a data management plan.
You will receive an email message containing your submission. Save the result of your form for your own reference.

3. Light or comprehensive review
If your application raises minor or no ethical issues, a light review will be performed by one of the BETHCIE members in consultation with the chair person.
If your application raises serious, more complex ethical issues, the committee will discuss your research at the next meeting. The committee meets once a month during the academic season (September – June).

4. Advice
The committee will respond to your application with a formal advice. Note that the committee may ask you for clarification or further information regarding your application.

Only the principal investigator, project leader and/or research supervisor can submit research for an ethics review. PhD students and master thesis students must ask their supervisor to submit an application for review.

Stakeholders in research that is reviewed by the BETHCIE can submit a complaint. The complaint procedure is as follows:

a. Complaints concerning a researcher or research project
If it is believed that a member of the faculty is not complying with the ethical principles laid down in this document, or is behaving unethically otherwise when performing academic work, a written complaint backed up by arguments and where possible documentation can be submitted to the BETHCIE, bethcie.beta@vu.nl. The (vice)-chair will conduct a conversation with the person against whom the complaint is made, in order to give the researcher the opportunity to respond. The BETHCIE will publish its decision in writing to the person making the complaint and the person against whom the complaint is made, with a copy to the head of the department in question and the Faculty Board. The BETHCIE may advice the Faculty Board on whether the research project in question should be allowed to continue.

If the researcher or the research project concerns a BETHCIE member, then the committee will treat the complaint without this member. The member will be absent from the relevant (part of) the meeting, and will be excluded from the committee’s internal communication on the matter. The member, like any other researcher, will be allowed to respond. Moreover, a chair or senior member of any of the other Ethics Review Committees at the VU will take seat to independently monitor the decision process.

If the researcher or the research project concerns the BETHCIE chair, then the same rules apply, plus the chair will be replaced by the vice chair.
In case of grave violations of ethical or scientific integrity, the BETHCIE will advise the board to file a complaint with the central committee for scientific integrity.

b. Complaints concerning the BETHCIE itself
In case the complaint concerns the decisions or functioning of the BETHCIE itself, the first step is to explain the problem to the BETHCIE chair, through bethcie.beta@vu.nl. If this is for some reason not preferred, or turns out unsatisfactory, a complaint can be filed with the Faculty Board.

a.    Medical Ethics Committee (METC)
Researchers must submit their research protocol to the Medical Ethics Committee (METC) when the research is subject to the provisions of the WMO. According to the Central Committee for Research on Humans (Centrale Commissie Mensgebonden Onderzoek; CCMO), a study falls under the scope of the WMO if both the following conditions are met:

I.    It concerns medical-scientific research and
II.    Participants are subject to procedures or are required to follow rules of behavior

Since Condition II is almost always met in behavioral research (except in observation studies in natural environments), the crucial judgement is whether the study is medical in nature. Here the BETHCIE uses the following criteria:

a.    The study involves a medical or clinical research question
b.    The study involves a considerable medical health risk for the participant (more so than in daily life)
c.    The study involves medical intervention or treatment (as registered by law).

See the Appendix 3 of the Code of Ethics, Faculty of Science for more clarification on these assessment criteria.

It is the responsibility of the principal investigator, project leader and/or research supervisor to determine with reference to these regulations whether a given research proposal falling under their authority needs to be submitted to the METC for review. The BETHCIE can be asked for advice and an educated opinion.

b.    Dierenexperimentencommissie (DEC)
Plans for animal testing need to be submitted to the Dierexperimentencommissie (DEC).

Research Ethics Review Committee secretary
Christine Dijk
E: c.dijk@vu.nl