Human Research Ethics

Human Research Committee

In the past few decades, increasing awareness and concern for the ethical impact of human research has caused committees that oversee such research to be founded in non-medical context. Because TU Delft is concerned with maintaining ethical protections for those who volunteer to help our science and engineering studies, our own Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) examines research which involves human subjects. This screening is mandatory.

Among the qualities expected of ethical human research, the committee considers:

  • Are subjects subjected to a greater than acceptable risk given the potential benefits?
  • Have subjects or participants been adequately informed and given free consent? Can they withdraw without any implications? 
  • Are vulnerable populations targeted and have special precautions been taken to protect them?
  • Is the study properly expressed scientifically and does it clearly state its potential harms and benefits?
  • Is the equipment safe?
  • How will personal data be protected?

Have a look at this video for a further introduction to work of HREC: 

These considerations arise out of international agreements such as the Helsinki Declaration, in which nations around the world agree to oversee medical research using humans and apply the Nuremberg Principles to all such research. Because TU Delft is concerned with ethics in all contexts, we apply these principles even to non-medical human research conducted at our university.

Would you like to know about the history of human research ethics: check this web lecture. 

These are the articles of association as approved by the CvB in June 2016


As with other Ethics Committees around the world, the HREC first uses a checklist to determine whether the proposed research poses more than a minimal risk. Minimal risk is typically defined by the standard, every-day risks we face in our daily lives. These applications will be reviewed by the secretary and chair of HREC.

Due to the current coronavirus situation the HREC will not approve any proposed studies that do not, or cannot, comply with RIVM-guidelines, specifically any set conditions on physical contact, physical proximity, and transportation.

This is a temporary measure that will remain in place until such time when HREC feels it is acceptable again to execute such studies. In the meantime study proposals can, and should, be submitted to HREC for assessment. As usual, the HREC will communicate the results of its assessment to the applicants.

If the proposed study poses an apparently more than minimal risk, further submissions are requested, and the committee (composed of representatives of various faculties) convenes to assess the submission. Following the committee’s discussion, changes may be requested to the proposed study’s protocols, or more typically, to the informed consent documents. In some cases, no changes are necessary.

Once approved, a letter is issued from the committee which is increasingly necessary for funding agencies and journal publications indicating that the study has been reviewed and approved. The committee meets every month (except during Summer holidays).

The committee can decide to:

  • Approve the application
  • Approve under a number of conditions and/or recommendations
  • In rare cases: to disaprove the application. In this case we will have further discussions with the applicant. 

 For questions about the procedure:

We are not a medical ethics committee! If you conduct an experiment which involves medical care or devices, you have to get approval from a medical ethics committee. Please contact us if you need contact information for a medical committee.
Follow this link to find out more about the definition of a medical study.

TU Delft has a license to perform animal testing in the Faculty of Applied Sciences since 2009 but there has not been any animal testing since that time. The HREC has no mandate to assess such research. 

Privacy information

More information about the General Data Protection Regulation and research can be found <link en privacy gdpr-and-research _blank>here.

You can find the details for submitting your HREC application here.