Q: What to do if a manuscript gets rejected because ethical approval was not obtained?

Detailed Question -

Ethical approval not obtained before a survey was done because the researcher felt it was a simple questionnaire survey, which elicited information on cost of drugs form outpatients. What's the way forward for such a manuscript to be published subsequently?

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Answer:

As per the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity (OREI), ethical approval is required for any kind of experiment that has human involvement. However, exemption from ethical approval may be granted for research projects that

  • are of negligible risk AND
  • use only non-identifiable data about human beings.

The term “negligible risk” is used for research in which there is no foreseeable risk of harm or discomfort to the participants; that is, there is no risk of anything more than minor inconveniences such as filling a form, spending time to participate in a survey, etc.

Non-identifiable data are data from which specific individuals cannot be identified, that is, data that does not include any individual identifiers such as name, address, company and position title, etc. However, simply a lack of names does not automatically make data non-identifiable; the combination data could make the data re-identifiable.

If your research meets the above mentioned criteria you can apply for an exemption. Once the exemption is granted, you should be able to submit the paper to a journal.