Setting up Research

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A contract should be put in place if you are sharing materials, data, confidential information, sending or receiving funding, conducting research with human participants, or if intellectual property is being used or created in a project, and may also be necessary for other situations. Some funders have particular requirements regarding collaboration agreements. Please discuss this with the Research Services Contracts team.   

Research Services is responsible for drafting, reviewing, negotiating and authorising all research-related contracts on behalf of the University.  It is important to involve Research Services as early as possible, because contract negotiation can sometimes be a lengthy process. This will enable RS to negotiate and finalise the contract in a timely manner.

Research Services needs to have background information on your project. The information to supply page provides further details.

A Collaboration Agreement will usually be the most appropriate form of agreement. For some situations where interaction is more limited, other types of contracts might be more suitable, for example Material Transfer Agreements for the transfer of scientific material or Confidential Disclosure Agreements to protect unpublished and/or proprietary information.

Further information is available from the Research Services Contracts webpages.  

All University of Oxford research requires ethical review if it involves human participants and/or personal data.

The ethics process depends broadly on which type of research is being conducted, and on the University department or faculty where the researcher is based. Further information about how to apply for ethical review is available from the research ethics (CUREC) web pages. 

Research in the Social Sciences or Humanities is generally reviewed by the relevant departmental research ethics committee (DREC) in the first instance or, if there is no DREC, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Inter-Divisional Research Ethics Committee (SSH IDREC).

DRECs have delegated authority from the SSH IDREC to approve research with 'straightforward' ethical issues (ie CUREC 1A applications).  Less straightforward cases, where full CUREC 2 applications are required, must be submitted to the DREC in the first instance for initial review, and processed by the DREC within three weeks of receipt. Once the DREC is satisfied, the CUREC 2 application will then be sent to the SSH IDREC for final review and approval.  Please see the SSH IDREC and DREC application process page for further information.

The University's Best Practice Guidance 16 explains when and how local oversight should be sought. BPG 16 also includes an ethics issues checklist for international research (appendix A).

Medical or health-related research conducted outside the European Union requires review by OxTREC. Note that ethical approval from OxTREC is contingent upon receiving approval from the relevant local (in country) ethics committee(s).

Prior to applying to OxTREC for ethical review, researchers should consult “University medical research conducted outside the UK and the EU: a guide to applying for ethical review” (available here).

Please see the OxTREC application process page for further details on how to apply to OxTREC for ethical review, including details of meeting dates and submission deadlines.

Young Lives have provided an overview of their approval from multiple ethics committees, which has also been written up as a case study by ESRC.

Available on-line and in-person ethics training for different divisions.

How and where to apply for Oxford ethics review

Resources for researchers preparing an application


Research Services provides guidance on costing including specific costs related to insurance for research.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of fees and costs which may need to be included in the budget of an international collaboration project, depending on the scale and location of your project:


See section below


  • Local ethics committees fees

Local ethics committees’ fees may vary by country.

  • Insurance Premiums

Working in a high risk country or/and on high risk activities might require a premium. You might also need to take out additional insurance not covered by the University insurance (e.g. motor insurance).

  • Insurance for sites outside the UK (clinical trial specific)

Many countries require a prescriptive form of cover with a separate clinical trial-specific insurance policy. Such cover must be arranged through the University. Early referral to the Risk and Insurance Manager (Research) is advised and more information can be found on the Research Support website.

  • Legal fees

Specialist advice might need to be taken to provide guidance on local laws and regulations (e.g. obligations for overseas staff, requirements linked to the activities depending on the jurisdiction they are taking place). Please contact Legal Services Office if you require further advice.

Other costs

  • Management time – face-to-face meetings

Budget for staff time dedicated to nurturing partnership and managing the project is often underestimated. Sufficient employment and travel costs to cover face-to-face meetings might need to be budgeted.

  • Publication costs for open access

Sherpa Juliet informs whether costs of open access publication may be reimbursed by a funder.

  • Translation/Interpretation

Languages services might be necessary for the project management and implementation. The University’s preferred supplier should be used where possible.

Any payment to USA has US$20-30 deducted as a wire fee. The wire fee is deducted before it reaches the beneficiary. If the US collaborator/sub-contractor is submitting an invoice, they should add a line for the wire fee to ensure they receive the payment in full.

  • Relocation and travel costs

The department may agree to cover all related travel and relocation costs. Where the University has requested work to be carried out overseas, reasonable relocation expenses will be reimbursed by the University. All relocation costs must be agreed in advance by the head of department / faculty board chair.

Trading with overseas customers and suppliers has a wide range of VAT and customs duty implications.

Research Services provides advice on VAT and import Duty for DI-non staff costs.

Guidance can also be found on the Tax pages of the Finance Division website.

  • Employment tax for overseas workers

Calculation of tax, National Insurance Contributions and Social Security will depend on the amount of time spent abroad, the location of the employee’s work and the employee’s usual residence.

The University HR team provides guidance for UK-based employees working abroad and advice for non-UK residents working abroad. The Tax team is involved in a Global Mobility project to catalogue and document the international implications of the current work of the University and its subsidiaries. The Tax team is developing country-specific guidance on the financial and reporting implications for the University, which will be available on the Finance website.

Individual staff members are responsible for ensuring that their overseas and UK tax filings are in order. The rules and practicalities on income and employment tax liabilities are complex and country-specific. HMRC has country specific guidance on living overseas.

  • VAT treatment of research funding

It is crucial to establish the VAT treatment of your research i.e. whether it is business or non-business as this will have financial consequences for your project.

VAT on services from overseas suppliers used in the UK

You must account for UK reverse charge VAT on most services received from overseas suppliers. This increases the cost to the project of such a purchase by 20%. For a non-business research contract, this VAT is not recoverable and is a cost to the department. More information can be found on the Finance webpages. Most funders view VAT as an eligible cost but there are exceptions.

  • VAT if a collaborator is a commercial body

If the University has jointly applied for grant funding with a company, and the University is the lead, any invoices we receive from that company will be subject to VAT. If the company is based outside the UK (and therefore not charging VAT) 20% VAT must be accounted for on their invoices under the “reverse charge” rules.

  •  VAT on imported goods

You are obliged to account for acquisition VAT on the receipt of goods from EU suppliers and to pay import VAT on the receipt of goods from non-EU suppliers, unless one of the specific VAT reliefs applies (e.g. equipment for medical research). The Finance Division webpages provide guidance on international VAT and custom duties. More information on how to complete the import duty field in X5 can be found on the Research Support website.

The University is best protected against exchange rate fluctuations when contracts are conducted in sterling. In certain circumstances, where payment for goods/services cannot be made in sterling, some involvement by Treasury may be appropriate. More information can be found on the Finance website.

For Research income, X5 rates should be used to convert a sterling budget into the currency of the grant award. The rates available on the X5 system are for USD and Euro and can be found on the Research Services rates pages. Other currency rates must be obtained by contacting Treasury. Please note that these approved X5 exchange rates are only used to calculate income to the University and must not be used to calculate expenditure.

If the project needs to purchase non-staff items from abroad in a foreign currency, or calculate budgets for collaborators or sub-contractors, the department should contact the Treasury team to obtain an appropriate rate.

Written confirmation of the exchange rate supplied by Treasury should be forwarded to your Research Accounts advisor, along with any invoices that need to be paid using the quoted rate. This will mean that the foreign currency invoices will match back to the sterling budget we have available here at Oxford.

It is advised to complete a Data Management Plan as early as possible. This will help you think through the key issues relating to research data management and any costs involved. The Oxford Research Data site provides a range of advice and support on data management. The best way to get support is to send an email to or consult the website. The Research Data team prefers to give specific advice tailored to each research activity, so it is best practice to get in contact to discuss individual queries.

If you are working with a host institution overseas, there are specific issues to consider:

  • What will happen with the data once it has been collected? Are there any restrictions in the use of collected data?
  • How will the data be handled abroad? Which system will be used? Is the system of the host institution compatible with the system used in the University? Can data be extracted from your host institution system?

When using third parties (e.g. individuals or companies) to assist with translation or the transcription of interviews, or otherwise handling personal data, ensure that the third party will be handling such information safely, securely and confidentially. The University Information Security site has a guidance on working with third parties.

If the research team is intending to share access to personal data, then it is required by law to enter into a written agreement with those parties, setting out the conditions on which the data is made available. Contact Research Services if you need a data sharing agreement.

Third parties handling personal data, will need to comply with GDPR regardless of the country they are located in.

Data sharing outside the EU