Find out whether you need a permit for your research


The research permit practices vary depending on the discipline and the type of research concerned.

Before starting research in Finland, it is necessary to establish whether that research requires a preliminary ethical review and whether a research permit needs to be applied for. This article briefly describes the research permit process. The preliminary ethical review required at the start of the research planning phase and medical research are addressed elsewhere on this website.

Research permit practices vary depending on the discipline and the type of research concerned. If, for example, subjects are being recruited from a particular organisation, the permission of the target organisation is required. At the research planning phase, the researcher needs to establish the permit procedure involved and, where necessary, contact the organisation in which they intend to gather the research data. If the research requires a preliminary ethical review, a statement from the ethics committee must be obtained before a research permit is applied for. It is important to remember that neither a positive statement from the ethics committee nor a research permit remove the researcher’s own responsibility for their research.

A research permit must be sought from the target organisation from which research subjects are recruited. Research may involve several such organisations. In large organisations in particular, there will be an established system and time-frame for processing research permit applications. In practice, it has been found that the formal research permit process can come as a surprise to students embarking on their thesis, and to their supervisors. Students should familiarise themselves with the research permit processes of potential target organisations, such as municipalities and hospital districts, and check, e.g. the time taken to process applications.

The member of staff responsible for processing applications at the target organisation will make their decision on the basis of the materials submitted. Usually, the documents required are a completed permit request form, a research plan, information and consent documents for research subjects, and other documents such as data collection forms and any recruitment announcements for potential research subjects. If the research requires a preliminary ethical review, a positive statement from the ethics committee must be appended to the permit application. 

The research permit process and the grounds for permits being granted vary depending on the organisation. One positive practice which is becoming more common is for organisations to openly set out their key research focuses, permit process, and the grounds for approving or rejecting an application on their website.

The aim for open science enables stored data to be better used in research. It must be noted that the use of data materials will continue to be regulated and a permit will naturally be required for the use of confidential information in research.

Jyrki Kettunen, Senior Researcher, Arcada University of Applied Sciences

Edited 24.7.2019

Further information:

National Institute for Health and Welfare:
Finnish Social Science Data Archive:
Open science and research project:

Ethical review

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