Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee

If you need to speak to serving regular or reservist personnel for your research you are likely to need to go through the Ministry of Defence Research Ethics Committee, or MODREC. Here are a few top tips:

  • MODREC is oriented around quantitative pure science, for example engineering and medical research, and is less familiar with qualitative social science research.
  • Start early, it can take up to a year to get approval.
  • You will need a MOD sponsor for your application so have a think about MOD agencies or units who would be interested in your research and approach them to be your sponsor (which really means reading your application and measuring the committee by answering emailed questions which are subject specific).
  • You will still need you university ethics approval and will need to append this to your application (but don’t wait for this approval before engaging - you can append it later).
  • There are several rounds of review to go through (The Joint Service Publication 536, accessible here, will describe this process in more detail).
  • Take your PhD supervisor with you when you get called to committee. They can reassure the committee, who may be unfamiliar with your research methods.
  • Expect an unnecessarily daunting MOD room with some twenty committee members who have scrutinised your application in detail (have yours to hand and tabbed up so you can navigate quickly to the relevant place).
  • It is achievable but is easier with the support of those who have gone before you. Talk to others who have been through this and ask them about their experiences (invariably someone helped them so they will help you).


  • It's important to look after yourself whilst conducting research, at all stages of the process, especially if your research is emotionally demanding. Here's some guidance provided by the University of Sheffield on how to manage this type of research and its potential impact on you as the researcher.
  • King's Centre for Military Ethics has made a Military Deck of Playing Cards which takes you through 54 questions developed by leading researchers and ethicists. Each card is accompanied by explanations, information, supporting reading and prompts for thought and discussion. To play, click here.
  • The Centre for Military Health Research are talking about how ethical dilemmas in war can have a profound effect on the psychological health of returning military personnel, journalists and other professionals. Read more in their post 'Moral injury: violating your ethical code can damage mental health - new research'.
  • 'Dark Traits and Military Ethics,' suggests that identifying those with certain malevolent personality traits may be a step to improving ethical culture in peacekeeping units.


The ‘Tribal Politics’ of Field Research: A Reflection on Power and Partiality in 21st-Century Warzones | Perspectives on Politics | Cambridge Core
The ‘Tribal Politics’ of Field Research: A Reflection on Power and Partiality in 21st-Century Warzones - Volume 14 Issue 4

Informed Consent and Ethical Issues in Military Medical Research

Goodhand, J. (2000). Research in conflict zones: ethics and accountability. Forced Migration Review, (8), 12–15. Retrieved from

Kolstoe, S. E., & Holden, L. (2019). Research Involving the Armed Forces. Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, 1–19.

Principled Spying: The Ethics of Secret Intelligence