The University has a responsibility to ensure that all research undertaken by its staff and students is conducted in an appropriate manner and in line with relevant, often subject specific, codes of ethical practice. It has, therefore, published Guidelines on Good Research Practice to assist both the University’s Ethics Committee and Schools in making appropriate assessments of ethical issues in research. These guidelines are routinely distributed to all staff and students undertaking research and published on the University’s web pages.
The University’s Research Committee is the body responsible for monitoring and providing generic guidelines on ethical issues in the University. To meet these responsibilities the University Research Committee has established a multidisciplinary sub-committee, the Ethics Committee, which monitors good research practice and provides advice on individual ethical cases. The Ethics sub-committee reports directly to the University’s Research Committee who report in turn to Senate and the University’s Senior Management Board. In addition the University’s Research Committee facilitates training in ‘Research Ethics’ through courses provided by the Staff Development Unit and prepares an annual report to Senate on ethical issues arsing from research undertaken at the University.
Within the University’s ethical framework Schools, including the School of Business and Economics, are required to give due consideration to all ethical issues arising from research undertaken by their staff and students. In the School of Business and Economics this function is to be discharged by the School’s Research Ethics Committee (REC), which draws on the expertise offered by staff in the School across a wide range of academic areas in business and economics. Although the School’s Research Ethics Committee takes responsibility for considering whether a research project should be given ethical approval, any case that cannot be resolved internally are referred to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research who, in his capacity as Chair of the University’s Research Committee, refers the case to the sub-committee on Research Ethics. The School’s Research Ethics Committee reports to the School’s Research Committee, which is required to provide an annual report to the University’s Research Committee detailing all research applications received within the School needing ethical approval.
The terms of reference of the School’s Research Ethics Committee with regard to ethical issues include:
The School of Business and Economics has an established procedure for dealing with and identifying research that is likely to raise ethical issues. The procedure adopted by the School seeks to sort projects according to whether formal ethical approval is needed or not. In all cases the main researcher involved in each project must complete:
The procedure used to identify and evaluate ethical issues in the School can be summarised as follows and is designed to address the six key principles of ethical research identified by the ESRC: namely that (i) research should be designed, reviewed and undertaken to ensure integrity and quality; (ii) research staff and subjects must be informed fully about the purpose, methods and intended uses of the research, what their participation in the research entails and the risks involved; (iii) the confidentiality of information supplied and of the anonymity of respondents is respected; (iv) there is voluntary participation free from coercion; (v) any harm to participants is avoided; and (vi) the independence of the research must be clear and any conflicts of interest identified.
The policy applies to all research undertaken within the School which involves the use or collection of confidential data and/or which raise wider ethical issues. The policy is intended to cover work done by undergraduates, postgraduates (taught and research), research staff and academic staff.
The procedure to be followed by all students, research staff and academic staff can be described as follows:
1. Complete the Ethics Evaluation form. If the answer to any of the questions on this form is yes you need to complete an Ethics Approval form. If an Ethics Approval form does not need to be completed return the signed Ethics Evaluation form to the School Office. There will be drop boxes for undergraduate, taught postgraduate, research staff and students, and academic staff provided in the School Office.
2. Where there is a ‘yes’ on the Ethics Evaluation form complete an Ethics Approval form. All questions should be answered and for any intended survey work a full questionnaire should be attached to the documentation. Please note that no research/project can commence in this case until approval is given by the School’s Research Ethics Committee, which will meet on a regular and timely basis to consider applications. Signed copies of the Ethics Evaluation form and Ethics Approval form, along with any additional information identified in the Checklist of Attachments should be left in the appropriate drop box in the School’s Office.
The School Office is located in the foyer on the ground floor of the Haldane Building.
Please note that academic staff in the School have the following responsibilities:
1. Supervisors or those overseeing undergraduate projects have the responsibility for ensuring that necessary applications for ethics evaluation and approval are made by their students.
2. Supervisors of taught and research postgraduate students have the responsibility for ensuring that necessary applications for ethics evaluation and approval are made by their students.
3. Directors of research projects have the responsibility for ensuring that necessary applications for ethics evaluation and approval are made by their contracted research staff.
4. Academic staff have the responsibility for ensuring that necessary applications for ethics evaluation and approval are made in their work.
If a complaint about the conduct of any research is received, no matter how minor, this should be passed on immediately to the School’s Ethics Committee for consideration. It will convene a meeting to review the nature of the complaint and the ethical procedures followed in the conduct of the research.
Every year the School’s Ethics Committee will randomly sample the ethical conduct of research projects carried out within the school.
Those whose research is sampled will be asked to review the ethical issues which arose and how they dealt with them. They will also be asked to review the efficacy of the ethics approval process.