A key element of good research practice is attention to the ethical and legal implications of any research project.
The School of Divinity regards as very important the review of the ethical implications of research activities carried out by members of the School.
The Ethics in Research Committee, which is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of ethical review, has developed a policy and procedures to ensure proper ethical review and accountability.
All research which involves human subjects carried out by members of the School, including undergraduate dissertation projects and the research of postgraduate students, will be subject to a suitable level of ethical review. Ethical review should be conducted from the earliest stage of research.
In line with the recommendations of the College of Humanities and Social Science Ethics Working Party (September 2003), the School has adopted a three level approach, which is designed to be simple to use and to focus on cases requiring most detailed attention.
These ethical review procedures are to be undertaken in conjunction with such scrutiny as may be demanded by collaborating bodies (e.g. NHS), professional bodies (e.g. BSA), funders (e.g. AHRC/ESRC) and other external bodies.
If your research is completely 'desk based' and does not involve participants you are not obliged to apply for ethical approval.
You may, however find it useful to use the Level One assessment form to consider issues of confidentiality and potential conflict of interests. You do not need to submit this informal assessment to the Ethics in Research Committee.
If your research involves human subjects you are required to undertake at least a Level One Review.
This applies to all research which involves human subjects but is unlikely to raise any problematic issues.
It is a useful checklist about such areas as consent, confidentiality, data protection and transparency of method etc.
If in completing this assessment issues emerge which may potentially be problematic or foreseeable risks are identified, a further review at Level Two or Three is indicated.
Level One Ethics (Self) assessment is normally carried out by the Principal Investigator.
The form for Levels Two and Three is the same: it is a full ethics assessment. However, the processing of the applications differs.
For Level Two the application is reviewed by a member of the Ethics in Research Committee and where necessary further information is sought from the applicant.
If no foreseeable potential risks are apparent, approval will be given. If there are deemed to be problematic aspects to the research, it will be referred for Level Three processing.
Full ethics assessments at Levels Two and Three are completed by the same applicant as the original Level One assessment.
Full ethics assessment at Level Two is always indicated when the research involves participants deemed vulnerable (Young People, adults with mental impairment or those in circumstances which may impinge on their freedom to participate such as prison).
Levels of disclosure, via Disclosure Scotland, may also be required for this type of research. Please consult Ming Cao in the Divinity Office.
This applies to research requiring very careful scrutiny given a potential for psychological or physical risk to participants or researchers.
The full ethics assessment produced by an applicant will be forwarded for discussion by the School Ethics in Research Committee. If necessary, such cases may be reported to the College Research Ethics Committee.
The process for securing Level Three ethics approval can be lengthy. It is important to identify potentially problematic aspects of research early and to apply for clearance in good time.
Work on a project which is deemed to require Level Three assessment may not begin until approval is given.
Consent for participation and consent to hold personal data is required in most circumstances from participants. Records Management provides a very helpful summary of data protection guidance.
For the convenience of staff and students, a consent and authorisation to hold personal data form and explanatory notes for personal research by staff or student research for a dissertation are available.
If your work is part of a project led by a university research group please use an appropriate university badged consent form.
For School of Divinity led research, including projects of the Divinity Schools Research Centres, the Divinity School Ethics in Research Consent form should be used.
In some contexts of ethnographic research, written consent may not be obtainable or may not be meaningful. In some cases Administrative consent may be deemed sufficient. For example:
If written consent will not be obtained a full ethics assessment may be indicated. Please consult the Ethics in Research Committee via the research administrator, Karoline McLean in the Divinity office.
Even in cases where consent for participation is given administratively, researchers are still bound by the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 in regard to holding personal data.
For Ethics in Research Committee
Further information on the Implications of Resarch Grant (IRG) form.
This article was published on Sep 10, 2012