Research Ethics and Integrity
All research undertaken by Divinity students and staff must satisfy key ethical principles.
The research undertaken must:
maximise benefits and minimize risks to individuals and society
protect research participants by respecting their rights, dignity, interests and values and limit engagement with participants to necessary stated objectives
obtain the advance voluntary informed consent of participants, keep them appropriately informed throughout a project lifecycle and make them aware that they are free to withdraw at any time
comply with data protection requirements and respect the participant right to privacy
meet recognised integrity standards and identify any conflicts of interest
guard against research misconduct and academic fraud (e.g. results fabrication or falsification, plagiarism)
Ethical review and accountability
All research involving human subjects, including undergraduate dissertation projects and research by postgraduates, is subject to ethical review. This must be conducted at the planning stage and always before the research is undertaken.
The Divinity Research Ethics Committee is responsible for overseeing research ethics and integrity. There is a three-level approach to ethical review, which is designed to be simple to use and only escalates cases where necessary.
If your research is completely 'desk-based' and does not involve participants you do not need to complete an ethical review. However, you may find the Level One self-assessment form useful in order to identify any confidentiality, conflict of interest or political issues. For desk-based research you are not required to submit this self-assessment.
Level One: Self-assessment
This applies to all research that involves human subjects.
It covers benefits and risks, protecting and engaging participants, data protection and privacy, conflicts of interest and the prevention of terrorism.
It should be conducted by:
- taught dissertation or fieldwork students, in conjunction with their supervisor, as soon as the research proposal has been approved
- research students, in conjunction with their principal supervisor, at the beginning of their project
- academic staff before a funded or unfunded research project commences
For individuals who cannot give written consent, documented verbal consent is acceptable.
If no ethically problematic issues are identified, the research may proceed.
At present, for all research involving direct contact with human subjects the following form must also be completed and submitted with it:
Level Two: Full ethical assessment
This applies to all research with potentially ethically problematic aspects.
It covers the same issues as the Level One form but in greater depth.
This includes ethnographic research where individual consent is unobtainable and administrative consent may be deemed sufficient. For example:
- studies where the data collection involves aggregated (not individual) statistical information and where data collection respects privacy and does not bring risks to individuals
- studies of the development and evaluation of curriculum materials, resources, guidelines, test items, or programmes rather than the study, observation or evaluation of individuals
It should be conducted by the same person as the Level One self-assessment.
The completed form must be submitted to the Research Ethics Committee at least one month before approval is needed. It will be reviewed by a Committee member and further information may be sought from the applicant.
Level Three: Foreseeable potential risk
Research reviewed at this level is likely to: involve vulnerable participants, potentially harm or discomfort participants or other individuals or groups, be conducted without explicit participant consent, potentially undermine participant privacy or concern groups that may be considered terrorist or extremist.
The Full Ethics Review Form produced for Level Two assessment will be discussed by the Divinity Research Ethics Committee. If necessary, advice may be sought from the College Research Ethics Committee.
Participant Information Sheet
An information sheet must be completed for all research involving human subjects and given to them.
Karen Duncan, tel 0131 650 8905, email firstname.lastname@example.org