Statement of principles
Our framework for the conduct of ethical research.
The University of Edinburgh’s fundamental mission is the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and understanding.
This framework for the ethical conduct of research within the University’s College of Humanities and Social Science is also guided by principles of dignity, respect and care for others, together with honesty, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, and leadership.
The principles apply equally to staff and students in the College.
Dignity, respect and care for others, and honesty
In particular, where research involves the participation of individual human beings as the subjects of investigation, the procedures described below must be followed to ensure that its design, implementation and conclusion respects the dignity, health and safety of such participants, as well as taking full account of any ethical guidelines drawn up by relevant professional bodies.
Participants in a study have the right to be informed about the aims and purposes of research (except in specific circumstances where disclosure would be prejudicial to the outcome of the research project), the likely publication of its findings, the context in which the findings will be reported and the potential consequences for individuals.
The storage, processing and disposal of information about individuals who are research subjects must meet legal requirements, including the individual’s explicit written consent to the proposed holding and use of the data. Individuals’ right to access and correct information held about them should also be explained.
The integrity of research results should always be ensured. In any publication, the author(s) must be able to identify their contribution to the publication, be familiar with the content, and accept personal responsibility for it. The contribution of others, either as formal collaborators or less formally as supporters of the research, must be properly acknowledged. Both academic fraud and plagiarism must be guarded against.
Academic fraud strikes at the whole basis of academic activity and the quest for knowledge. It may involve fabricating or falsifying research results (such as making false claims in relation to experiments, interviews or surveys; the omission of statements relating to data, results or interviews; or claims which cannot be justified). Plagiarism — the unacknowledged use of another person’s ideas, words or work — can arise deliberately as a serious form of cheating, or may occur accidentally through poor standards of scholarship.
Peer review is an important part of research activity. Those who agree to act as reviewers should declare any actual or potential conflicts of interest, should treat any information received in their capacity as reviewers as confidential, and should not take advantage of any information received in this way. Disagreement on questions of interpretation or judgement must be kept within the bounds of civilised academic discourse.
Under the Freedom of Information Acts information held by researchers may have to be released on request, unless an appropriate exemption can be applied. Full, clear and secure records of all stages of research work should be kept, so that data can be released if appropriate or a proper exemption sought. Records, whether stored electronically or as hard copy, should include accurate and contemporary details of primary experimental data and results, in order to provide unambiguous answers to any questions which may later arise regarding the validity of the data and to demonstrate good research practice.
External scrutiny of research, whether in its preparation, execution or publication, is an important benefit for researchers. Publication of the results of research is generally expected. Account must however be taken of relevant intellectual property rights and the confidentiality of any commissioned research carried out under contract.
Those responsible for academic leadership should ensure a climate within which research can be conducted in accordance with the ethical considerations set out in this Code. The health and safety of researchers in conducting research should always be considered, including appropriate support mechanisms. Research should be appropriately supervised, and advice should be available on matters of research integrity and academic conduct. It is the responsibility of experienced staff to inculcate these principles in less experienced researchers and students.