Information for staff and students on managing ethical risks in their research
The School's policy and procedures have been developed by the School Research Ethics Committee to ensure that all research carried out in the name of the University of Edinburgh and the School is conducted in keeping with the highest ethical standards. All research carried out by members of the School, including undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations, are subject to these procedures. The ethical review process is designed to support researchers in managing risks associated with their research, and to ensure the highest professional standards in designing, conducting and disseminating research.
***Research ethics issues raised by Covid-19***
The College research ethics and governance team has collated new guidance to support staff and student in their ethical decision-making at this time (available on Sharepoint). This guidance covers ethical considerations and review processes, including in relation to alternative non face-to-face research methods (e.g. online interviews and surveys). You can also find on this site CAHSS information on University sponsorship at this time, and guidance from ACCORD. There is also information on a dedicated CAHSS website.
The Edinburgh Resesarch Office also has guidance (including a checklist) for those recommencing research on campus, in particular research involving in-person interviews: guidance for restarting research on campus.
School Research Ethics Committee
The Research Ethics Committee of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology is responsible for ensuring that ethics procedures are adopted, implemented and regularly reviewed within the School. It consists of the Director of Research (Chair), Director of Undergraduate Study, Director of Postgraduate Study, and subject area representatives from Archaeology, Classics and History. The Research and Knowledge Exchange Office Administrator acts as secretary and any queries should be directed to: email@example.com
The purpose of the Committee is to:
- Review ethics policy and procedures in the School relating to all staff and students;
- Scrutinize and offer advice on ethics cases that cannot be resolved at subject area level;
- Provide ethics approval for such cases or refer them for college-level advice;
- Ensure that appropriate ethics training is delivered to staff and students;
- Ensure that procedures for dealing with misconduct are clear.
Research proposals made jointly with outside researchers or bodies will be subject to the ethics policy and procedures of the lead researcher or body.
The Committee will review on an annual basis the Ethics Policy and Procedures of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.
There are three levels of Research Ethics assessment:
- Level 1: ALL staff, fellows, doctoral and MSc students embarking on a research project must carry out a Level 1 self-assessment of ethical risks before the research starts. Taught MSc and Undergraduate students conducting primary research for a dissertation or for a project should also carry out such an assessment. There is a specific Level 1 form for Undergraduate students. If the Level 1 form identifies no special ethical risks, the project is confirmed as a Level 1 and generally no further action is required.
- Level 2: Where a Level 1 self-assessment identifies particular risks, a more detailed assessment is required, using the Level 2/3 form. This form is then subject to scrutiny and approval by the School Research Ethics Committee. This higher level of scrutiny will generally be required for research on sensitive topics or illegal practices; research involving vulnerable groups or children; research that could adversely affect participants or the researcher; or in cases where there are impediments to obtaining the informed consent of participants. In the case of osteoarchaeology it may be required in relation to research that makes use of more recent skeletal remains. This list of possible risks is not exhaustive. Please see the Level 2/3 form for further details.
In most cases, these types of risks can be dealt with through standard procedures, checks and safeguards, which will need to be elaborated in the Level 2/3 form. In some cases the School Research Ethics Committee may seek the advice of an external lay representative; the College has appointed a lay representative to be available to Schools in such cases.
- Level 3: In some cases, however, a proposed project creates more serious risks, usually because of the potential for physical or psychological harm to the investigator or participants. In such cases, research may be deemed to be Level 3.
Each of the three Levels involves a different form of scrutiny; with Level 3 proposals being forwarded to College Research Committee. The precise procedure for reviewing research ethics differs according to the status of the investigator. Please consult the information below on procedures for:
Any concerns about misconduct relating to research ethics or research integrity within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology should be reported to the Head of School, Professor Ewen Cameron (Ewen.Cameron@ed.ac.uk) in the first instance, or to the Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science.
- Training for Research ethics and integrity. This is an online course run by the Institute of Academic Development (IAD).
- The UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) is an independent body which offers confidential and expert advice and guidance to universities, other research organisations, individual researchers and members of the public about the conduct of research.
- Oral History Society guidance on ethics
- UKRI research integrity guidance