The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures attaches great importance to research ethics and integrity and has developed rigorous procedures for ensuring proper ethical review and accountability.
The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of research integrity.
The research ethics 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. The University of Edinburgh adheres to the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) Code of Practice for Research and the Universities UK (UUK) Concordat to Support Research Integrity.
In line with the principles outlined in these documents, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) has developed the College Research Ethics Framework (CREF).
Staff and students in LLC should familiarise themselves with these policies before completing the online Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Application which serves as the vehicle for research ethics review.
All new research projects (and not only those involving human participants, personal or sensitive data, and/or human tissue), regardless of whether they are funded or not, should go through research ethics review before they commence. Any new ethical issues which arise during the course of the research should be addressed via further ethics review in a timely manner.
It is the responsibility of all researchers – staff and students – to ensure that their research project undergoes ethical review. Supervisors of undergraduate, Masters and PhD projects should ensure to the best of their ability that student research under their supervision goes through the formal ethical review process.
For Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Applications, please ensure that you adhere to the LLC submission deadlines of a minimum of:
- 4 weeks before the commencement of any project or funding application deadline which does not involve human participants
- 8 weeks before the commencement of any project or funding application deadline which involves human participants
This will allow sufficient time for proper research ethics review of the proposed research to be conducted. Please note that for projects which involve complex ethical issues, it may be necessary to seek advice from the College Research Ethics Committee or specialists in other schools within the University.
For student research projects, the following deadlines apply:
Undergraduate and taught postgraduate dissertations: Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Applications should receive a favourable opinion (“approval”) no later than three months before the submission deadline. No research should take place before a favourable opinion is secured.
15,000 word dissertations: Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Applications should receive a favourable opinion (“approval”) no later than three months before the submission deadline. No research should take place before a favourable opinion is secured.
30,000 word dissertations: Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Applications should receive a favourable opinion (“approval”) no later than six months before the submission deadline. No research should take place before a favourable opinion is secured.
PhD theses: Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Applications should receive a favourable opinion (“approval”) no later than three months after the First Year Review. No research should take place before a favourable opinion is secured.
Please note that for projects which involve complex ethical issues, it may be necessary to seek advice from the College Research Ethics Committee or specialists in other schools within the University.
When should I submit my research ethics application (Research Ethics, Integrity and Governance Application) for review?
There is a wide range of approaches to designing and conducting research. It is not always clear exactly when a research project begins and ends. You will need to take some preparatory steps in order to identify things such as your topic, possible research questions, primary materials, secondary literature, theoretical approach, etc. You should submit your research ethics application for your review when you have a clear idea of what your project is about (topic and research question/s) and what your approach will be (your methods or methodology). You should not begin analysing primary materials or generating new data before securing a favourable ethical opinion (sometimes referred to as “ethics approval”).
What are some of the elements of research that I could do before submitting my research ethics application?
It is fine to identify primary materials or potential sources of primary data; for example, audiovisual materials such as audio recordings, videos, films; texts such as novels, poems, diaries; visual materials such as photographs, murals, propaganda posters; interview participants; performances; archival materials; online discussion forums or online communities; policy or legal documents.
What are some of the elements of research that I shouldn’t do before submitting my research ethics application?
While it is fine to identify primary materials or potential sources of primary data before submitting your research ethics application, you shouldn’t conduct systematic analysis of primary materials or generate (“collect”) primary data; for example, you shouldn’t analyse audio-visual or textual materials, or conduct surveys, interviews or participant observation.
No. Retrospective research ethics review refers to ethics review which is conducted after a research project has commenced or after a research project has been completed. Retrospective research ethics review is not permitted under any circumstances for projects which have already been completed, without exception. In the case of projects which have already commenced (or where data has been collected or generated) retrospective ethics review is only permitted in exceptional circumstances, and usually only where changes have been made to a previously reviewed Research Ethics, Integrity & Governance Application. In cases where a researcher seeks retrospective research ethics review, there MUST be a clear and justifiable reason for doing so. For the sake of clarity, retrospective ethics review would be permitted in the following scenarios:
- In circumstances where a researcher comes across or is given access to materials or a setting which later have the potential to serve as data for a research project.
- In circumstances where, in the course of an existing research project which has already been through the research ethics review process, the researcher comes across or is given access to materials or a setting which was not anticipated at the outset of the project.
In either of these circumstances, further research using this data should not proceed without formal research ethics review. This should be done in a timely manner.
It should be stressed that if the generation or collection of any data does not meet the research ethics and GDPR criteria set out in these pages, then it may not be possible for the researcher to utilise the research data in any output, including dissertations and publications.
All research carried out by members of the School, including academics, emeritus staff, teaching staff, undergraduate students, postgraduate students (Masters and PhD), visiting scholars and fellows, and research assistants, are subject to the procedures outlined in these pages.
An increasing number of journals are requesting evidence of formal ethics review for the research upon which outputs are based. While it seems to be the case that journals in the Arts and Humanities are less likely to request this, the situation is changing, and there have been several cases in LLC where scholars have been asked for proof of ethics review after an article has been accepted for publication. In cases where formal ethics review has been carried out, this is not a problem. However, in situations where scholars have been working on a research project which started before the introduction of ethics review processes in the School, the situation is more complicated since we do not conduct retrospective ethics review in LLC. In such situations, we suggest that colleagues try the following:
- Consider to what extent the research adheres to either University or external ethics guidelines/policies (or both – this will very much depend on the field). Assuming that the research does adhere to the University (or external) ethics guidelines/policies, put together a ‘defence’ of the research, explaining how it adheres to the guidelines/policies.
- Use this ‘defence’ to try to negotiate with the publisher (assuming that ethics review processes were not in place at the time the research was conducted (in LLC, this would be prior to 2013).
NB: LLC does not conduct retrospective review and the LLC REC should not be approached to provide a cover letter or other documentation where ethics review has not been conducted.