Research Ethics and Integrity framework
The College of Science and Engineering Research Ethics and Integrity framework provides guidance and oversight for all School-level procedures.
The College of Science and Engineering's Research Ethics and Integrity framework states that each School must have:
- A Research Ethics and Integrity procedure agreed at the level of the School
- A designated point of contact in the School, known as the Ethics Officer, with whom Research Ethics issues can be raised
- A mechanism for communicating the School’s Research Ethics procedures to all members of staff
The College sets out a common framework and delegates the implementation of procedures to the Schools, which ensures that those procedures reflect disciplinary needs. Each School takes responsibility for ethical review and approval of all research within the School, while the College Office is required to ensure that procedures exist in each School.
In this context the role of the CSE is to maintain a degree of oversight of and support for the Schools. This is achieved by working closely with the Schools and with REIRG to strengthen our polices and by producing a Research Ethics and Integrity Annual Report. This Report is subsequently forwarded via the College to the University Committee and shared with Research Councils UK.
To whom does the Framework apply?
While the framework applies to any person who conducts research at the College, including research and teaching staff, undergraduate honours students, postgraduate students or visiting scholars and collaborators, in most Schools it is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to secure Ethics approval.
The PI of the research application must ensure that the proposed research complies with the Research Ethics and Integrity policies set out by the appropriate School. All research proposals should be screened for ethical implications. In most cases self-audit by the researcher, or by the research supervisor in the case of students, will be sufficient to confirm that there are no ethical implications arising from the research.
When approval is awarded, the PI may divide the project into smaller sub-projects which can be advertised as UG final dissertations, MSc dissertations, PhDs or post-doc projects. In those cases, the College recognises that the approval obtained by the PI permeates those projects.
In Schools where students might bring forward their own research proposals, most commonly Geosciences and Informatics, they should seek Ethics approval under the guidance of their supervisors. The responsibility to secure approval still lies with the senior member of staff supervising the project.
School-level Review procedures
CSE encompasses a wide range of academic disciplines from Human Geography to Theoretical Physics. Research undertaken in each of those disciplines varies and therefore, so do their Ethics Review procedures. The College's framework sets initial guidelines.
All research proposals should be screened for ethical implications. CSE Schools follow the principle of 'self-certification', whereby staff members identify key critical Ethics issue and inform the School. Critical issues include:
- Use of human, particularly children or vulnerable adults, and animal subjects
- Biomedical and clinical research involving human subjects, tissue or blood
- Potential risks to the participants or the researcher
- Effects on the environments
- Collaborations with other universities and partners, particularly in developing countries
- Dual use of technologies and collaboration with the military, arms or fossil fuels companies
- Confidentiality and data protection
- Barriers to informed consent
- Conflict of interests
- Barriers to benefit-sharing with local partners
- Risk that the research might be related to extremist or terrorist groups
When the need for review is identified, the proposal must be referred to an Ethics Committee or nominated individual within the School. Schools that experience a higher volume of review requests have set up Ethics Committees to handle proposals. Others, most notably those working in technical and theoretical fields, encounter a lower volume of Ethics issues and convene their Research Committee as an Ethics Committee when required.
Follow the links to access the relevant procedures:
Schools can also refer proposals to another School's Ethics Committee, if that committee contains more appropriate expertise to assess the proposal (for instance a relevant School Ethics Committee within CHSS). Where this is done, the Ethics Officer remains responsible within the School for ensuring the research proposal has been reviewed and approved.
In some cases, the research might need external approval (e.g. NHS Review Boards for human tissue research, Home Office licenses for animal research). If this is the case, the Schools help their PIs through the process and keep a record of external reviews.
If the research includes a questionnaire or survey, the University's Student Surveys Ethics Committee assesses requests for access to the University's student body. Where such work is conducted within a single School, the appropriate Ethics Officer will be able to assist researchers through the normal review procedure.
No research project requiring ethical approval should start before written approval is received.
Timescales for Reviews
Researchers should consider the possible ethical implications of their research during the pre-award stage of any proposal. It is their responsibility to seek strategies that will minimise the negative impact of their research.
It is anticipated that relatively few proposals will require full ethical review. Under normal circumstances, committees should have fairly rapid turnaround times for reviews, although this can vary depending on the time of the year.
If researchers are planning on applying for a funding call, they should consider ethics as an integral part of proposal preparation and avoid any last-minute delays by tackling Ethics early on.
Research Ethics and Integrity is not limited to the establishment of strong Ethics review systems. Research Integrity also affects the practice of research and the interpretation of data. Therefore, the CSE framework has set some additional guidelines to foster a culture of integrity from pre-award stage until publication.
The College Office, Schools and REIRG should work together to raise awareness of ethical issues in research and develop appropriate training materials. This can be done through the new staff induction programme, a series of workshops for existing staff, and/or information published on the web.
See more under Integrity training.