The university's research ethics guidance is available in the form of a Handbook of Principles and Procedures.
The handbook includes a statement of ethical principles, details research proposal assessment procedures and addresses concerns of research in academic and professional fields.
1. Primary responsibility for the conduct of ethical research lies with the researcher. Where applicable, professional codes of conduct of external organisations take precedence over the university’s expectations and requirements for the conduct of research, although in most cases final approval of research projects remains with the RESC.
2. Researchers have responsibilities:
- towards research participants (including themselves): to ensure as far as possible that their physical, social and psychological well-being is not detrimentally affected;
- towards other researchers: to avoid, wherever possible, actions which may have deleterious consequences for other researchers or which might undermine the reputation of their discipline.
3. Research should be based, as far as possible and practicable, on the freely given informed consent of those under study.
The researcher should:
- explain to participants the aims, nature, conduct, funding, duration, purpose and consequences of research, and how results will be disseminated
- give due consideration to the power imbalance between researcher and researched, and the right of participants to refuse participation at any time
- explain to participants the extent to which they will be afforded anonymity and confidentiality, and their option to reject data-gathering devices such as audio recorders etc
- discuss potential uses of data with participants and obtain their agreement
- give due consideration to the interests of any ‘gatekeepers’ where access is gained via a ‘gatekeeper’
- where research participants are young children or other vulnerable groups, consult relevant professionals, parents/guardians and relatives, and attempt to obtain informed consent of participants, their parents and those who are in loco parentis
- anticipate and guard against any possible harmful consequences of research for participants.
4. Researchers should endeavour, wherever possible and practicable, to avoid the use of deception. Any researcher considering deceptive methods must seek approval from the Research Ethics Sub-Committee. Covert research should be a last resort.
5. The anonymity and privacy of participants should be respected and personal information should be kept confidential and secure. Researchers must comply with the provision of the Data Protection Act. While taking every practicable measure to ensure confidentiality and anonymity, they should also take care not to give unrealistic assurances or guarantees.
6. Specific approval from the Research Ethics Sub-Committee is required for:
- research which involves biomedical or clinical intervention
- deceptive research where the investigator actively sets out to misrepresent themselves
- certain classes of covert research
- all research where participants are under 18
- research into sensitive topics
- research involving vulnerable groups.
The university's Research Ethics Sub-Committee (RESC) is chaired by Dr. Malcolm MacLean and has representatives from each of the University's Faculties in addition to practitioner and ethical contract guidance expertise. There are usually five meetings of RESC each academic year. The meeting dates and deadlines are available from RESC officer Sharon Brookshaw.