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School of Social and Political Science: Research


Ethical Review Process for Staff

All research carried out by members of the School, including undergraduate and post-graduate dissertation projects, are subject to ethical review. The ethical review process is designed to support researchers and students in carrying out good practice research, in managing risks associated with their research, and to ensure the highest professional standards in designing, conducting and disseminating research.

Staff are required to work through the prompts in the research ethics review form, linked on the left and to submit the form for review.

The reviewer will contact the applicant to follow up on any queries and to outline next steps to sign off.

The School recognises that all research carries risk and we identify three different levels of risk:

Level 1, in which the review identifies risk which is usual and expected in research contexts and can be easily managed through standard practices by the researcher / research team.

Level 2, in which the assessment identifies more challenging risks and which would benefit from peer review. This higher level of support will generally be required for projects which involve multiple complexities which might include:

People: research involving vulnerable groups or children; research that could adversely affect participants; research which comprise researcher safety; when researchers are working in the field alone; cases where there are impediments to obtaining the informed consent of participants

Research topic: research on sensitive topics or illegal practices; research on emerging new social challenges; covert research or research in public places; research in instutions where the topic may have an implication for their professional standing

Location: where research is carried out in challenging contexts; insecure environments; situations of conflict; researching at night; researching in unfamiliar areas, whether UK or overseas

Methods: where there are multiple and complex partnerships; where there are novel, experimental or participatory methods; highly interventionist projects; complex uses of data throughout the project life cycle, including visual data, data linkage, open data, data reuse and archiving

This list of possible risks is not exhaustive. In most cases, these types of risks can be dealt with through standard procedures, checks, and safeguards, which need to be elaborated via the online ethical review form. 

Level 3, in which the review identifies multiple complexities risks or new ethical challenges which have not been commonly seen in research practice previously or fully explored within established pathways of ethical reflection and require careful peer exploration of design and methodology to ensure safety of researchers and research participants, partners and data.

In the case of applications assessed as Level 3, an ad hoc Research Ethics Subcommittee will be required prior to ethics approval being granted.

Research projects may not proceed until ethical approval has been granted. 

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