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Ethics Updates

Research ethics in SSPS: improving the ethical review process and enhancing support 30 October 2018


We are introducing some changes over the next few months to improve research ethics support. These will provide staff with a more streamlined, user-friendly ethical review process, and will provide staff with more support throughout the lifetime of the project. These changes will also address challenges from the significant growth in the number and complexity of projects carried out in the School, as well as integrating developments in research governance. Here are some of the key points to note for now:

  • We are increasing capacity for ethical review and sharing ethical advice. So, each subject area now has a new Subject Area Research Ethics Lead (SAREL). Your SAREL can provide you with advice about the review process, as well as contributing to ethical review across the School as a whole. You can identify your local SAREL by visiting the Research Ethics section on the SPS website.
  • Staff should continue to submit their ethical reviews using the existing form, which under our current ethical framework is required for all research and KEI applications (there are exceptions such as networking grants, preliminary expression of interest and the research office can advise further).  SARELs need time to review ethics and therefore we need ethics reviews to be submitted at least two weeks before a funding application deadline whenever possible.
  • In response to feedback, we are enhancing the online ethical review tool so that it provides more advice and resources. In addition, new developments and topics will be incorporated, such as: ethical issues raised by GDPR and wider data management concerns; researcher safety in the field; and working with partners and third parties. We aim to test the new tool over the next few weeks with a view to a full launch for the Spring Semester.
  • Also in the Spring Semester we will introduce a new multi-staged, but more streamlined, approach to ethical review, that (for most projects) will save you time at the pre-award stage. Before submission of a grant application, staff will complete a brief ethical review in order to identify any issues that might inform research design or budget, or where a peer review meeting might strengthen a project that has complex or challenging ethical issues. For most projects, the substantive review point will shift from pre-award (as it is now) to after funding (post-award). Substantive ethical review therefore will occur prior to fieldwork commencing, so it is at this stage that staff will provide further detail for their ethical review, including the information sheets and consent forms and details of data management as appropriate. Ongoing advice and support will be provided throughout.
  • In the interim, before we launch this new staged process, we want to do what we can to make life a bit easier for you. So, you no longer need to include Participant Information Sheets or Consent Forms at initial ethical reviews at pre-award. Do note that, until the online tool is updated, it will still prompt for these documents to be uploaded, but here you can now simply upload blank documents.
  • We are continuing to keep the ethics section of the website up-to-date with these changes: http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/gradschool/current_students/taught_msc_students/dissertations/research_ethics

  • We are continuing with regularly monthly ethics ‘drop-ins’ on the last Tuesday of the month:

2-4pm, Tuesday 30th October – CMB 3.11

2-4pm, Tuesday 27th November – CMB 6.11

NB: No drop-in in December

If you would like to come along to one of these, just fill in the doodle to make an appointment with Niamh: https://doodle.com/poll/i9528fkzqtwxqecn

  • Other news is that we now have a dedicated ethics email address, shared by both the Deputy Director of Research Ethics and Integrity (Niamh) and the Research Office.  From this point onwards, any questions on ethics and ethic submissions should be directed to: ethics-ssps@ed.ac.uk

  • If you have any further suggestions for what kind of support or provision around research ethics would be useful do come to a drop-in or email ethics-ssps@ed.ac.uk

Best wishes

Niamh Moore, Deputy Director of Research (Ethics) and

Caroline Laffey, Portfolio Manager, SSPS Research Office

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