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Human Research Ethics

The University has adopted a policy regarding the protection of individuals who are the subjects of research, including student projects. It follows the guidelines of the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights, assessing all studies that involve human volunteers.

According to University regulations all research projects need to undergo ethical review. This includes:

Undergraduate and postgraduate final year projects on all degree programmes (eg HND, BSc, MSc)

  • Research degree projects (eg MPhil, PhD)
  • Research grant applications made by staff
  • Contract research and consultancy

Ethical issues arise when the conduct of a student project involves the interests and rights of others. The project may impinge on the confidentiality, privacy, convenience, comfort or safety of others. Such threats constitute ethical problems.

The adoption of an ethical position, in respect of student projects, requires that the student observes and protects the rights of would-be participants and systematically acts to permit the participants to exercise those rights. Ethical practice in such cases requires that participants, at a minimum, be fully informed, volunteer freely without inducement, are free to opt out without prejudice, and be fully protected in regard to safety to the limits of best practice.

Ethical scrutiny is primarily undertaken by the Faculty Research Ethics Committee (FREC).

Faculty Research Ethics Committee Consitution 0117

Ethical issues to be considered during an ethical review include:

Collection of data directly from people (eg interviewing, surveying, questionnaires, observation of human behaviour)

  • Collection of data about individuals whose identity can be detected from the data (including the use of archived data in which individuals are identifiable such as patient records)
  • Research involving a possible danger to the researcher
  • Research involving illegal activities, activities at the margins of the law or activities that have a risk of injury
  • Research that may give rise to ethically relevant results
  • Research involving the use of human tissues/fluids
  • Research involving animals

NOTE: If research involves either the use of human tissues/fluids, or involves animals, then different procedures need to be followed. Researchers should contact the Faculty Research Ethics Committee via the Faculty Office for guidance at the earliest opportunity.

Projects

Projects often involve other people in the capacity of, for example, the client, the user of an existing system, or the recipient of the outcome of the project. These can be broadly termed as the human subjects of the project. Human subjects can be affected by the project involving:

  • Gathering information from human beings through: interviewing, surveying, questionnaires and observation of human behaviour
  • Using archived data in which individuals are identifiable
  • Researching into illegal activities, activities at the margins of the law, or activities that have a risk of injury

The University policy states that research (including student projects) involving human subjects should ensure:

  • All participants volunteer, normally without inducement, and give their written consent to participation
  • Written consent is given in the light of full awareness of the objectives of the teaching / research, the procedures to be followed, and the anticipated outcomes, particularly in respect of publication of findings
  • All participants be given a written description of their involvement in the project, the demands to be made, their rights and how their rights and interests will be protected, particularly in respect of confidentiality, privacy and safety
  • All participants are made aware of their freedom to withdraw consent and discontinue participation at any time
  • Appropriate documentation be designed to meet these objectives and to keep appropriate records. For example, information regarding the project should be given in writing and the participant should sign to acknowledge receipt of the material.

Ethical Review Procedure

All researchers/students starting a research/student project must complete an Ethical Review approval form.

Standard Operating Procedure

If the methodology is unclear at the time of submission, you can submit and re-submit more specific forms once the methodology is clear. 

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