Research Ethics at Goldsmiths
All research, no matter whether it’s funded or unfunded, should seek clearance from an ethics and integrity committee.
For funded research, ethical clearance is a condition of funding being awarded and might be audited. In some cases (external) monitoring might be required by the funder, such as the European Commission. The information on this and linked pages is intended to help researchers prepare themselves for ethical approval.
Academic researchers have ethical obligations to the people, species, and materials they study, to the people with whom they work, and the environments within which the research is situated. Such obligations should be not only based in the here and now, but also oriented to the possibility of future knowledge production by others. By and large academic research ethics have been formulated with regard to human participants (living or recently deceased).
All research proposals - that are concerned with living (or recently deceased) beings or with data and materials derived from such beings or that might unduly affect the environment and hence change the lives of beings within that environment - undertaken by Goldsmiths staff or undertaken within the territorial boundaries of Goldsmiths require ethical approval.
The ethical scrutiny of research conducted by academic staff is the responsibility of Goldsmiths Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee (REISC). That Committee scrutinises applications in order to ascertain that such research abides with both general and disciplinary principles and standards of research ethics. Such principles would have regard to issues concerning, for example, harm to human participants, independence of researchers, integrity of research, fidelity to verifiable knowledge, consent to research and use of data, and rights to privacy, confidentiality and anonymity.
Research Integrity at Goldsmiths
Goldsmiths is a signatory to the Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity. The Chair of REISC, currently Professor Simon McVeigh, firstname.lastname@example.org, acts as first point of contact for anyone wanting more information on matters of research integrity or wishing to raise concerns about potential research misconduct. The formal procedures for investigation are set out in the university's policy dealing with allegations of misconduct, Safeguarding Good Academic and Scientific Practice and Dealing with Allegations of Misconduct in Research.
Dates for Goldsmiths Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee
The Sub-Committee meets three times a year.
In session 2018/19, the dates are:
Thursday, 11 October 2018 from 2-4pm in DTH 109
Wednesday, 13 February 2019 from 2-4pm in DTH 109
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 from 2-4pm in DTH 109
Information for Researchers
- Ethical Approval Form (Word doc download)
- UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) Code of Practice on Research Ethics , and related documents
- Goldsmiths Policy on Safeguarding Good Academic and Scientific Practice and Dealing with Allegations of Misconduct in Research
- Goldsmiths Research Data Policy (Section 5 of Records Management Policy)
- Goldsmiths Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee (REISC)
- Goldsmiths Research Online (GRO) - Research repository
- Research Integrity Annual Statement 2017/18
- Research Integrity Annual Statement 2016/17
- Research integrity annual statement 2015
- Research Integrity Annual Statement 2014
Some useful links to national and international organisations
- Universities UK: Concordat to support research integrity
- HEFCE: statement of UK Government commitment to the Concordat
UK/EU Funding bodies:
- RCUK Code of Good Conduct
- ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (Jan 2015)
- British Academy, Code of Practice for Consideration of Research Proposals
- EU Ethics and Integrity: advice to grant applicants
International statements on research intregity generally adopted by the sector:
- Singapore Statement for Research Integrity
- Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations
Additional information on research ethics and integrity at Goldsmiths
Governance of Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee
Academic departments have a responsibility to provide full review and scrutiny for undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD research proposals and to provide initial review of academic staff research proposals. Ordinarily this will be conducted under the remit of a Departmental Research Ethics Committee. Academic departments have a responsibility to submit an annual report to the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee regarding decisions concerning student and staff research. Academic departments also have a responsibility to deliver information required by the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee in order to conduct any audit of research ethics scrutiny within the university.
The university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee is a sub-committee of the Research and Enterprise Committee (REC). Its duties and decisions are reviewed annually by the Academic Board.
Undergraduate, Postgraduate and PhD Research Ethics
Review and scrutiny of undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD research ethics is the responsibility of the department within which the student is housed. All student proposed research that concerns human participants or other species should be scrutinised by a Departmental Research Ethics Committee (or a Committee with that delegated function, i.e. a Learning and Teaching Committee or a Postgraduate Research Committee). Only in exceptional circumstances will the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee scrutinise student research proposals.
It is nevertheless the duty of the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee to oversee due process and appropriateness of decisions made at departmental level in order to ensure that they are in keeping with appropriate general and disciplinary specific ethical principles and formulations.
All academic staff undertaking research involving human participants or other species beings or with data and materials derived from such participants or that might unduly affect the environment of such beings should:
- submit a copy of the Goldsmiths Ethical Approval Form to their Departmental Research Ethics Committee or to a departmental committee with that delegated function (i.e. Departmental Research Committee);
- That Departmental committee will make a provisional decision regarding the ethical risk factors involved in the proposed research and the Ethical Approval Form will be signed by the Chair of that Committee or by the Head of Department;
- Ethical Approval Forms will then be forwarded to the Secretary to the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee;
- the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee will scrutinise all forms at its next meeting and will report its decision to the applicant;
- it is the duty of the Head of Department to oversee ongoing academic research and to report any matters that require further deliberation and judgement to the the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee.
Applications that do not gain ethical approval will be returned to the applicants with advice regarding appropriate changes.
Exceptionally, applications that require a decision sooner than the next meeting of the Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee will be considered through Chair’s Action and with reference to a virtual meeting.
Any questions regarding further information about this process should be addressed in the first instance to the Secretary of the university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee, Karen Rumsey, email k.rumsey (@gold.ac.uk). Equally, those concerned about the due process of the Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee or those concerned about any ethical impropriety regarding research conducted by members of Goldsmiths or on the grounds of the university should contact the Secretary to the Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee, Karen Rumsey, email k.rumsey (@gold.ac.uk).
Indication of Minimal Ethical Risk Factors
Ethical scrutiny is proportionate to the risk factors involved in the research process. The following can be taken, ordinarily, as indices of minimal risk factors:
- research with secondary data (providing that such data sets are anonymised);
- research that doesn’t involve vulnerable persons or groups (e.g. children and young people, the mentally ill, persons with cognitive impairment, etc);
- research that doesn’t involve sensitive subjects (such as sex, drug use, violence, or ‘race’);
- research that doesn’t involve permission of a gatekeeper for access to persons or groups of persons;
- research that doesn’t involve deception or that is not covert;
- research that doesn’t involve access to personal or confidential records;
- research that doesn’t bring about psychological or physical harm, duress or anxiety;
- and research that is not intrusive in any physical or psychological manner.
Useful General and Disciplinary-Specific Ethical Guidelines
Applicants should, in the first instance, consider the UKRIO Code of Good Practice that we have adopted as our institutional code of practice.
The university Research Ethics and Integrity Sub-Committee only considers academic practice that is constituted as academic ‘research’. Applications for ethical review are considered with regard to general principles of research ethics and the particular disciplinary context of the research. The Committee understands that, although general standards of good ethical practice need to be met, different disciplines frame such principles in the context of different forms of ethical deliberation and knowledge. All ethical scrutiny should be commensurate to the research proposed and its disciplinary context and proportionate to the potential risks involved. In that light, all applicants are asked to consider the guidelines and codes of practice formulated within particular disciplinary associations and professional societies.
Such guidelines and codes of practice might include those from the following organisations, in addition to those of the funding bodies:
- Association of Social Anthropologists Ethics Guidelines
- British Educational Research Association (BERA)
- The British Psychological Society Code on Human Research Ethics (2014)
- British Sociological Association Guidelines on ethical research
Research with NHS Patients
Applicants conducting research that is concerned with human participants associated – whether as patients, ex-patients or otherwise - with the National Health Service (NHS) should consult guidelines and advice from the Department of Health and the Health Research Authority websites.
Such proposed research should note that ethics approval is required through a Department of Health approved ethics committee for all research on:
- patients and users of the NHS. This includes all potential research participants recruited by virtue of the patient or user's past or present treatment by, or use of, the NHS. This also includes NHS patients treated under contract with private sector institutions.
- individuals identified as potential research participants because of their status as relatives or carers or patients and users of the NHS, as defined above.
- access to data, organs or other bodily material of past and present NHS patients.
- the recently dead in NHS premises.
- fetal material and IVF involving NHS patients
- NHS staff - recruited as research participants by virtue of their professional role.
(Para 3.1, Governance Arrangements for NHS Research Ethics Committees, 2001)
Staff researchers need to be cognisant and compliant with relevant civil and criminal law in the United Kingdom that might apply to the research and publication process. This involves the Copyright Patents and Designs Act 1988, the law of defamation, and Data Protection Acts 1988 and 1998. Whilst the committee cannot act in a professional legal advisory role, the committee is available to deal with preliminary queries that might merit further investigation.