Ethics statement examples - ESRC


Comparative analysis of the documentation of torture and ill treatment in low-income countries

In many Low Income Countries (LICs), violence is endemic. Among urban populations, the poor are the most vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment. They are also the least able to access forms of accountability.

Recent research demonstrates that routine torture and ill treatment is difficult to document. In addition, the instruments used for the documentation of torture and ill-treatment assume a level of institutional capacity that is often not available in LICs. They are relatively weak at identifying forms of torture and ill-treatment that are not already reported to NGOs or public bodies. There is therefore a need to develop techniques that can be effectively used to document torture and ill-treatment in situations with limited clinical and legal resources.

The overall objective of this project, led by Dr Tobias Kelly, is to address the question: What measures can be taken to reduce the risks and impact of violence and instability on the poorest and increase the effectiveness of peace-building, state-building and wider development interventions in fragile and conflict-affected situations?

Structural inequalities and poverty have a key impact on both the vulnerability of marginal populations to state violence, and their ability to seek redress and accountability. Through its focus on techniques for the measurement of torture and ill treatment at both a quantitative and qualitative level, the project will also directly address the central concern of the fund for metrics and measurement.

Ethics statement submitted as part of the Je-S proposal

Carrying out research in contexts of violence and instability obviously contains very real risks, both for the research participants and the researchers. The research team has extensive experience in carrying out such research in the specific research areas. The combination of local and international researchers is also designed to reduce vulnerability and risks. The utmost consideration will be given to potential negative repercussions arising from any research for participants and researchers.

The research will go through an ethical audit and review as required by the Research Office and Research and Research Ethics committee of the School of Social and Political Science, at the University of Edinburgh. This process includes an audit of risk to researchers and participants, confidentiality and handling of data, informed consent and conflict of interest. The proposed research will be classified as a ‘level 3’ audit, which is the most thorough ethical screening available and involves a formal meeting with representatives of the Research and Research Ethics Committee. The School of Social and Political Science Research Ethics Committee is informed by the University’s Research Ethics Framework, which has in turn been informed by the seven ethical principles proposed by the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government (2007) and the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council Framework for Research Ethics. During the lifetime of the project we will have recourse to the aforementioned Research and Research Ethics Committee and may call upon their expert view (as an interdisciplinary group of researchers with specific expertise and interests in research ethics) as necessary. This has proved to be a robust system for the ethical monitoring and evaluation of social science research within my institution.

The research protocol and training of survey researchers will be developed with local researchers, building on published guidelines for working with survivors of violence. Interviews will only take place with respondents over the age of 18 in a private space, and after obtaining informed consent and notifying the respondent that they can end the interview at any time. Information on health and legal assistance available in the area will be provided to enable interviewers to refer respondents to services if needed. Confidentiality of neighbour reports will be enhanced by the use of small objects to represent the aggregate number of individuals residing in neighbouring households. In order to monitor the safety of survey respondents, some households (both random and due to particular concerns) will be re-visited several days to a week after the initial interview, and respondents will be asked about any positive or negative consequences following their interview. If a negative incident is reported, the survey team will be able to gain insight into the possibility of risk to future respondents. Survey results will be anonymised and encrypted on site. We will secure, manage, and verify all information collected as part of this project to the highest possible standards. We will ensure that all data collected in the field is anonymised as a default position, and protected and encrypted as soon as is practicable. We will hold all data within protected central data facilities at the University of Edinburgh. At all times we will be informed and held to the University of Edinburgh data protection guidance and regulations.

Ethical Standards will be rigorously applied in every country in which we undertake data collection. We will conform to local legislation and regulations of the countries in which we will work. Our overriding principle is that we will hold ourselves to the highest international standards of research conduct regardless of where we are conducting research, and ensure that we adhere to all relevant local rules, regulations and norms in doing so.

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Last updated: 21 January 2022

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