Research organisations and research ethics committees - ESRC


Our principles: research organisations

Successful implementation of ESRC’s principles relies in a large part on the degree to which individual research organisations (ROs) have built and maintained appropriate structures and support systems and cultivated a culture of good research practice and ethical reflection.

The ESRC does not seek to impose a particular model for achieving the expectations set out in the framework. However, we will engage in cross-research council assurance activities to ensure that our expectations of thorough review and monitoring of ESRC-funded projects are being followed by the ROs.

Research should aim to maximise benefit for individuals and society and minimise risk and harm

ROs should facilitate awareness of the benefits of potential knowledge exchange, impact activities and outputs of the research conducted by their researchers, alongside consideration of risk and other social and ethical implications of the research.

ROs have a responsibility to provide the necessary training, resources and support to researchers and research managers to allow them to deliver the agreed objectives of their research, and to enable them to achieve maximum benefits from the research to research participants, science and society.

ROs also have a responsibility to provide access to training for members of research ethics committees (RECs) that emphasises the importance of maximising the benefit of the research they review.

ROs also have a responsibility to provide researchers, research managers and REC members with protocols and other resources to enable them to identify, manage and minimise risk and harm to all parties involved or affected by the research.

The rights and dignity of individuals and groups should be respected

Appropriate mechanisms for monitoring research and RECs are essential to ensure that the rights, dignity, interests, values and (where possible) the autonomy of research participants (including individuals, groups and communities) are respected.

ROs should also establish and publish clear procedures for receiving complaints from research participants, researchers and other groups affected by the research and/or the ethics review.

Wherever possible, participation should be voluntary and appropriately informed

ROs should build a programme of support and training for researchers and RECs and monitor research to ensure that participation is not coerced and is appropriately informed throughout the lifecycle of the project, or be satisfied that their researchers are guided by standards set by their RO, professional societies and disciplinary bodies, particularly where informed consent is not possible.

Research should be conducted with integrity and transparency

ROs are responsible for monitoring research and having systems in place to foster integrity and transparency. They should establish and publish working practices and clear, transparent and effective procedures for ethics review and monitoring of research which encourage a grassroots culture of robust collective governance.

The ROs governance arrangements and operating procedures for RECs should enable RECs to fulfil their responsibilities with integrity. The terms of reference for RECs should be published and the outcome of ethics reviews should be open to scrutiny.

Lines of responsibility and accountability should be clearly defined

ROs should establish clear lines of accountability and responsibility and provide assurance that they have systems in place to support good research conduct and adherence to the ESRC framework. ROs are also expected to monitor the operation of RECs they are responsible for, and the decisions they take in relation to ESRC-funded research.

The independence of research should be maintained, and where conflicts of interest cannot be avoided they should be made explicit

The RO should have procedures and systems in place to safeguard research from any personal, political or organisational interests that may affect the independence of the research or REC. ROs should also ensure the independence of secondary RECs (for example, in departments, schools or faculties). These RECs may comprise members from one discipline or a small number of closely related disciplines which may be regarded as too closely aligned with the interest of researchers.

Procedures and systems should be in place to ensure that any conflicts of interest or partiality in research and ethics review are identified, disclosed and managed.

Further information

Last updated: 28 January 2022

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