Research Ethics

Department of Landscape's Ethics review System

The following guidance is principally for MA (Postgraduate Taught) students. Students registered for an MPhil or PhD, and members of staff, should refer to the more comprehensive information given on the main University website.

The types of Landscape research practices most likely to raise research ethics issues include:

  • conducting interviews with individuals.
  • conducting social surveys.
  • observing people’s use of the landscape.
  • participatory research, based in a workplace.
  • archival research which involves identification of living individuals or raises issues of ownership, publication or confidentiality.

Many types of Landscape research involve gathering information from individuals. It is important to bear in mind that research participants should give their voluntary consent, based on sufficient information, and should know that they are able to refuse consent or withdraw from the project. Any information about them should remain confidential and secure. Participants should not be exposed to unnecessary risk. These issues are heightened when participants can be considered `vulnerable´, e.g. school children or people who may lack mental capacity.

If a research project requires research ethics approval, it will be classed as either low risk or high risk. The level of risk will relate either to the type of project and/or the type of people involved, and the decision will be made by the reviewers rather than by the student.

You should also be aware of Data Protection requirements and the University´s Personal Information Policy.

My Research Might Require Ethics Approval – What do I do next?

You will be introduced to research ethics as part of a research preparation module – LSC4120, Landscape Research Methods, if you are an MA student, or LSC6023, Research Methods in Landscape, if you are studying an MPhil/PhD. In your research proposal you must specifically identify whether your project is likely to raise any research ethics issue.

MA students must draw their dissertation supervisor´s attention to any possible research ethics issues. MPhil/PhD students will need to include ethics issues in the proposal they present to Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee. It is essential that you identify research ethics as early as possible, and produce drafts of your Research Ethics Review Application Form, and Participant Consent Form and Information Sheet (where necessary), for your supervisor. When your supervisor is satisfied that these are of a satisfactory standard, they will submit the forms to the Department´s Research Ethics Administrator.

Stages in Research Ethics Approval

Stage 1

If ethics review is required then complete the University Research Ethics Review Application Form – see Downloads link on the right hand side of this page. If necessary, attach a participant information sheet and participant consent form, which can be downloaded from the Main University Website.

Link

Stage 2

If classed as 'low risk' at Stage 1 by the Supervisor then the Ethics Review will be done by the Supervisor, and you will be asked to submit Annex 1 of the University Research Ethics Review Application Form to your Supervisor. They will provide the Ethics Administrator with a copy of your Application form for information and record keeping only. In the case of a `Minor Variant´ project, your Supervisor will sign off the relevant form.

If classed as `high risk´ by your supervisor at Stage 2 then Annex 2 will be completed by the Supervisor and submitted to the Ethics Administrator.

Caveat: The Ethics Administrator reserves the right to consult the Chair of the Ethics Review Panel if s/he has concerns that projects classed as LOW risk should in fact have been classed as potentially HIGH risk.

Stage 3

If classed as `high risk´ at stage 2 by the Supervisor the student will be asked to submit the University Research Ethics Review Application Form and any accompanying paperwork to the Ethics Administrator, who will circulate these to the nominated Departmental ethics reviewers, comprising a `lead´ reviewer and one other, who may be the Supervisor. Normal practice will be for the reviewers to meet, but if this is not possible then the matter will be dealt with electronically. We aim to complete reviews within a 10 day working period but it is understood that this can be difficult due to factors such as the time of year and staff availability. Students should build time into their research project development to accommodate the ethics review process if it is required.

Stage 4

Following the review, the lead reviewer will complete a collective Reviewers Comments Sheet and return it electronically to the departmental ethics administrator. This form will outline which of the 4 possible outcomes are applicable to the individual research ethics application:

  1. Application approved;
  2. Application approved with suggested amendments: it is optional whether the applicant takes on board the comments and there is no requirement for reviewers to see any amendments;
  3. Application is approved but with compulsory amendments: reviewers must see the required amendments;
  4. Application is not approved: reasons for such refusal must be given.

Stage 5

The outcome of the application will be conveyed to the applicant electronically by the departmental ethics administrator, to be followed by a written letter of decision.

Stage 6

If revisions are required then these should be undertaken and submitted to the departmental ethics administrator so that the revisions can be seen by the reviewers.

  1. Application approved;
  2. Application approved with suggested amendments: it is optional whether the applicant takes on board the comments and there is no requirement for reviewers to see any amendments;
  3. Application is approved but with compulsory amendments: reviewers must see the required amendments;
  4. Application is not approved: reasons for such refusal must be given.

Stage 7

Once approval has been conveyed to the student, from the panel, via the departmental ethics administrator then the research can commence.

Stage 8

If revisions are required then these should be undertaken and submitted to the departmental ethics administrator so that the revisions can be seen by the reviewers.

Related information

Departmental ethics administrator: Jeff Sorrill

Chair of Departmental Ethics Review Panel: Helen Woolley
Members of Departmental Ethics Review Panel: Kevin Thwaites, Nicola Dempsey, Olaf Schroth.

Ethics Reviewers: all other Department of Landscape Staff.