Ethics

1. Role Function and Responsibilities of the Department of Psychology Ethics Committee

The Department Ethics Committee was established in recognition of the ethical responsibilities of those engaged in research and teaching in the Psychology Department. The department adheres to the University of Sheffield Ethics Review Procedure Statement and ensures that all research is consistent with the British Psychological Society’s Code of Human Research Ethics.

The committee also seeks to enhance and maintain the awareness of the importance of ethics principles among staff and students. To ensure maximum participation and responsibility, a two-tier structure has been adopted: a Department Ethics Committee (DEC) and a Department Ethics Sub-Committee (DESC). The structure and function of these committees is outlined below:

(a) Department Ethics Committee (DEC)

Membership

All academic staff are members of the Department Ethics Committee

Function

  • To review applications made to DESC for ethical approval.
  • To debate and review general issues surrounding the ethics of research.
  • To consider matters brought to it by DESC.

(b) Department Ethics Sub-Committee (DESC)

Membership

Membership is comprised of a sub-group of DEC and represents a broad range of research experience. Current members are

Function

  • To interpret the guidelines published by the British Psychological Society and other relevant groups, and to advise staff and students on ethical issues associated with research and teaching.
  • To serve as lead reviewers on applications to DESC and make decisions about the ethics of research proposals, in light of reviews provided by the broader panel comprising members of DEC.
  • To inform staff about developments in the ethics of research in psychology and ensure that undergraduate and postgraduate students understand and appreciate the importance of research ethics by providing relevant information in handbooks and lectures/seminars.

2. Submission of Proposals to the Department Ethics Sub-Committee (DESC)

All research conducted by staff, postgraduates, or undergraduates in the Department of Psychology must have ethical approval before commencement of empirical work. Healthcare research projects should be reviewed by the NHS's ethics review system (see below), but all other research projects (unless led by and already approved by another University, in which case see the information here) should be submitted to DESC. Researchers should ensure that their proposal conforms to BPS ethical guidelines.

Proposals should be submitted to the DESC via the University's online ethics review system. This system is entirely electronic and involves completing a form online. Specific guidance for researchers in psychology preparing an ethics application is available to download via the link on the right of this page.

A decision about the ethics of the proposed research normally should not take longer than two weeks and will be communicated by DESC via email.

If you are in doubt about any issues relating to the ethics of your research, please consult Dr Thomas Webb, as Chair of DESC.

3. Healthcare Research Projects

Research projects that involve the NHS (staff, patients, or carers) will require HRA approval, which incorporates both NHS ethics approval and NHS R&D approval, where required. Applications are administered online by IRAS and further details on how to apply can be found here. Proposals submitted to the NHS ethics review system via the HRA approval process should not also be submitted to DESC, but you should notify the Chair of DESC, Dr Thomas Webb (or Mr Amrit Sinha if you are a DClinPsy student) as we need to keep a record of these research projects and ensure that they adhere to the healthcare research governance procedure. If applicants would like advice in applying for NHS approval, please contact Dr Jilly Martin.

4. Human-Interventional Studies

The University defines human-interventional studies as those designed to answer specific questions about intervention(s) in human participants, whose purpose is to investigate the effectiveness of the intervention(s) and to improve health outcomes. For more information and examples, click here.

Human-interventional studies can be considered by DESC, but if you think that your research fits this definition, then you should read the information here and read the document providing an overview of the process, which can be downloaded from the links on the right of this page.

5. Researcher Safety

You should consider whether any of the planned research activities pose a risk for you or any other researchers involved in the project. Issue of personal safety should be particularly considered when the researcher is working outside normal hours, conducting activities off University premises (especially if working alone), working with potentially threatening people or conducting activities in a potentially dangerous environment. Procedures should be put in place to protect the researcher's safety as far as possible. In particular, supervisors and students must be familiar with the guidance and advice provided by safety services.

The safety of researchers is an integral part of the ethical review procedure. Therefore, you will be asked whether any of the planned research activities pose a risk to any of the researchers and, if so, how you will manage this risk. We also ask that all applicants to DESC complete and submit the "Researcher Safety Form" (downloadable from the link on the right of this page) and submit it alongside their application for ethical approval in Section F of the online form (i.e., as "supporting documentation"). No research must be conducted until after DESC has considered both the ethical implications of the research and the safety of the researcher and given permission for the research to go ahead.

6. Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)

Students working with vulnerable populations such as children or elderly people are required to have their record checked by the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS). The process, known as disclosure, is co-ordinated by the Deputy Head of Department, Paul Norman, and can take some weeks to set up. For undergraduate students, it is advisable to obtain a form as soon as the project topic has been chosen during semester two, Level 2. Relevant forms can be obtained from Diane Inkersole.

7. Management of Research Data

It is important to consider how you will manage the data that you obtain from your research. Please click here (or follow the link on the right of this page) for more information, and for a link to a tool that you can use to construct a data management plan.

8. Making Changes to your Research Following Approval

If you need to make any changes to your procedures once they have been approved, then you should compete the 'Request for an amendment' form, which can be downloaded from the link on the right of this page.

Please note that you should be inclusive in your original application (e.g., include procedures and measures, even if you do not necessarily plan to use them), to reduce the likelihood that you will need to ask for an amendment later. Remember that most people are unrealistically optimistic, so please make and include contingency plans in your original application, should your original design, sampling procedure etc. later prove untenable.