Research Services

Research ethics and integrity update – winter 2020/21

Research ethics update from the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC):

New guidance on undertaking ethical international and intercultural research

New guidance is now available for researchers undertaking research in countries/contexts that are unfamiliar to them, or research involving participants who are from cultures/backgrounds other than the researcher’s own, outlining 10 key guiding principles. The UREC-endorsed guidance has been developed by a number of researchers experienced in international and intercultural research including members of SIID (Sheffield Institute for International Development).

The guidance is linked to an open-access resource to support research ethics teaching and continued professional development practice, which is being developed by SIID, including short videos offering a range of valuable insights into ethical dilemmas encountered by researchers during international and intercultural research. The UREC and SIID are keen to encourage more researchers to share their experiences of managing the ethical challenges of undertaking research in other countries/contexts or with people of different cultures, and to continue to build this resource. If you have had experiences that you think others could learn from, and would be willing to participate in a video interview, or submit a written vignette, for potential inclusion in the SIID resource, please contact either Dan Hammett (D.Hammett@sheffield.ac.uk) or Lindsay Unwin (l.v.unwin@sheffield.ac.uk) who would be very happy to discuss this further with you.


New guidance on the ethics requirements for the scholarship of learning and teaching, and ethical review via Elevate

UREC has been working with Elevate and the Learning and Teaching Scholarship Network (LSTN) to develop new guidance for teaching staff interested in disseminating or undertaking research into their teaching practice. This work followed on from the UREC-funded LTSN workshop, held in June 2019, that identified a number of aspects that staff felt would help them in this area. The guidance includes a flowchart to help establish when ethics approval is required for scholarship of learning and teaching work. The new guidance is hosted on the Elevate website.

In addition to the guidance, Elevate has been set up to undertake the ethics review of research projects that relate to the scholarship of learning and teaching, involving a dedicated pool of ethics reviewers with relevant experience and training. Ethics approval via Elevate is available to staff across the University, by creating a new ethics application on the Ethics Application System and when asked in the form ‘Does your application need to be reviewed by a department that is not your home department?’, clicking ‘yes’ and then selecting ‘Elevate - Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’. Staff using this route for ethics approval should let their department’s Principal Ethics Contact know that they are submitting an application to Elevate.


New consent form guidance

New two-page supplementary guidance on the use of the example consent form is now available. The guidance aims to help researchers when adapting the example consent form for use in their projects, and is available alongside the example consent form itself.


Reminder – Ethics self-declaration process for use of anonymised, secondary data

A self-declaration process is available as part of the Ethics Application System, for research that will use only existing, anonymised data that contains no personal identifiable information. The process is not compulsory, but aims to provide two key benefits:

  1. Helps the researcher to be confident about whether they need full ethics approval or not;
  2. If full ethics approval is not required, provides an official letter confirming that the project has been through an appropriate ethical assessment - for providing to external bodies e.g. journals, funders etc.

The self-declaration process is accessed through the usual ethics system, by clicking on the 'New Application' option. The information screen that appears includes the following question: 'Does your research involve only existing (secondary) data?'

Clicking 'proceed to questionnaire' will take you to a series of questions to establish whether full ethics approval is required or not. Any answer indicating that full ethics approval is required will direct you to the standard ethics application form - otherwise, you can proceed to a short application form and submit this for checking by the Ethics Administrator before a letter is issued confirming the project has been through a process of ethical assessment.


Forthcoming dates for ethics reviewer training

The UREC is planning to hold ethics reviewer training workshops on the following dates:

  • Tuesday 13 April 2021 (am)
  • Wednesday 9 June 2021 (am)

These dates are being announced now to enable those interested in attending to hold space in their calendars; the registration for each workshop will be opened a few weeks prior to the event, and details will be circulated via departmental Principal Ethics Contacts.


Research integrity update:

Forthcoming policy: Preventing Harm in Research and Innovation (Safeguarding)

Research funders are increasingly requiring institutions to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure those involved in/affected by research they fund are appropriately safeguarded.

This has been an expectation of funders of international development research for some time. UKRI has published a new policy which will form part of the terms and conditions of all its new research grants from March/April 2021. NIHR has published safeguarding guidance which will apply to UK funding schemes from 1 April 2021 and this already applies to their Global Health funding portfolio.

In response to this, a new University policy is being developed and will be implemented in Spring 2021.This will require researchers to ensure that there are project-appropriate plans in place for anticipating, mitigating and addressing potential exploitation, abuse or harm which may arise in the course of research activities. Further information can be requested from Lindsay Unwin (l.v.unwin@sheffield.ac.uk).

Further help and advice

A summary of the Policy, and other useful guidance, is available on the Research Services web pages