Research governance & ethics

The University has a governance framework within which all members of Edge Hill community must act when engaging in research or knowledge exchange.

The Research Ethics Policy and the Code of Practice for the Conduct of Research are the principal documents for guiding researchers in ethical conduct.

If you would like information on research integrity at Edge Hill, please contact Nikki Craske, Director of the Research Office.

Whistleblowers, or anyone else wishing to raise concerns about the integrity of research being conducted by or on behalf of Edge Hill University, should contact Phil Bentley, Secretary, University Research Ethics Sub-committee.

Open access & data

Open access publishing

Research data

GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on 25 May 2018 and affords individuals greater control over how their personal data is used. This statement is intended to summarise how it affects research , although you should familiarise yourself with your full responsibilities prior to commencing your research. Please also see the University’s policy and guidance on research data management.

Questions should be directed to the University’s Data Protection Officer in SPPU.

Please note: while related, GDPR is not a matter of research ethics, so questions on ethical issues should be directed to the appropriate research ethics committee.

What does it mean for researchers?

As a staff member or student conducting research, the implications for you include:

Privacy notices

Your department may have its own privacy notice that explains how it collects and handles different types of personal data, including that collected through research.

Transparency

You will need to be transparent with research participants about what you will do with their personal data. This can be covered by a combination of your participant information sheet and departmental privacy notice.

Lawful basis

You should be clear as to the lawful basis on which you are collecting personal data.

Why not consent?

While consent is still needed for the purpose of research ethics, it has a specific meaning under the GDPR if you use it as the lawful basis on which you collect data for research. You would need to be prepared to remove an individual’s data from your dataset at any point should they ever withdraw consent (see ‘Rights of individuals’), which could pose significant problems for future research.

Which lawful basis should you use?

Because of the nature of academic research and its importance to the public good – for current and future generations – the lawful basis will normally be that of ‘public task’ i.e. ‘necessary for the performance of a task carried out for reasons of public interest’.

Special category data

If the data you are collecting meets the definition of ‘special category’ data, you may need to satisfy additional criteria. If you have any questions about special category criteria, please contact the Data Protection Officer in SPPU.

Rights of individuals

While GDPR updates and expands the person’s rights to see and correct their personal data, there are exemptions for research activity, or depending on the lawful basis used.

Anonymisation vs pseudonymisation

Whether you anonymise or pseudonymise the data you collect will affect how you process, store and share it under the new legislation.

FAQ

My project does not involve anything unethical. Do I still need to seek approval?

All researchers must:

  • ensure that their projects either receive approval from, or undergo scrutiny by an appropriate research ethics committee (REC), and
  • be able to provide written evidence from the REC to that effect. This may be a letter or the original formal e-mail from the REC.

How do I seek and evidence ethics approval or scrutiny?

All researchers seeking approval from an EHU REC must complete the Application for Ethical Approval Form (RO-GOV-05F) and submit it to the appropriate REC.

Appropriate RECs

  • Your EHU Departmental Research Ethics Committee (DREC). FAS only; most DRECs do not have authority to grant ethics approval but should scrutinise all projects and make recommendations to the FREC.
  • Your EHU Faculty Research Ethics Committee (FREC). Most applications will be submitted to the FREC for approval.
  • The EHU University Research Ethics Sub-Committee (URESC)
  • An appropriate, external REC in your discipline e.g. NHS, the university REC of a co-investigator, the REC from your previous university if your project was scrutinised prior to moving to EHU (and is unchanged).

Approval/scrutiny

If an external REC approves or scrutinises your project, your EHU DREC or FREC, or URESC, must formally acknowledge this approval before you conduct any primary research at EHU.

You should retain a copy of the formal notification of approval or scrutiny (whether internal or external, inc. confirmation from a REC that approval is not required) which can be presented on request. Such requests may come from funders, other RECs, auditors, the Graduate School Board of Studies (for PGRs), or other bodies.

Acceptable written confirmation will usually take the form of a copy of the e-mail or letter on which the REC’s decision was formally confirmed; without being able to provide this evidence, it may be assumed that your project has not been deemed ethical so all primary research must cease immediately.

Does ethical approval apply to an altered project?

Ethical approval or scrutiny is only applicable to the project for which approval/scrutiny was originally sought. Any changes to the project – including start/end dates previously specified – require a new application to the relevant REC.

There are no risks involved in my project so why do I need to conduct a risk assessment?

Any project can contain an element of risk. While there is no pro forma for risk assessments, the University’s research risk assessment guidance explains some of the potential risks researchers may face, some of which may not be obvious e.g. reputational or financial risks.At the very least, researchers should consider this guidance when planning their research but there may also be discipline-specific guidance or forms to complete, for example from a professional body (BERA, BPS, NHS, etc.).

When does the Research Ethics Committee meet?

DREC and FREC meeting dates are arranged locally within those areas. These can be cancelled/postponed/rescheduled so, rather than the Research Office providing potentially out of date information, researchers should approach the relevant REC to request this information.URESC meets three times per year, usually around September, January and April. Meeting dates are usually confirmed towards the end of summer. As applications normally only reach URESC via the FREC, the meeting dates are not published by the Research Office to avoid confusion although they can be provided on request.