Ethical implications of internally-funded research

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You will know that our research has ethical implications. These may range from the very direct and specific requirements of doing research with human subjects, to working with disadvantaged communities, or animals, or in different cultural environments, to the uses to which our research may ultimately be put and environmental impact and the carbon footprint that the work may have and how that can effectively be minimised. They may also include the way that our research draws in or supports others at the University (including considering their safety) at different career stages, the ways that data are acquired, used, stored and archived, and the consequences of our work for others, including how it contributes to debates in related areas. This is far from an exhaustive list, but already demonstrates the breadth of issues that we need to be mindful of in planning our research.

Virtually all members of staff who have research as a responsibility within their job, are allocated time to do some of that research. In the case of “academic” staff – typically, Prize Fellows, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers and Professors – the particular member of staff will take responsibility for their own research agenda, deciding on the area of research to pursue and devising an appropriate programme of work. They may use that time to advance their research, but they may also use some or all of it to write grant proposals, to contribute to the work programmes of others, to write, or even just to think.

In this way, the University acts as a funder of research, internally. The source of the funds is, largely, public, and the University has an obligation to ensure that the research that they support is conducted in an appropriate ethical framework. In order to be able to demonstrate that we, as a University, have had proper regard for this obligation, all members of staff who are in receipt of “University-funded research time” should consider, on an annual basis, the ethical implications of the research that they will do. The proper way to do that is through the Ethical Implications of Research Activity form (EIRA1). The fact that this form is now online makes it convenient to complete and minimises the burden on others in organising and collating the data. It also enables the University to confirm that the ethical implications of university-funded research have been considered.

1. Many of you will have active EIRA forms, by virtue of having external funding for a specific programme of work. If you are happy that your planned university-funded research for the year ahead (19/20 academic year) has no additional implications beyond those already considered in your current EIRA form, you need take no further action.

2. If this is not the case, could you please complete an EIRA form by going to https://www.bath.ac.uk/services/ethical-implications-of-research-activity-eira-1/, accessing the online ethics form, and clicking on “Start a new form”. The purpose of this is to enable you to consider and document the ethical implications of the activities you will pursue during your university-funded research time.

3. Could you please complete this process in advance of the start of the next academic year, with a deadline of 1st October.

4. That will enable the University to confirm that all of the research that it funds has had its ethical implications considered.

Many thanks for your support. It is very apparent that the external environment for ethics and research integrity is becoming more stringent, and I believe that this evidence will provide additional reassurance to our Council that we have an appropriate framework for all of our internally-funded research.

If you have any queries, about research ethics, please contact your Department Research Ethics Officers (DREO) in the first instance.

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