Does your Research Involve Human Subjects?
As of the 31st of January 2007, the University of Leicester adopted a new code of practice (Research Ethics Code of Practice, December 2006) to ensure that all non-clinical research is to carried out to the highest ethical standards. The policy is specifically designed to address ethical issues that arise from research programmes involving human subjects; in particular where the researcher aims to collect information from human participants. The core aim of the policy is to minimise the risk of harm to participants as a result of the research: to ensure that participants, and the researcher, are fully aware of the risks and responsibilities associated with the collection and storage of personal data; clearly understand how this information will be used in subsequent publications and how it may be accessed and used by people other than the researcher and participants, ie. what data will become part of the public domain; and, to ensure that all research participants must participate in a voluntary way, free from coercion.
The University of Leicester, and the Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC), acknowledge that the research in the UK is already carried out to high ethical standards. The policy exists to ensure that these standards are sustained and to provide a framework for new and established researchers and for those involved in international and interdisciplinary research projects. All students undertaking research, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, who undertake non-clinical projects concerning human subjects, using human material or data must obtain ethical approval for the conduct of their projects from 1st October 2007.
Code of Practice, December 2006
The principal document that all research students should become familiar with is the University Research Ethics Code of Practice: December 2006. Knowledge of the ESRC Research Ethics Framework will also be helpful as this is the policy from which the University guidleines are drawn.
Additional Ethics Resources
This section contains additional resources useful for students including guidelines from other research bodies. This material might also be of use in coursework.
Here is a link to a recent program (03/05/08) on Australia's ABC program All In The Mind about Maori cultural beliefs in relation to the concept of 'informed consent' and organ donation. Who owns your body at death—you or your family?
Disembodied brains, culture and science: Indigenous lives under gaze [Part 2 of 2]
Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth: Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Studies (AIATSIS): Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies
Links to additional archaeological sites with archaeological codes of practice.
British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeolgy (This is an excellent site with good supporting materials including an open debate on ethical issues such as the repatriation of human remains).