Definition of research
Although there continues to be debate over what constitutes research, the University of Stirling applies the definition formulated for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. For the purposes of the REF, research is defined as ‘a process of investigation leading to new insights, effectively shared’.
More specifically, ‘it includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and routine analysis of materials, components and processes such as for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research’. In addition ‘it includes research that is published, disseminated or made publicly available in the form of assessable research outputs, and confidential reports’.
‘Annex C: Definition of research and impact for the REF’, in Assessment Framework and Guidance on Submissions (July 2011, updated Jan. 2012)
Definition of ethics
Ethics are a personal code of conduct based on respect for one's self, others and surroundings and is governed by the principles or assumptions underpinning the way individuals or organisations ought to conduct themselves. Research ethics involves the application of fundamental ethical principles to research activities which include the design and implementation of research, respect towards society and others, the use of resources and research outputs, scientific misconduct and the regulation of research.
For more in-depth information, please refer to the Research Ethics: Definitions, Principles and Responsibilities.
There are many ethical considerations when undertaking research. Key amongst these are the protection of human participants, welfare of animal subjects, handling of personal data and respect for intellectual property. Various codes of conduct and policies exist to guide ethical behaviour and researchers should refer to those most appropriate to their discipline or area of study – see useful links. Reference should also be made to the University’s guidance documents detailing Research Ethics: Definitions, Principles and Responsibilities and Definition of key terms.
Research involving human participants
With regard to research involving human participants, the University adheres to the six key principles outlined in the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics:
Research involving animals
The Data Protection Act (1998) defines the University’s responsibilities concerning the collection, storage, use and transfer of information about living individuals. It also affords rights to individuals, including the right to see information held about them. Please refer to the Data Protection pages for policy and guidance, including an advisory note on Data Protection and Research.
Intellectual property is the output of intellectual endeavour in literary, artistic, dramatic, industrial, scientific and engineering fields, which is generally capable of being identified and protected. The protection of IP is provided through certain legal rights many of which are established under legislation, common law and international treaties. For detailed guidance see the University’s Intellectual Property Policy.
Health and Safety
The University is committed to providing a safe and health place of work where staff and students are confident that their health, safety and welfare and considered to be of the utmost importance at all times. For detailed guidance see the University's Health and Safety Policies.
If your research activities involve carrying out fieldwork defined in the USHA and UCEA Guidance on Health and Safety in Fieldwork as:
"Any work carried out by staff or students for the purposes of teaching, research or other activities while representing the institution off-site.
This definition will therefore include activities as diverse as attendance at conference and recruitment fairs, or undertaking social science interviews, as well as activities more traditionally associated with the term fieldwork such as survey/collection work carried out by geologists or biologists."
Please complete the Health and Safety processes established within your Faculty before commencing your fieldwork.
Data protection and copyright
Good Research Practice
Research involving animals
Research involving humans