Definitions of research and ethics
Definition of research
The University of Stirling applies the Frascati definition of research. "Research and experimental development comprise creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge - including the knowledge of humankind, culture and society - and to devise new applications of available knowledge.
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
Key ethical considerations
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 should aim to maximise benefit for individuals and society and minimise risk and harm
- The rights and dignity of individuals and groups should be respected
- Wherever possible, participation should be voluntary and appropriately informed
- Research should be conducted with integrity and transparency
- Lines of responsibility and accountability should be clearly defined
- Independence of research should be maintained and where conflicts of interest cannot be avoided they should be made explicit.
Research involving animals
- The principle of replacement is the principle that, wherever possible, a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy not entailing the use of protected animals must be used instead of a regulated procedure.
- The principle of reduction is the principle that whenever a programme of work involving the use of protected animals is carried out the number of protected animals used must be reduced to a minimum without compromising the objectives of the programme.
- The principle of refinement is the principle that the breeding, accommodation and care of protected animals and the methods used in regulated procedures applied to such animals must be refined so as to eliminate or reduce to the minimum any possible pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to those animals.
Please refer to the Data Protection pages for our policies and guidance, including information on GDPR 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 healthy place of work where staff and students are confident that their health, safety and welfare are 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. For research involving fieldwork a Fieldwork Risk Assessment Form must be completed.
Principles, guidance and forms
The University of Stirling is committed to ensuring that all research conducted under our auspices is in accordance with the appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards. The University’s ethical review process exists to ensure that our research activities continue to fulfil high ethical standards as well as legal obligations and safety standards.
The University’s guidelines for research ethics committees draw on the requirements of a number of institutions including; the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Framework for Research Ethics, the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), the British Psychological Society, the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) and other institutions to which the University is accountable. Due cognisance of both University and discipline-specific ethical standards and norms for practice-based research should be taken.
Please click on the following links to download the ethics guidance and forms you require:
If using one of the below approved protocols please apply to the University's AWERB (Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body) making reference to the approved protocol in your application.
If using one of the below approved protocols please apply to GUEP (General University Ethics Panel) - unless the research involves NHS patients or other invasive procedures, in which case apply to NICR. Please make reference to the approved protocol that you will be using within your application for approval.
If you will be undertaking research within the University's Kindergarten please refer to their established and approved procedures - these are for internal staff and students only.
If using one of the below approved protocols please apply to the University's NICR (NHS, Invasive and Clinical Research) review panel making reference to the approved protocol in your application.
Please note that the University's ethics panels welcome the use of protocols where appropriate. Please put forward protocols for approval to the relevant panel.
Research Integrity Training Resources
To further the University’s culture of research integrity, training materials have been made available via Canvas.
- Introduction to Research Integrity and the responsible and ethical conduct of research
- Ethical approval and practice
- Plagiarism and recycling of text and research outputs
- Collaborative research and data management and integrity
- Peer review and publication ethics
The training has been developed and made available across the sector, by the University of Dundee. Training materials
Link to training materials: https://canvas.stir.ac.uk/enroll/CJ43KW