Ethics cases - Introduction

For some years the SRA’s research ethics consultancy forum has been offering advice and guidance to members and external enquirers on a range of issues.

We have received requests for advice about aspects of research with children, about claims to ownership of original data, and about researchers’ responsibility to their line managers or to their conscience. There have been issues of intellectual property rights and the consequences of disseminating potentially unpalatable research findings. As to be expected there have been many requests for negotiating the labyrinth of ethical scrutiny procedures. The health and social care ethical review systems have grown and changed; higher education ethical review systems have been created or modified to meet the new demands of the research councils; and many independent agencies have established their own ethical review committees.

Queries have come from all sectors – academic, government, independent research organisations and individual (own account) researchers. Now, with enquirers’ permissions, we are placing some of the queries and our responses in the form of anonymised “case studies” on the SRA website.

These are not a series of FAQs but represent real dilemmas faced by researchers in the course of their work; that is why we present them as ‘case examples’.

It is important to note that ethics is a fluid field and the Forum’s responses relate to the present state of knowledge at the time the request was made. Each case is presented with the approximate year in which the enquiry was made. Researchers should always check on up-to-date regulations, legislation and review systems for any current issues they face. We hope, however, that the problems confronted and the responses we offered can help researchers in ‘thinking through’ their own ethical dilemmas. (If you wish to make comments please do so via the Ethics Forum)

Read the case studies:

Following 'Proper Procedures'
International Ethical Dilemmas
Gaining Access to Respondents
Interviewing NHS Staff
Ethics in Observation Studies
Supporting a Colleague’s Research for their Dissertation
Inclusion and Exclusion from a Trial Intervention Programme
Interviewing Young People - Disclosure of Abuse
‘Independents’ Seeking Ethical Review
Internet survey with children by children