Facilitating world-class research
The University of Oxford seeks to protect the dignity, rights and welfare of all those involved in research (whether they are participants, third parties or staff and students) and to promote high ethical standards of research. The University achieves this by:
This policy should be read in conjunction with the University's Academic Integrity in Research: Code of Practice and Procedure and reflects the principles and commitments outlined in the funder-endorsed Concordat to Support Research Integrity.
In this policy, the term ‘researcher’ refers to staff and students, and to other persons engaged in a University-led research project who, as a condition of their being granted access to the University’s premises or facilities, have agreed in writing that this policy shall apply to them, whether or not the research is conducted on the University’s premises or using the University’s facilities.
The University of Oxford is committed to ensuring that its research activities involving human participants and personal data are conducted in a way which:
The University requires that all those carrying out such research engage with the University’s commitment to conduct research to high ethical standards and seek ethical review and approval of such research; understand the reasons for, and participate fully in, the ethical review process (whether under the University’s procedures or those of authorised bodies such as the Health Research Authority); and fulfil their moral and legal responsibilities in respect of the rights and welfare of participants.
The University is committed to ensuring that research involving human participants and personal data conducted on University premises or by University staff or students is carried out to high ethical standards.
The University meets this commitment by:
The University is committed to ensuring that all research involving human participants and personal data contributes to the public good, and that the dignity, rights and welfare of staff and students conducting research, research participants and third parties (which may include family members, carers or the wider community) are respected.
The University meets this commitment by:
The University is committed to providing leadership in the area of ethical conduct of research and to participating openly in discussions on the direction of research, and improvements to practice, in this area.
The University is committed to sustaining and encouraging ethical research conduct among staff and students through the provision of training to equip them with the skills to recognise potential risks and by raising awareness of the University’s policy and procedures and the responsibilities of researchers in helping the University meet its obligations under the relevant legislation.
The University is committed to providing a competent, rigorous and externally-moderated process of ethical review that is proportionate to the potential risk and, where a high risk is identified, assesses that risk against the benefits to the public good.
The University extends to its staff and students the same protection as to all other participants. Staff and students may be invited to participate in research carried out in the University but their participation must be entirely voluntary, they may withdraw at any time, and their participation or decision not to participate will not affect their employment or academic assessment in any way. It is normally acceptable for students to be invited to take part in teaching exercises, one of the main aims of which is to train them to make their own observations.
The Registrar, reporting to the Vice-Chancellor, is the University’s chief administrative officer and, as such, has overall responsibility for ethical conduct in the University and for the University’s compliance with government policy and legislation.
It is the responsibility of Research and Innovation Committee to keep under regular review policies which promote the responsible conduct of research and meet the relevant regulatory requirements, including University policy relating to the ethical conduct of research involving human participants and personal data.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) is appointed by Council to provide leadership in all matters relating to research. Specific duties include co-ordination of the activities of bodies concerned with research ethics and an audit role in ensuring that compliance is being achieved in this area. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor chairs the Research and Innovation Committee (to which the Central University Research Ethics Committee reports) and consults with the Registrar on ethical matters and compliance issues of wider concern to the University.
Heads of division provide senior academic leadership within the University, an important element of which is to promote the highest ethical standards in the design, conduct and reporting of research.
Heads of department as senior academic leaders within the University should promote the highest ethical standards in the design, conduct and reporting of research.
As one component of this, heads of departments are responsible to heads of division for ensuring their staff and students observe this policy and for the effective local review and approval of departmental research applications before submission to one of the Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC)’s subcommittees for ethical review.
The Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC), which reports to the Research and Innovation Committee, has overall responsibility for the University’s ethical review process and makes recommendations to the Research and Innovation Committee on changes to this policy, its remit as set out in the University’s regulations and the composition of its membership and that of its subcommittees.
Research Services is responsible for promoting the responsible conduct of research and compliance with regulatory and research funder requirements through information and advice, training, policy development, clinical trials and research governance support. Through its Clinical Trials and Research Governance Team, it facilitates compliance, on an individual and institutional level, with all regulations governing clinical research involving human participants. Through its Research Ethics and Integrity Team, it supports CUREC’s three subcommittees (and provides advice to departmental research ethics committees), which consider applications for ethical review and approval by the University, ensuring that applications assessed to be more than minimal risk are considered by the appropriate sub-committee. Research Services’ officers work closely with CUREC.
This policy applies to all those involved in research involving human participants or personal data, whether as staff or students. The University expects them to take personal responsibility for familiarising themselves with the policy, with professional frameworks, standards and obligations that apply to their research, with their statutory responsibilities and for keeping such knowledge up-to-date.
Research involving human participants and personal data requires ethical review and must not be undertaken unless and until that review has been sought and approval provided. Research supervisors should assist their students to become familiar with this and other University policies and procedures relevant to the conduct of the student’s project, and provide specific advice and guidance.
The University regards any breach of this policy or any breach of the approved terms of a project, as a very serious matter, which may result in disciplinary action, which may include dismissal for staff and expulsion for students. In appropriate circumstances, the Central University Research Ethics Committee subcommittees have the power under the regulations to withhold, suspend or withdraw approval of research, whether as part of disciplinary proceedings or otherwise.
Staff or students may appeal the decision of a University ethical review committee to withhold, suspend or withdraw ethical approval of research involving human participants or personal data by contacting the Chair of the Central University Research Ethics Committee.
Suspected breaches of this policy should be reported to the Chair of the Central University Research Ethics Committee.
Suspected misconduct in research should be considered and reported as set out in the University’s Academic Integrity in Research: Code of Practice and Procedure.
Updated and approved by the Central University Research Ethics Committee: 4 June 2019. Approved by Research and Innovation Committee: 13 June 2019.
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