Naughty or nice? When it comes to research ethics, the question is not quite so simple. An important consideration for research at the University is that it is “conducted in a way that respects the dignity, rights, and welfare of participants, and minimises risk to participants, researchers, third parties, and to the University itself.” (https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/governance/ethics). Therefore, projects that involve human participants have to go through an ethical review. The review examines the processes used to keep everyone safe, looking at the way participants are informed about the project and protected from harm, the way collected information is stored and managed so that it doesn’t get lost or fall into the wrong hands and a number of other aspects.
Many find the process of applying for ethical review difficult and time-consuming and a considerable proportion of applications are incomplete when first submitted, often because the applicant had not realised what information they needed to supply. The ‘Better Research Ethics Application Process’ project is looking to help both applicants and reviewers by creating a dynamic online system for ethical review. Applicants will be guided through the application process and the answers they give to one question will decide what kind of information they are asked to provide next. Reviewers will be able to assess the applications quicker and better when all the relevant information is provided. The system will be piloted in the Computer Science Department, and hopefully be made available to the whole University by June 2020.
The ‘Better Research Ethics Application Process’ project is based in the Department of Computer Science with support from the IT Innovation Challenges.