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All research in the school must be informed by a thorough understanding of the PSI code of ethics, as this is the code of ethics of our national professional body. It is incumbent on all researchers to become familiar with this code. The full text of the code is given in the .pdf documents section.
In addition, the Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles for Psychologists which was adopted unanimously by the General Assembley of the International Union of Psychological Science in Berlin on 22nd July 2008 is also given in full text in the .pdf documents section. The reader is strongly recommended to be aware of this Universal Declaration and to consider how it impacts on their proposed research.
Because the PSI code of ethics is laid out from the point of view of a practitioner, the clauses which relate to research practice are not placed conveniently together. The Departmental Briefing on Ethics for Researchers attempts to summarise the ethics clauses under headings more suitable for research practice.
An important ethical principle in research with human subjects is informed consent. There are a number of guidelines and many discussion documents as to what this term might actually mean, but the most succinct and compendious set was produced by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Briefing on Informed Consent for Researchers gives the DoH guidelines and explains them in less formal language. The researcher should be thoroughly familiar with these guidelines.
Once the researcher has understood these principles, and has developed a research proposal, they should submit a document for ethical scrutiny by the School's Ethics Committee. The brief of this committee is to scrutinise independent research proposals from students and staff and to make a judgement on whether the ethical principles to which we are committed as psychologists are upheld in the the way the research is proposed.
It is not the practice at present to subject undergraduate laboratory classes, or closely supervised postgraduate practice to ethical scrutiny by Committee. Ethical scrutiny of such pedagogic research is by the supervisor or course director, who may consult with colleagues or the Committee if they wish to do so.
Final Honours Undergraduate projects may have been pre-scrutinised if the staff member proposing such a project has sought prior ethical scrutiny for the project as presented in the FYP Handbook. For such projects further ethical scrutiny is not necessary. However, for any other Final Honours project, ethical scrutiny is necessary and must be applied for before the data collection phase of the project can begin.
Please supply one document in four parts in pdf format to Dr Ciara Staunton (C.Staunton@ucc.ie) in the School secretariat in order to have your project proposal scrutinised by the School Ethics Committee. The parts are:
The committee aims to provide a response to the researcher, through the Secretary of the Committee, within one working week; there are however times when there may be a significant backlog of applications and the response may then take a little longer.
By approval the Committee means, that the project as presented to them raises no ethical problem the solution to which has not been addressed in the proposal.
The Committee may make one of four recommendations:
The Committee may also decide, if a project has already started and actions have already been taken by the researcher, that the researcher has shown their contempt for the process of ethical scrutiny. In such a case the Committee reserves the right not to scrutinise the project at all and will make no recommendation.
All documents and deliberations of the Committee are a matter of record and are open to inspection under a Freedom of Information request.
In addition to receiving school approval, the researcher may have to submit their proposal to other bodies, such as the Clinical Research Ethics Committee (CREC) or the Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (AEEC) for granting of permission, or to the Social Research Ethics Committee (SREC) in order to allow that committee to comply with its oversight resposibility. See Other Ethics Bodies in UCC for a short discussion of these bodies and where to find more information about them.
If the researcher has to submit their proposal to another body, they should indicate this on their submission to the School Committee. In this case, the approval of the School Committee will be conditional on approval being granted by the other body. No researcher from the School is exempt from submitting research proposals for approval by the School Committee, regardless of what other bodies these research proposals may be sent to.
Last updated: 3rd September 2012