It is University policy that research projects involving human participants are subject to ethical review, and the University’s ‘Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC)’ holds overall responsibility for University policy and the ethical review process.
In almost all cases, CSLS researchers will need to submit an application for ethical review to the Social Sciences and Humanities Interdivisional Research Ethics Committee (SSH IDREC) using the CUREC 1A form, which has been specially designed for this purpose.
Human participant research generally covers any situation in which people are the subject of study and personal data is obtained either directly from them or indirectly. However, IDREC has confirmed that ethical approval is not required for research that uses information in the public domain. For example no CUREC form is required for the use of material such as internet blogs, biographies, newspaper accounts, broadcasts, published diaries, and archives that are open to the public.
CUREC forms are expected to be submitted to the relevant IDREC and approval to be received before the start of fieldwork. Centre students will first need to obtain signatures from both their supervisor and the DGS. In unproblematic cases CUREC approval can be received fairly quickly, but it is recommended that your form should reach IDREC 30 days before the fieldwork starts.
CUREC forms change from time to time, so please check for the latest version on the CUREC site.
Full details, including how to apply plus information on resources, useful contacts and training opportunities, can be found on the University Research Support website at https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/governance/ethics/contacts#collapse395141, and on the Faculty of Law website at http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/curec/.
The application form is available at https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/governance/ethics/apply/sshidrec.
This form is specially designed for research in the social sciences and humanities. It aims to raise awareness of relevant ethical issues and also to identify aspects of a research project which could merit further scrutiny. The form places considerable emphasis on the applicability of professional guidelines, and in most cases all that is required is that the researcher be committed to using them. The entire form should be read in line with CUREC’s advice that “only in a limited number of cases is it necessary for researchers to complete the full application form [CUREC/2]”. In reviewing research projects the relevant University of Oxford Committee - SSH IDREC - takes account of the overall nature of the research project. Elite informants and interviewees, for example, are in many cases regarded as being substantially less at risk than other participants.
The IDREC members understand that a research project can change subsequent to completion of the form, and indeed is likely to. However, IDREC need not be informed about it provided that (1) the changes are not such as would require completion of a CUREC/2 and (2) this change is not so drastic that you are undertaking what amounts to a different project. These provisions further underscore the importance within the scheme of the application of professional guidelines.
Some CSLS students have been experiencing difficulties in obtaining approval via the CUREC process. They can obtain further advice from their supervisor or Professor Marina Kurkchiyan (Director of Graduate Studies).
Links to Professional Ethical Guidance
Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Research Ethics Statement: http://www.slsa.ac.uk/index.php/ethics-statement
Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) Ethical Guidelines: http://www.theasa.org/ethics.shtml
American Political Science Association (APSA) Guide to Professional Ethics in Political Science: http://www.apsanet.org/RESOURCES/For-Faculty/Ethics
Resources designed to flag up some key points of good practices of research data management: http://researchdata.ox.ac.uk/induction/