College of Arts & Humanities Research Ethics Policy

College of Arts & Humanities Research Ethics Policy

The University of Glasgow, in accordance with legislation and the requirements of UK research councils, has established an Ethics Policy. Under this Policy, each College is required to establish an Ethics Committee charged with ensuring that research in that College is pursued in accordance with ethical principles. This applies in particular to issues involving human subjects, materials or data not in the public domain. 

In accordance with the decision of the University’s Senatus, the College of Arts & Humanities has an ethical policy which governs its research. The College of Arts & Humanities derives its ethical policy from ethical considerations identified by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic & Social Science Research Council (ESRC):

ESRC Research Ethics Framework (PDF, 330 KB)

College Ethics Officer

Ethical issues in the College are the primary responsibility of the College’s Ethics Officer. The role and remit of the Ethics Officer is to draw the attention of colleagues and departments within the College to ethical considerations as they may arise in teaching and research, to be available for preliminary consultation, and to ensure that University-required ethical procedures are carried out in the College. In particular, the Ethics Officer will be responsible for ensuring that ethical issues in College research are kept under review; that procedures are managed and monitored; that appropriate records are made and kept; that the Dean of the College is kept informed as appropriate; and that reports to College and, on behalf of College, to the University Ethics Committee are made. The Ethics Officer also convenes the College’s Ethics Committee.

College Research Ethics Committee

The College of Arts & Humanities Research Ethics Committee is made up of members of the College representing subject areas plus associated volunteers and an external member. The College Ethics Committee has the power to co-opt additional members from outside the University should it deem it necessary. The Committee is so constituted as to reflect the range of expertise and research experience of the College.

The full Ethics Committee meets formally once a year. However, reports on ethical issues are made at every meeting of the Research Committee by the Ethics Officer, who is also required to report regularly to the University Ethics Committee. Panels of members of the Ethics Committee are required to scrutinise applications for ethical approval submitted to the Committee.

The Ethics Officer distributes applications for ethical approval to the College Ethics Committee for scrutiny. In the same way as with the College’s Appeals Panels, the College’s Ethics Committee will be consulted whenever a proposal dealing with human subjects, materials or data is brought before it. All proposals will be scrutinised by at least four members of the Committee (“the quorum”); members of the Committee involved in the research proposal cannot act as scrutineers. Consultation will usually be electronic or by internal mail, although the full Committee will meet once a year to review its procedures and the decisions taken; this meeting will take place as part of the last meeting of the academic session of the College Research Committee.

The Committee will be asked to ensure that the proposal under consideration is congruent with ethical considerations identified by AHRC (the default position) or, if appropriate, by other funding bodies.

Ethical considerations identified by AHRC include the following:

  • the intellectual property rights of all those involved in the research, including both research staff and research subjects
  • confidentiality of information provided by research subjects, and anonymity of respondents
  • transparency to both staff and subjects as to the purpose, methods\, and possible uses of the research, and any risks involved
  • legal restrictions upon access to or the use of research resources and data
  • arrangements for the publication of research results, including issues of co-authorship;independence and impartiality of judgement; authentication of findings; and acknowledgement

The Committee may:

  • authorise the research to proceed without requiring any amendment. The Committee’s scrutineers must agree; absence of objection is insufficient. Any such authorisation is granted on the basis of the project as stated on the research submission; any changes must be notified to (and approved by) the Committee;
  • seek additional information, if necessary through a formal meeting of the Committee with the researcher (though this will be the exception rather than the rule);
  • ask that a particular aspect of the methodology should be reconsidered;
  • reject the research proposal in whole or in part;
  • revoke its approval of the research if dissatisfied with the conduct of the research or of the researchers;
  • refer university students or staff through the University’s disciplinary procedures if issues of concern arise from the research.

In all except the first instance (i.e. authorisation) the Committee will give reasons in writing for its decision. It is hoped that all decisions will be made within a fortnight of proposals reaching the Ethics Officer. A record will be kept of all applications and decisions.

Researchers who are dissatisfied with the decision made by the College Ethics Committee should in the first instance discuss the matter with the College Ethics Officer. If discussion is unable to resolve the issue satisfactorily, an appeal from the College Ethics Committee may be made to the College.

Regular open seminars are held on ethical issues throughout the academic year. Staff and students alike are welcome to attend and contribute to these meetings. It is the considered view of the Ethics Committee that ethical practices in the arts and humanities are best arrived at through dialogue than through diktat.

All research in the College must be governed by ethical considerations, and all staff are required to be cognisant of the College’s ethics policy.

If you or your students are conducting any research involving human subjects, materials or data not in the public domain, then you should submit an ethics application to the College of Arts & Humanities Ethics Committee for approval of your research.

Should you have any query about the policy, or suggestions for improvement, we would be very pleased to hear from you. Contact the College Ethics Officer, currently Dr. Iain Banks, email