Safeguarding in research

Safeguarding is also known as ‘preventing harm’. All researchers undertaking work with vulnerable groups (children, young people, and vulnerable adults) should be aware of the University's safeguarding policy, their responsibilities in relation to safeguarding and undertake necessary training through their school or college.

The University's policy on Safeguarding should be read in conjunction with other relevant policies, including those of research funders or partner organisations.

Safeguarding researchers

Roles and responsibilities with safeguarding during research fieldwork are set out in the guidance document below.

Preventing harm (safeguarding) researchers in research and innovation activities: responsibilities of key stakeholders


This policy is a statement of the University’s commitment to ensuring the physical safety and mental health and wellbeing of research students and staff undertaking fieldwork, as part of research and innovation activities. 

It sets out roles and responsibilities at all stages, from grant applications and recruitment to planning, undertaking and debriefing fieldwork.  This policy should be read in conjunction with the following:


  • Safeguarding policy
  • Business Travel Policy
  • Lone worker policy
  • Dignity at Work and Study
  • Personal Relationships Policy
  • Protection of Vulnerable Groups
  • The Prevent Duty
  • Code of Good Practice in Research
  • Postgraduate Research Code of Practice (and Research Furth Policy)
  • University Ethics Policies



Whilst the University’s Safeguarding policy and ethics procedures highlight responsibilities for conducting research in relation to vulnerable groups, this policy focuses specifically on our staff and students, as one of those groups that is vulnerable to harm during fieldwork. 

The University is committed to doing everything possible to ensure a positive environment for research fieldwork, acknowledging that risks may be due to the physical environment but also the emotionally demanding nature of fieldwork itself or of some types of research (e.g. in relation to trauma). It is also noted that some research environments may have power imbalances or poor working cultures, which may also lead to harm to researchers, including abuse, bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. This policy therefore also supports the principles set out in the Dignity at Work and Study policy and the personal relationships policy, providing a framework to ensure that issues are fully explored and addressed, and roles and responsibilities and where to go for additional support or advice are clear for all parties involved in fieldwork.  



This policy applies to all postgraduate researchers or staff (from any group, including professional services, technical or academic) who are undertaking research fieldwork, in the UK or abroad. Our fieldwork definition includes any type of data collection which involves travel or data collection outside of the UofG campuses (including archival visits, students returning to home country / previous workplace to collect data). In the case of data collection within another Institution, Graduate Schools should advise whether the Research Furth Policy is also required.  


Policy statement

As a University, we have a duty of care to students and to staff, to ensure that they are fully aware of risks in the fieldwork process and have an appropriate risk assessment in place. This is overseen by Health, Safety and Wellbeing. However, responsibility for this policy and training and support for researchers undertaking fieldwork is overseen by the Director of Research and Innovation Services

  • Risk management for research projects (and ensuing mitigation steps and costs) are the responsibility of the Head of School or Director of Research Institute. However, many day to day responsibilities in this sphere are delegated to the Supervisor or Line Manager.
  • Schools / Institutes will be best placed to support disciplinary specific issues but assessing fieldwork risks might need specialist input from other networks or Services, or external partners
  • It is primarily the job of the Supervisor or line manager to ensure that a comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation plan is in place and to understand the level of experience of the individual undertaking fieldwork, and what support is required. However, the line manager of supervisor may not themselves have the right experience or knowledge to support this and therefore must be aware of their own limitations. They are required to support their student or staff member to identify and access support or training from other sources, while continuing to be approachable, respectful and supportive as the risk assessment and planning process evolve.
  • In the case of Postgraduate Research Student (PGR) fieldwork, PGRs are considered to be partners in the risk assessment process and this should be framed as a core part of developing as a professional researcher. As with any aspect of the PhD process and supervision, it is a learning experience. The balance of roles and responsibilities is expected to be different for each student-supervisor relationship and to evolve over time. See also the supervisor-student expectation continuum used widely across the sector and in UofG Supervisor development.
  • Third party organisations will often be involved and roles and responsibilities or expectations should be clearly set out and agreed with them, and reviewed regularly

Download the full guidance below, which includes a table with roles and responsibilities set out for researchers (staff or student), line managers or supervisors, Schools or Research Institutes and the Institution. 

Preventing harm: safeguarding researchers roles and responsibilities (PDF)