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Research Ethics and Academic Integrity

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Research Ethics Review

The Laws Faculty has a Faculty Research Ethics Team (FRET).  It is available to any Laws researcher, teacher or student who has any question at all about research ethics, who may be unsure whether their research needs formal ethical review or who would like any assistance in the process of ethical review.  FRET reviews faculty research projects (including external grant proposals), student research projects that involve empirical research, and 1st year PhD students’ ethical statements on their research.

For guidance and advice on any issue involving research ethics you should, in the first instance, contact the Laws Research Office at: laws.research@ucl.ac.uk. The Laws Research Office will then ensure that FRET helps you with your query, and will support you in identifying whether any further information or documentation may be required.

If you want to conduct research involving any of the following, you should contact the Laws Research Office in the first instance. Formal approval from FRET may be required before you proceed:

  • Interviews – formal and informal
  • Questionnaires / surveys
  • Creating or accessing data sets
  • Observing proceedings
  • Accessing case files or transcripts which are usually confidential.

Certain ‘high risk’ categories of research, such as e.g. working with children or other vulnerable groups, or handling sensitive data, or involving travel which may expose the researcher to personal risk, will need approval by the central UCL Research Ethics Committee (REC). This is a formal process, which may subject your research to delay. The process for UCL REC review is laid out step-by-step here: https://ethics.grad.ucl.ac.uk/procedures.php. However, before proceeding with this procedure, you are advised to first seek guidance from FRET by contacting the Laws Research Office at: laws.research@ucl.ac.uk. Researchers planning to commence ‘high risk’ research should contact FRET as soon as possible.

Even if your research is not ‘high risk’, or requiring formal clearance from FRET, it must still be conducted in accordance with accepted ethics standards as well as the recognised professional codes of conduct suitable for your research specialism.  Laws FRET can provide advice and guidance on any of these issues.

Please Note: UCL will be adopting a new policy on research ethical review at some point in the future.  When that happens, this webpage will be revised to reflect the new policy.

Members of the Faculty Research Ethics Team in 2020-21 are: 

  • Professor Colm O’Cinneide (Chair and Lead for Faculty Research Committee);
  • Mr Phil Baker (Administrative Support);
  • Professor Eloise Scotford (Vice Dean (Research));
  • Professor Cheryl Thomas;
  • Dr Michael Veale;
  • Ms Tatjana Wingender (Faculty Research Officer).

 

Data Protection

Exemption from approval by the UCL Research Ethics Committee does not mean that the research is also automatically exempt from registration with the UCL Data Protection Officer or from UCL Risk Assessment procedures.  Any research activities which involve the processing of “personal data” (ie, data from which a living individual can be identified) will be subject to the UK Data Protection Laws, which is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).   All research using “personal data” must be registered with UCL Legal Services before the data is collected or the research is submitted for ethics review.  To check if your research involves “personal data”, please see the Guidance provided by UCL Legal Services:
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/legal-services/research/research-activities
Information on risk assessment can be found here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/safety-services/a-z/risk-assessment . Please contact the Laws Research Office to check whether your research needs a formal Risk Assessment.

Academic Integrity

Should you ever have concerns about Academic Integrity of any kind, you can find guidance in the UCL Statement on Academic Integrity:
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/research/integrity/integrity-at-ucl
and you are strongly encouraged to raise any such matters with the Laws Faculty contacts on these matters: the Dean and the Deputy Dean/Vice Dean Staffing.

Research Transparency, including UCL Statement on Transparency in Research

For further information and to download UCL's Statement on Transparency on Research visit the UCL Research Transparency website.

Advice for researchers planning overseas fieldwork

UCL’s simplified policy and guidance site makes planning overseas research and fieldwork easier and helps researchers ensure they're policy-compliant. In order to help UCL researchers comply with all the different requirements, UCL’s Research Integrity Team has created a roadmap that sets out the processes involved in planning and conducting international research; bringing them together in a single, easy to follow resource with our Overseas Research Roadmap.