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Complying with ethical requirements

Research Skills required by PhD students B2: Complying with ethical requirements...

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4 March 2010

B2: Demonstrate awareness of issues relating to the rights of other researchers, of research subjects, and of others who may be affected by the research, e.g. confidentiality, ethical issues, attribution, copyright, malpractice, ownership of data and [for researchers based in the UK] the requirements of the Data Protection Act

Check this skill

By the time students complete a PhD, they should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to most of these questions.

  • Do you know what your legal rights and responsibilities are as a member of the university, and can you fulfil them?
  • Do you know what intellectual property rights are? And do you know your position as a research student at your university?
  • Can you define plagiarism? Do you know the sanctions for plagiarism at your university?
  • Can you articulate when and how to make explicit acknowledgement of ideas?
  • Can you articulate different ways in which credit can be given?
  • Do you know what a confidentiality agreement is, and do you know if you have the right to sign one without the university's consent?
  • Can you describe the procedures for ethical approval of studies at your university?
  • [For UK researchers] Do you know what the Data Protection Act is, and can you explain how it affects your research? Do you know how to register a database under the Data Protection Act?
  • If you plan to conduct any human-subjects studies, can you explain how to apply the principles of 'informed consent' in your research?
  • In legal terms, can you define 'bullying', 'harassment' and 'discriminatory behaviour'?
  • Do you know your legal responsibilities in respect to these in your interactions with your colleagues, other students and those you engage in your research?

Evidence of this skill

These are examples of documents you can collect. Each implies a piece or work, which may be a good way for you to develop this skill.

  • Record of participation in and reflective notes written about training sessions on:
    • IPO, Copyright and Patents
    • Research Ethics
    • Data protection
    • Anti-discrimination law.
  • Notes printed out from relevant website and reflective commentary upon them.
  • A successful application to an ethics committee.
  • A written publication agreement with your supervisors.
  • [For UK students] Successful DPA registration of your database.
  • A formal laboratory notebook, bound and 'signed off'.
  • An appropriately designed protocol and form for giving informed consent for each of your studies using human participants.

This page is based upon material produced by The Open University’s research school to support doctoral students.

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