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SSHP Ethics Committee

All research and all teaching exercises involving human participants must have received ethical approval at the appropriate level – within the Department hosting the programme or by the School Ethics Committee. This is so, no matter where the investigations are carried out or if ethical approval has been given by some other institution. There are not, and possibly cannot be, a completely firm set of criteria for classifying research as ethically acceptable.  Birkbeck staff and students are required to abide by ethical principles such as justice, truthfulness, confidentiality and respect for persons, but also to attend to the evolving understanding of how these principles are expressed in society at a particular time.

The Committee’s procedures are intended to balance the need to safeguard participants and researchers, and an efficient and workable set of arrangements. In applying their procedures the Committee take account of the law as it applies to health and safety, and the protection of young people, together with the notion of ‘reasonable precautions’ against threats to the well-being of participants. The Committee reports to the College Research Ethics Committee.

The Committee has the power to scrutinize all research involving human participants. When necessary the Committee shall call upon any other persons with proper expertise to assist them with their decisions. It has the power to approve or reject research on grounds of ethical acceptability. No investigation shall commence until it has met the conditions laid down by the Committee. If the proposer of an investigation disagrees with the decision of the School Ethics Committee they can ask that the proposal be referred to the College Research Ethics Committee.