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Ethics committees

Birkbeck's ethics committees exist to develop, implement and review procedures for ethical issues related to research, teaching and other areas of College business.


The Ethics Committee meets at least twice per academic year to consider the reports of the Faculty Ethics Committees. It may also deal with issues referred to it by correspondence and by convening additional meetings at the discretion of the Chair.


  • College Ethics Framework
  • To develop and keep under review, for approval by Governors via Audit Committee and Research Committee, a College Ethics Framework, setting out: 
    • the key principles, policies and procedures through which the College discharges its corporate responsibility for addressing ethical issues
    • the Committees and departments responsible for these policies and procedures. 
  • To consider and recommend responses to external and institutional ethical issues.
  • To offer advice to faculties, schools and individual members of staff as requested on specific ethical matters. 
  • To promote good ethical practice throughout the College.
  • Research ethics
  • To develop and keep under review College policy on responsibilities and procedures for ethical review, in consultation with Faculty Research Ethics Committees and reporting to the College Research Committee and the Audit Committee. 
  • To develop and keep under review College policy on research integrity and good conduct; and procedures for considering reports of research misconduct, reporting to the College Research Committee and the Audit Committee.   
  • To consider and approve annual reports from the Faculty Research Ethics Committees on their work, including ethical review of proposed research projects and oversight of research governance within faculties. 
  • To consider specific ethical review cases referred by Faculty Research Ethics Committees under the College's procedures for ethical review, or where institutional level review is required by an external agency.  
  • To promote the consistent application of research ethics procedures across the College and to provide advice as appropriate to Faculty Research Ethics Committees.  
  • To advise on training and support for staff involved in ethical review of proposed research projects. 
  • To make an annual report to the College Research Committee and Audit Committee on business considered under the procedures for ethical review and the policy on research integrity and good conduct. 


  • Chair (a senior member of the academic staff appointed by the Vice-Chancellor): Marion Frenz
  • Independent member (who shall be neither a student or member of staff): Daniel Peltz
  • Pro-Vice-Master (Research): Julian Swann
  • Academic representatives (a member of the academic staff from each school nominated by the Executive Dean)
  • Deputy College Secretary (Governance): Katharine Bock 
  • Head of the Research Office: Liz Francis
  • Head of Research Strategy Support: Sarah Lee
  • Research Data Support Manager: David McElroy 
  • In attendance
    • Secretary: TBD
    • Health and Safety officer: Rob Woods
  • Members on the mailing list (attendance optional) 
    • College Dean


There are three Faculty Ethics Committees:

  • Faculty of Business and Law Committee
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Committee
  • Faculty of Science Committee


  • The membership of the Committee shall consist of at least one member of academic staff from each school within the faculty, and will normally include all the Ethics Leads/Senior Ethics Leads for each school, as nominated by the Head of School in consultation with the Executive Dean. One member will chair the committee. 
  • The Committee has the power to co-opt other such members as it may deem necessary. A quorum will be constituted by at least one third of the normal membership.
  • The College Ethics Committee requires the Terms of Reference for the Faculty Ethics Committees to include the following:
    • To review research proposals on the grounds of ethical acceptability and to approve or reject them where necessary and appropriate. In doing so the Committee shall have the freedom to consult whatever evidence and opinions it considers appropriate to ensure that decisions relating to approval of ethical aspects of research methods are based solely on ethical grounds, and not, for example, on financial interests or solely on the basis of unquestioned current practice.  
    • To promote, communicate and give advice within the school on ethical principles and guidelines.
    • To arrange and promote training on matters concerning ethics and research integrity issues.
    • To consider and advise on any other matters concerning ethics or research integrity issues within the faculty, referring any matters with College-wide implications to the College Ethics Committee.
    • To make an annual report to the College Ethics Committee on the number of ethical approval cases considered, broken down by schools, and where relevant clusters within schools, classification of routine and non-routine, actions required (if any) and details of any particular difficulties encountered.
    • The Faculty Ethics Committees will normally consider applications for ethical approval within two weeks of receipt and will meet in person or virtually at least once per term. If no applications have been received the meeting does not need to go ahead but a record should be kept to this effect and communicated to the College Ethics Committee through the annual report. Dates of meetings should be advertised in advance. Expedited review can happen ‘virtually’ as described in the responsibilities and procedures for ethical review document.
    • All members of the Faculty Ethics Committees shall observe the proper conventions regarding confidentiality of information submitted to their Committee. 
    • The Faculty Ethics Committees will ensure that full records are kept of their assessment of proposals. 
    • In areas where a high volume of approvals are generated, the Faculty Ethics Committee can delegate decision making for ethical proposals which are in line with disciplinary norms to e.g. project supervisors, module convenors or programme directors, as described in the responsibilities and procedures for ethical review document. Where approval is delegated, at the point when the annual report is drafted, the Ethics Lead(s) should sample check a proportion of these cases and raise any issues in the report.   
    • Conflicts of Interest are addressed as described in the responsibilities and procedures for ethical review document.
    • When appropriate, the Faculty Ethics Committee may be asked to provide advice around questions relating to research integrity.


Ethics Leads should be a research active member of the academic staff of Birkbeck with at least three years’ post-probationary experience.


  • The specific responsibilities of the role are:
    • To ensure that the Responsibilities and Procedures for Ethical Review are followed within the school and any local guidance on interpretation is produced. 
    • To ensure that a school procedure for the ethical approval of research projects, and assignments on taught modules, are in place and that a written record is kept of approvals and decisions.
    • To monitor and ensure that ethics processes within the school are working effectively. 
    • To attend Faculty Ethics Committee meetings.
    • To contribute to the annual report of the Faculty Ethics Committee to the College Ethics Committee by providing information on the cases considered for ethical approval in the school. This includes:
      • number of cases considered
      • type of research
      • ethical issues
      • action required (if any)
      • particular difficulties encountered
      • any changes in school procedures.
    • To ensure that mechanisms are in place for approval by appropriate external bodies (e.g. NHS) if relevant and to liaise with those bodies and central approval processes where necessary.
    • To promote awareness of and training in ethical principles and processes among students and staff.
    • Fielding queries on ethical issues from members of the school.
    • To report to the Faculty and/or College Ethics Committees any training or development needs related to ethical issues and approval procedures.
    • To assume responsibility for actively promoting equality of opportunity and ensuring the faculty acts in accordance with Birkbeck’s equality and diversity policies, procedures and commitments.  
  • One of the School Ethics Leads will chair the Faculty Ethics Committee and represent that faculty on the College Ethics Committee. 
  • One Ethics Lead representative from each other school will also sit on the College Ethics Committee but as co-opted members.