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Research Ethics

As part of Birkbeck, the School of Business, Economics and Informatics believes in a strong adherence to ethical behaviour in our research. It is as important in the many fields studied within our departments, from AI, to economics, wellbeing at work, and innovation, to name a few. Our research ethics policy applies to all staff and students conducting research in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

Read more about Research Integrity at Birkbeck

Research Ethics

Much of the research proposed by staff and students in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics will require ethical approval before it can be carried out. The requirement for each department are not identical, as each research area forms its consensus on ethics with external institutions and professional bodies.

When Ethical Approval is Needed

Research that requires ethical approval involves one or more of the following characteristics:

  • intervention or interaction with, or observation of, human participants, for purposes of collecting data
  • collection or review of individual-level administrative data
  • collection or review of sensitive or non-anonymised data from social media platforms
  • possible risk to the safety or wellbeing of the researcher
  • a potential impact on animals or the environment
  • a potential risk of significant reputational damage to the College
  • requires an individual to step outside accepted regulatory or legal norms.

For students, if they are unsure whether research needs ethical approval, they should speak to their supervisor early in the research planning process. It is important to seek advice early on, as research will not be able to start before receiving approval. For staff, guidelines are published by the department and a Departmental Research Ethics Officer is available to assist.

Staff can find their Departmental Research Ethics Officer on the Research section of the internal School website and documents. The can be contact here.

How to Apply for Ethical Approval

To apply for ethical approval, the ethics application form is available to download from the relevant Moodle page for the module or from the staff Moodle page. Students are required to discuss the ethical issues with their supervisor. Completed forms should be sent to the student supervisor for approval. Applications will be classified as routine, sensitive or extremely sensitive. Routine applications can be approved by the student supervisor. If an application is considered sensitive or extremely sensitive the supervisor will forward it to the Department Research Ethics Officer for review by the School or College Ethics Committee. For staff, completed ethics forms are directed to their Departmental Research Ethics Officer who can approve routine applications, but again sensitive and extremely sensitive applications are referred to the relevant committee for review.

Once applications have been reviewed by the School or College Ethics Committee, the applicant will be told if they have been granted ethical approval, or if any amendments or clarifications to the research plan are required.

For those preparing ethics application, Birkbeck has guidelines on research with ethical implications and ethical review checklist.

Ethics Guidance and Covid-19

Data collection involving in-person interaction with human participants is currently permitted only for postgraduate research (PGR) students and staff and only where it is not possible or practical for the data collection to be undertaken remotely.