Research Ethics. Words which elicit a polarized reaction – you either think it’s a fascinating subject or one huge yawnfest. Personally, I think Research Ethics is quite interesting, but I do assist in the organisation of the Research Ethics and Integrity modules under the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP) at the University of Sheffield, so you might say I am slightly biased. At the University of Sheffield we place a great emphasis on Research Ethics. This is highlighted by the fact that all Post Graduate Researchers at the University are required to complete the compulsory Research Ethics and Integrity modules, regardless of what discipline their research is. IMG_20141020_164256The DDP course highlights ethical issues which researchers may encounter at PhD level and beyond, including case studies concerning…

authorship, errors and omissions in research data and publishing.   It gives students the opportunity to reflect on these situations; how they would react if it was happening to them, how to act in a professional and responsible manner and discuss their approaches with their peers. By providing this essential training, an individual researcher acquires a foundation of openness and fairness in sharing research and a knowledge of expectations regarding their own conduct, upon which they can build a successful career. But what if you didn’t complete your PhD at the University of Sheffield? How do you immerse yourself into the culture where researchers are described by Professor Sir Keith Burnett as “stewards of our disciplines and role models for the next generation of researchers?” The University’s Quality and Governance Team provide a range of development resources designed to be useful when planning your project, applying for ethics approval, dealing with an ethical dilemma, or when teaching ethics to others. In particular the Epigeum Online Ethics and Integrity course is designed to support Early Career Researchers with Faculty specific advice and guidance, and acts as a refresher for more established researchers seeking clarity on a particular issue. On a more practical level, the ethical review of research proposals is now a requirement of most major funders and an increasing number of publishers require a declaration of research ethics approval before you can submit an article to a journal. Knowing your institution’s research ethics policy, or at least where to find it, is incredibly important. But I implore you not to see your research ethics application as ‘another box ticking exercise’ – without ethics approval your research is, generally speaking, a non-starter. The University of Sheffield doesn’t grant retrospective ethics approval, so if you think that you might want to use your data in the future, seek advice from your Departmental Ethics Contact. Use the process to plan your project and identify where your impact is going to be. Above all, remember that considering the ethical dimensions of your research is not optional.