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OU academic leads new UK guidance to improve research ethics standards

Professor John Oates has led the creation of new guidance on research ethics, promoting the development of best practice.

John, Professor of Developmental Psychology within the OU’s School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport, is lead author for the new guidance entitled ‘Research Ethics Support and Review in Research Organisations’, which launched this month.

Commissioned by the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO) and the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA), the guidance brings together developments in academic work on ethics and integrity, the expectations of research funders and government and existing examples of good practice. Its aim is to help researchers and organisations to develop a positive culture of integrity and ethics in research. 

Professor Oates said: “This was a large-scale project, and I am very pleased to have been able to bring together the expertise and knowledge of so many people to make this contribution to the development of best practice in research ethics.” 

Unlike research within the NHS, where there is a national process for ensuring high ethics standards, support for research ethics has tended to grow piecemeal across the universities and other organisations that carry out research more widely. The current pandemic has shone a light on the need for research that can be relied on to meet the highest standards of integrity and ethics. This new framework offers a clear rationale and practical guidance on how to ensure that there is consistency across the sector in how research projects are reviewed, and researchers supported.

Professor Kevin Hetherington, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the OU for Research Enterprise and Scholarship said: “This is an extensive piece of work and will, I am sure, achieve its objectives of improving the consistency of practice, delivering high standards and a positive culture of integrity and ethics in research and assisting in the audit of processes. It demonstrates the academic reputation of the OU, to be associated with work of this calibre and importance.”

Professor Sir Ian Boyd, Chair of UKRIO said: “All organisations involved in research, from universities to commercial companies, will benefit from this document. The principles it sets outlay the groundwork for good practice. Ensuring the highest standards in research integrity and ethics needs to be a central plank of corporate social responsibility. People expect it and this document points out the route through which this responsibility can be delivered.” 

Steph Bales, Chair of ARMA said: “I am thrilled to see the collaborative efforts of ARMA UKRIO come to fruition in this joint guidance document. It is essential reading for all research professionals, not just those involved in supporting ethics committee structures.”

The guidance is available in two formats: standard, which includes extended background and rationale with references, and a summary version, which sets out key recommendations and basic ground rules for developing best practice in supporting high ethical standards in research.  

Find out more:

Read more related materials about research ethics support from UKRIO and ARMA  

Read about the OU’s approach to research ethics

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