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Guidelines, Policy and Procedures

All research has the potential to be exploitative and damaging, even when intended to benefit the greater public good. Even research that does not appear to have implications for human subjects may raise other ethical issues to do with intellectual property, sponsorship, roles in research, and so on. Every School has an Ethics Committee which oversees all ethical applications for that School and functions as a sub-committee to the University Teaching and Research Ethics Committee (UTREC). Generally ethical approval will be granted, on behalf of UTREC, by the School Ethics Committees (henceforth referred to as SECs); however, in some instances the School will pass applications to UTREC for approval. Please note, research activities that involve the use of animals - vertebrate and cephalopod species - do not fall under the remit of the UTREC and should instead be referred to the University’s Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee (AWEC)

It is imperative that all staff and students read the ethical guidelines and policies in this section, adhere to their principles and complete the relevant procedures. The University takes its ethical responsibilities very seriously and as such ethical approval must be sought and obtained before any empirical research can commence. Research involving human subjects may also require external approval, for example from a National Health Service Research Ethics Committee (RECs) or from Ethics Committees at other universities. For international research, it is recommended that the researcher considers any ethical procedures required locally. As far as possible, and to enable (rather than frustrate) the research process, the SEC will endeavour to minimise the efforts of duplication. Other external authorities may also need to approve the research activities, such as the Educational or Environmental Authorities or the Police. In some cases there may be a need for criminal record checks or Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) approval. 

The following Principles are grounded in the Statement of Ethical practice of the British Sociological Association and the Ethical Guidelines of Social Anthropologists, as well as being informed by the ethical codes of the Social Research Association and the American Sociological Association. These Principles apply to all research conducted by Undergraduates, Postgraduates and Staff. The purpose of the Principles is firstly to encourage you to take responsibility for your own ethical practice and secondly, to advise you, as a researcher, about ethical concerns and potential problems or conflicts of interest that may arise in the course of your professional activities. It is impossible to provide guidelines for every conceivable ethical scenario which may arise, and as such, what follows is not an exhaustive index, rather it constitutes a summary of generic strategies for dealing with ethical choices or dilemmas as they arise. The strength and utility of these Guidelines rest ultimately on active discussion, reflection and continued use by researchers. Researchers may also wish to consult the University’s statement on Research integrity.



UTREC word cloud


UTREC Office

College Gate
St Andrews
KY16 9AJ
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 462368


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