New ways of working
Ethical Clearance and the NHS
Whilst these guidelines refer to all research undertaken by social gerontologists, we will often find ourselves involving older people who are service users within the healthcare system. This has involved quite complex procedures with local and multi research ethics committees but since the mid 2000’s the procedure has been streamlined leading to the introduction of the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) in April 2007 and since 2009 part of the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS), see below. National Research Ethics Advisors will ensure that full research ethics committee consider only those studies needing intensive scrutiny. A screening function will identify at an early stage applications which may need further development, fall outside the scope of NHS Research Ethics Committees or demand intensive scrutiny. Contact details, application forms and advice on completion are available from the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) and comprises the former Central Office for Research Ethics Committees (COREC) and Research Ethics Committees (RECs) in England (www.nres.npsa.nhs.uk).
Those wishing to undertaken research within the NHS who are not employees will also need to acquire a ‘Research Passport’. The NHS – Human Resource (HR) Good Practice Resource Pack describes the Research Passport system whereby honorary research contracts can be issued to researchers with no contractual arrangements with the NHS, and who wish to carry out research in the NHS that affects patient care – (see
Social Care Research Ethics Committee
The Department of Health (DH) asked the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to appoint a new national Social Care Research Ethics Committee (REC) which has been operating since June 2009. It adheres to the DH Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care and covers the conduct of research in the NHS and adult social care.
The Social Care REC meets monthly and is expected to deliver an opinion to applicants applying for ethical review within 60 days of receiving a valid application. The Social Care REC reviews adult social care research, intergenerational studies involving adults and children or families, use of social care databases and some proposal for social science studies situated in the NHS. This REC also reviews applications involving the social care section e.g. in local authority, private and voluntary care settings) not suitable for review by other NRes RECs or which cross boundaries see http://www.screc.org.uk
Integrated Research Application System (IRAS)
The Integrated Research Application System (IRAS) is a single online system for applying for permissions and approvals for health and social care/community research in the UK. It streamlines the process for seeking relevant approvals, as researchers no longer need to enter the details for a single project in separate application forms.
IRAS can be accessed at www.myresearchproject.org.uk.
Since 1 April 2009, all applications to NHS Research Ethics Committees are made using IRAS (see).
ESRC – Framework for Research Ethics (FRE)
Your attention should be drawn to the Research Ethics Framework (REF) for social science research introduced by the ESRC in January 2006 and revised as the Framework for Research Ethics (FRE) in 2010. See:
Since 2006 ESRC will only fund research where consideration has been given to ethical issues. It is therefore important that you are aware of your institutional procedures for ethical clearance for Research Councils through your UREC.
The RESPECT Code Of Practice
The RESPECT Project is funded by the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme to develop professional and ethical guidelines for the conduct of socio-economics research. This programme has produced the RESPECT Code of Practice intended to aid responsible and informed decision-making. It is a voluntary aspirational code, and is not prescriptive and based on three main principles:
- Upholding scientific standards
- Compliance with the law
- Avoidance of social and personal harm
(See – www.respectproject.org/code/index.php)
Other ethical guidelines
Finally, you will find that many professional associations across the range of disciplines have developed ethical guidelines and we recommend the following:
British Sociological Association – statement of ethical practice - see www.sociology.org.uk/as4bsoce.pdf
Barnes, M. & Taylor, S. (Summer 2007) Summary Guide of Good practice for Involving Older People in Research, ERA-AGE.
Gilhooly, M. (2002) ‘Ethical Issues in researching later life’ in Jamieson, A. and Victor, C. (eds.) Researching Ageing and Later Life. Buckingham: Open University Press, pp211-225.
Hughes, J.C. & Baldwin, C. (2006) Ethical Issues in Dementia Care. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Kayser-Jones, J. & Koenig, B.A. (1994) ‘Ethical Issues’ in Gubrium, J.F. & Sankar, A. (eds.) Qualitative Methods in Aging Research. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, pp.15-32
Iphofen R. (2009) Ethical Decision Making in Social Research. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Mcmillan.