Updates to Research Governance – Research Ethics Code

In 2019/20 the University undertook a review and revision of the University’s Code of Practice Governing the Ethical Conduct of Research to reflect internal and external developments in the area of research ethics.

Following approval from Research Committee the Code was published and implemented for use by all University of Westminster staff and students from 2nd September 2020.

In October 2019 the newly revised Concordat to Support Research Integrity was published by Universities UK (UUK) and the signatories to the Concordat, which included UK Research & Innovation and Wellcome Trust. UUK and the signatories of the Concordat re-committed to  “ensuring that research is conducted according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards”.

In addition to reviewing the Code itself, the University updated the operating procedures and addendums to the Code in order to guide and assist researchers and supervisors of researchers further.

The Code was primarily strengthened for legal requirements, including those of Regulatory authorities, for example; the Human Tissue Authority and the Health Research Authority.

A suite of Standard Operating Procedures and other documentation for use by researchers working under the University’s Human Tissue Authority Licence has also been updated and published internally.

The legal requirements of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) were included in the new Code; including a useful list of definitions of ‘personal’ and ‘sensitive’ data, to help researchers and those reviewing their research, to ascertain the levels of risk associated with such data and the steps required to mitigate such risks, and remain compliant with the law.

The new Code has also allowed for further devolution of decision-making around research ethics review at the College level (through the College Research Ethics Committee).

In addition, the University’s ethical review system, the Virtual Research Environment, underwent a number of functionality changes to ensure the new processes resulting from the revision of the Code were ready for use, by researchers and research ethics reviewers, on 1st September 2020. The VRE Research Governance and Ethics module now includes additional and enhanced guidance to questions in the online research ethics application form, to assist researchers when completing the form for submission.
More information can be sought by email to the Research Ethics and Integrity Officer via research-ethics@westminster.ac.uk

For more information about research ethics at the University, please see: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/research/research-governance

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