Principles of governance in relation to research ethics review
City, University of London adheres to the principles are set out in the Association for Research Ethics, Framework for Policies and Procedures in both the institutional design of its research ethics review bodies and the practices of those bodies.
Principles of governance arrangements
There are four principles that underlie our governance arrangements:
We ensure that conflicts of interest are mitigated by sufficient external or impartial scrutiny and/or involvement.
We uphold this principle by:
- ensuring that RECs include members from a wide range of disciplines; ensuring that RECs have members (and in some cases chairs) from outside the faculty or other academic unit covered by the committee.
- providing a constitution which grants each REC the freedom to make ethics judgements, but that also makes it accountable;
- including ‘lay’ or external members in RECs;
- having an overarching policy committee which both undertakes ethics review itself and which sets consistent standards and has authority to intervene when necessary.
We ensure that membership of committees is informed by relevant expertise and decision making is consistent and coherent.
We seek to uphold this principle by the following steps:
- We adopt comprehensive standard operating procedures so that ethics opinions are reached consistently and fairly.
- Ethical review applications must provide all the information that a competent REC needs to have in order to make sound and coherent decisions.
- REC members get compensation in the form of reduced teaching loads or less administrative duties.
- We provide systematic training for REC members.
We ensure that procedures are administered efficiently and effectively by balancing duties of care with enabling and support of ethical research.
- We seek a balance between devolution and centralisation. Most decisions have been delegated to local RECs according to a memorandum of understanding. This said, where research involves more sensitive issues or is high risk, it is dealt with a Senate level.
- We have designed ethical approval processes that are efficient and largely devolved in order to ensure a balance between ethical duties and support of research activity.
- We receive annual reports from local RECs which set out their composition and activity for the year. Members of Senate REC receive training centrally and then use that in their local RECs which they are generally also members of.
We ensure that decisions taken by our RECs are open to public scrutiny and responsibilities discharged consistently.
- Our research is subject to rigorous peer review (or supervision in the case of students). Whilst most decisions are devolved to local RECs, more risky or sensitive matters will have had to receive approval at Senate level which includes lay members.
- RECs proceedings allow researchers to attend in person to speak freely to address concerns about their research. Their academic independence is guaranteed because ethics review is entirely separate from university line management.
- Our research governance arrangements for the university are clearly available to both internal and external parties in our publicly accessible policies.
- We conduct regular review of our system of policies and guidance.