Edinburgh Napier University is committed to providing an environment
that recognises and supports research excellence.
Research should be conducted to the highest levels of integrity,
including appropriate research design and frameworks, to ensure that
findings are robust and defensible. Researchers should also adhere to
the highest level of research ethics, in line with requirements set out
by national and international regulatory bodies.
All staff and students should be familiar with the Universities
Policies and procedures that govern the research process.
In addition, the university expects researchers to observe the
standards and practice set out in any regulation and guidelines
published by funders and relevant professional bodies.
In keeping in with this commitment, Edinburgh Napier operates a code
of practice. The Edinburgh Napier University Code of Practice on
Research Integrity defines the research principles and practices to
which all students and staff at the University must adhere.
The Code should be read by all University staff and registered
students who are conducting, or planning to conduct, research of any
type which must be appropriately governed. Ethical issues also come into
play wherever research involves human participants, personal data and
human tissue. The Code also applies to any research partners who may be
conducting research on Edinburgh Napier University premises.
Code of Practice on Research Integrity (full document)
Below are two examples of generic forms for informed consent that illustrate the type of information often required (for
UPDATE 12 OCTOBER - Research Projects involving face-to-face participation – ethical approval – CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to researchers about the ethical approval processes at the University during on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Face-to-face research activities are not permitted at this stage of the pandemic
During the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic the committee issued guidance on Research Projects involving face-to-face participation which required research projects to adopt remote data collection methods while the UK was in full lockdown.
It remains the case that face-to-face research activities are not approved whilst we are in Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Route map; where government recommendations are to work from home, our campuses remain closed to guests, and indoor mixing of households is not permitted.
Ongoing current research projects with prior ethical approval
As per the guidance issued in March, projects that involved face-to-face interaction for the purpose of data collection must be revised to adopt remote data collection methods, or the project must be paused if that is not appropriate.
All Clinical studies need to follow National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Framework and will require a sponsorship review by Edinburgh Napier prior to restarting paused studies. Researchers involved in Clinical studies should ensure that the data collection methods are relevant to the capacity and readiness of the Health Care services and should contact the SHSC Research Integrity Convenor for advice on this process.
There are alternatives to face-to-face methods available to collect data from human participants, such as telephone/video interviews, online focus groups, online surveys and asynchronous data gathering methods.
If an ongoing research project is redesigned to adopt remote data collection methods, you must update your recruitment documents to outline how you will remotely interact with participants and use this version in future. Any already active participants must be informed of the switch to remote interaction and be provided with the updated participant information sheet. It is important that you make clear to participants that if they no longer wish to participate owing to this change, or for any other reason, that they are free to withdraw at any point.
While these approaches may allow projects to proceed remotely, it is also important to carefully consider if it is appropriate to approach your target sample during the ongoing pandemic.
- For example, it may not be appropriate to approach key workers who are involved in public health and safety at this time (for example health and social care, education and childcare, public services, government, etc).
- If your research involves recruitment of participants from the NHS please be aware that some NHS trusts are pausing all recruitment and clinical studies due to the current situation.
- The vulnerability of research participants may have increased due to social isolation, ill health, lack of access to support (such as GP services) meaning the risk of harm to participants needs careful consideration.
If you decide that the research must be paused, it is important to inform any participants already recruited to the study. It is important that you communicate how any actively enrolled participants will be managed, particularly concerning any safety monitoring / follow up etc. where applicable.
Applying for ethical approval for new projects
As the coronavirus pandemic continues it must be recognised that restrictions on daily life may be in place for some time, and researchers need to consider the design of their research in the current context. Researchers should consider if the research design needs to be revised before applying for ethical approval while the pandemic persists.
Working with patients, elderly and other vulnerable groups may continue to be challenging even if wider social distancing measures have been relaxed, and careful consideration of the risk of harm to participants and researchers is particularly important during the pandemic.
Any new clinical projects need to follow National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) guidance on research during the pandemic and will require a sponsorship review by Edinburgh Napier prior to approval. The commencement of new clinical studies must be commensurate with capacity and readiness in local health and care services, and researchers involved in Clinical studies should contact the SHSC Research Integrity Convenor for advice on this process.
Guidance on preparing a new application for ethical approval
1. My project can be completed fully remotely
If your research design allows appropriate use of remote research methods for its full duration you should submit your ethical application as normal – outlining the benefits of the research, its recruitment strategies, details of your remote research methods, consideration and mitigation of risk of harm to participants and researchers, how you will obtain informed consent from the participants, details on the information shared with participants (Participant Information Sheets, debriefing information etc.) and data management information.
School Research Integrity Committees will then consider the application for approval through the usual processes. You may be asked for further information, to make amendments, or be given approval to the project as proposed.
2. My project will start remotely but may move to face-to-face in the future
If your research project can start remotely, but you consider that it will be necessary to conduct face-to-face research at some point during the project, you are asked to highlight that this will be necessary in the initial application for ethical approval.
Such a situation may arise if the research project is over a longer timescale, involves a phase of research that would not be appropriate for remote data collection but could be delayed until social distancing restrictions are relaxed, or may involve research participants who cannot engage with research during the current restrictions but may do so when the restrictions are removed (shielding, vulnerable groups, digitally excluded participants for example).
Approval may then be granted on a staged approach – researchers should submit an application outlining their plans for the first stage of the project using remote data collection for approval (stage 1). The researcher would then be required to submit an amendment to their ethical application before the School committee could approve any stage 2 research (any proposed return to face-to-face research).
This staged approach to ethical approvals allows the Schools to be aware of the types of research being carried out at different phases of the coronavirus pandemic rather than allowing a project to be approved that may not be suitable at this time, whilst allowing researchers to adapt their projects to the changing situation of the pandemic and associated social restrictions.
School committees will not approve amendments to projects (stage 2 applications requesting face-to-face interactions) until Government advice changes to relax the ongoing restrictions (working from home, no indoor household mixing etc.) and researchers should be aware that restrictions may continue for some time while designing their research project.
Remote data collection methods
There are a number of remote data collection methods that can substitute for face-to-face interactions. The fundamental ethical principles that apply to apply to all research continue to be applicable using these methods, and researchers are encouraged to particularly consider:
- The appropriateness / potential risk
- What different risks might be created using remote data collection methods?
- Is the topic appropriate for an online interview or survey? (for example, if an interview is about a sensitive or traumatic topic what are the implications for the wellbeing of a participant during and after the interview?)
- How will you approach gaining (and documenting) that informed consent has been given?
- Data management
- How will you deal with research data from remote methods? Where is it stored? How is it made secure?
Our Code of Practice for Research Integrity contains guidance about online surveys, working with vulnerable groups, and informed consent.
Other sources of guidance on remote data collection include:
Support for researchers
If researchers required further information on the current ethical approval processes or appropriate research data collection methods, they can contact their School Research Integrity Lead for advice.
Students should in the first instance, discuss their projects with their research supervisors to consider appropriate research design or modification to their research questions.
Review of this guidance
The University Research Integrity committee will continue to review our guidance as the Scottish Government restrictions change, and we will update this guidance as needed.
University Research Integrity Committee
The University Research Integrity Committee
The University Research Integrity Committee oversees governance policies, procedures and practices across the University.
Please contact the clerk should you have a query or issue concerning research Integrity.
Approval for ethics applications is devolved to school level. For more information regarding procedures related to your associated school, please contact your School Research Integrity Lead:
Business School: Dr Matthew Dutton, M.Dutton@napier.ac.uk
SAS: Dr Rory Maclean, R.Maclean@napier.ac.uk
SH&SC: Dr Anne Rowat, A.Rowat@napier.ac.uk
SOC: Gemma Webster, G.Webster@napier.ac.uk
SACI: Dr Alistair Duff, A.Duff@napier.ac.uk
SEBE: Prof. Pat Langdon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cross University Ethical Approval: Alisdair Stapley, email@example.com
University Research Misconduct Policy
The University Research Integrity Committee has an agreed policy on Research Misconduct. This document outlines good research practice, unacceptable research conduct, and explains how preliminary investigations into allegations of research conduct should be investigated.
All members of the University are under a general obligation to preserve and protect the integrity and probity of research; in particular, if they have good reason to suspect any research misconduct in research, they should report their suspicions in accordance with this policy to the Clerk of the University Research Integrity Committee.
If you are a member of the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) or UNISON, you can receive support and advice from a trade union representative.
Cross University Ethical Approval Process
To allow an effective means to deal with the increasing number of applications that are carrying out research across the university or where the applicant is the from Professional Services a Cross University Approval process has been approved and implemented by the University Research Integrity Committee.
Research wholly based in one school still requires to gain ethical approval from the School Research Integrity Committees and follow the procedure identified by the School Research Integrity Lead.
The Procedure for cross-university research is a ‘triage’ system based on risk ensuring special consideration is given to medical/invasive work, vulnerable groups, or research involving staff and students within Edinburgh Napier University.
The three tier Cross-University Ethical Approval Form has been established starting with a self-assessment to establish level of risk and guidance on level of scrutiny required for the research project.
Please submit completed forms to Alisdair Stapley, clerk to the University Research Integrity Committee.
The application will be reviewed by two reviewers drawn from a panel of reviewers created from a pool of academics with expertise in ethics, subject areas and/or methodology, e.g. Convenors of School Research Integrity Committees, School Gatekeepers, and members of Research Integrity Committee.
Application to be reviewed
Within 2 weeks
Changes to be highlighted by applicant
Within 1 week
Overall time scale for Approval