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Research Ethics

Research Ethics

Background

The Research Ethics Committee (hereafter the REC) of the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) exists to support the research activity of the faculty specifically with regard to research which involves human participants. The principal contexts in which research involving human participants within CHED is conducted typically involve the following:

  • Research conducted with or for academic colleagues on higher, adult or further education policy, practice and process
  • Research at an institutional – or cross-institutional – level, involving colleagues and/or students and/or members of communities
  • Research involving collaborations and partnerships with colleagues who are internal or external to the university and which typically have their focus on education policy, practice and process.

Location

The CHED REC is a sub-committee of the Senate Ethics in Research Committee and of the Faculty Board, and reports to the Faculty Board. Its Chair serves as a member of the Faculty Research Committee and the Dean’s Advisory Committee. The REC seeks advice from, and consults with, the Faculty Research Committee and the Dean’s Advisory Committee.

Purpose

Similarly to the REC of the Faculty of Humanities, the CHED REC exists to support the efforts of the faculty to meet appropriate international standards for ethics in research on human participants. The specific remit of the CHED REC is to oversee research involving colleagues or the institution, or parts of the institution, but it will also involve itself with research involving students (undergraduate, postgraduate, non-graduate) who may be participants in collegial or institutional-level research. The purpose of the REC is to assist researchers to conduct their research in accordance with best practice in research ethics, and confident in the knowledge that they have adopted appropriate procedures for research methodology, substance and accountability to those participating in the research (cf. Policy on Research Ethics, Humanities Faculty, p. 34).
The CHED REC will not involve itself with the ethical clearance of research involving students registered for courses run under the auspices of another faculty. Such research must be cleared through the REC of that faculty.

Mandate

The mandate of the REC covers all research involving human participants. It has the authority to grant or refuse ethical clearance for any particular piece of research. Should clearance not be granted, such research should not be carried out until all relevant issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the committee. It does not include dealing with issues of plagiarism, and it is not a court or tribunal. It does not deal with animal or medical/clinical research ethics (cf. Policy on Research Ethics, Humanities Faculty, p. 34).

Activity

The REC will involve itself with four principal levels of activity:

  • The formal approval of the ethical aspects of proposed research prior to such research commencing.
  • The formal approval of research or research projects, already granted ethical clearance, that have changed or been modified substantively in approach, methodology or focus during the process of the prior-approved research.
  • Development of policy and practice on ethical aspects of research
  • Contribution to increasing the levels of awareness of ethical aspects of research in the faculty, through the provision of education, opportunities for academic and professional growth, and the promotion of information, training and development opportunities appropriate to research ethics and the responsible conduct of research.

Core values

The core ethical values underpinning the activity of the REC are those of justice, made manifest by processes that foster the principles of fairness, transparency and reasonableness; and beneficence, to be understood as the obligation through research not to cause harm to anyone directly or indirectly affected by the research (Adapted from: UCT University Research Committee (March 2010) DraftAuthorship Practices Policy at the University of Cape Town, pg. 2. Italics and emphasis original).