4.1 Doing research with OU students
There are a number of Open University committees which practitioner researchers need to be aware of, particularly when researching current and former Open University students. These are:
- the Student Research Project Panel (SRPP)
- the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC).
More detailed guidance about SRPP and HREC can be found in the following sections, but a brief overview of their role is provided here.
Student Research Project Panel
SRPP exists in order to ensure that Open University students, both current and former, are not continuously being researched by Open University staff.
Any research involving Open University students has to be submitted to the panel so that it is known what research on students is being done at the OU, and to check against previous research to ensure that students who have recently been the focus on research are not approached again. SRPP also holds information on those students who have stipulated that they do not wish to be approached for research.
Researchers are also required to indicate how the proposed research will help the University ‘plan and improve our services’. This is the purpose for which students agree to be contacted when they register.
Although not explicit within the SRPP information or application form, the SRPP process also performs a quality assurance function in that any glitches or inconsistencies in the research will normally be identified by SRPP.
Associate Lecturers who are researching their own practice with their current tutor group are exempt from going through SRPP as it is considered to be part of their staff development. This exemption does not apply where the research involves former students and so an application should still be made. In either case, AL practitioner researchers are still expected to adhere to ethical guidelines.
The human research ethics approval process applies to all research undertaken by Open University staff and students. It is an entirely separate process to SRPP and so care needs to be taken by practitioner researchers that, even where an application to SRPP is not required, such as research with Associate Lecturers, they still engage with the ethical approvals process.