4.4 Human Research Ethics Committee

Gaining SRPP approval for a research project does not imply that it has also been given ethical approval as the two processes are completely separate. If you are working with students, however, you will need to gain SRPP approval before submitting an application to Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC), so you need to factor this into your project timing.

As with data protection, ethics can equally well relate to research involving tutors as it does to students, and so you need to consider the ethical issues of your research irrespective of the status of the research informants.

Submitting an HREC application

Key to the issue of ethics is whether those involved in research could suffer harm as a result of taking part in that research. The definition of 'harm' is quite broad and this could even include upset or stress as a result of talking about their learning in an interview or questionnaire, or from taking part in an observation. Ethical issues are often at the fore when the research involves particular groups of students, such as offender learners or those considered vulnerable through mental health issues or personal circumstances.

Before embarking on your research you should complete a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC)
Project Registration and Risk Checklist. The checklist asks a series of questions about the research participants and the nature of the research. It is unlikely that most practitioner research presents significant risk for the participants. However, even if you feel this to be the case, the form still has to be returned to the ethics commitee where the proposed research can be assessed. The email is: Research-REC-Review@open.ac.uk

Although there is no stipulation on which ethical guidelines to follow, those produced by the British Educational Research Association (BERA), available from the BERA website are suitably broad for most practitioner research projects.

More information on the process of gaining ethics approval can be found at: http://intranet.open.ac.uk/strategy-unit/offices/ethics/index.shtml

Last modified: Tuesday, 4 Mar 2014, 16:32