The information provided here should be read in conjunction with the University's central Research governance.

The ethics approval process applies to both postgraduate and postdoctoral students, as well as members of staff.

Undergraduates should consult with their dissertation supervisors about the ethical implications of their research. If this research involves human participants, a standard ethics form should be filled out and reviewed by the dissertation supervisor, who will keep that application on file for the duration of the research. If a research design involves vulnerable populations, children or other high-risk activities this consultation should involve the Departmental Representative.

Turn-around time on applications is 4 weeks (20 working days) during term time, and longer outside of term time. Please plan ahead as the process cannot be expedited and retrospective consent cannot be given for research.

The final deadline for Master's students to submit their application for approval is 22 May, 2017.

Archaeology Ethics Review

AHEC Chair Kate Giles

Departmental Representative Colleen Morgan

The Ethics Review Process: Step-by-Step

The applicant, in consultation with their supervisor or line manager, decides to pursue research that entails human data collection.

If that data entails human remains (excluding existing departmental osteological collections or archived collections held by professional institutions) or animal remains, consult with Biology

If that data entails interviews, surveys, focus groups, observations, ethnography, photographic/video/visual production, or related qualitative and quantitative information collected from living human beings, the applicant will follow the department's standard process, as detailed below.

The researcher must complete:

(1) the appropriate submission form:

- the standard version for low-risk research 

- the FULL version for research involving children, other at-risk or terminally-ill individuals, deception, etc.

(2) an information sheet

(3) any necessary related paperwork (e.g., consent forms)

Examples of consent forms, information sheets, etc. are available here:

For a standard submission, you will be directed to a Google Form to complete. After you complete the form, you will receive a copy and your supervisor or line manager will also receive a copy. The supervisor or line manager will then be asked to respond to the email, verifying that they have reviewed the form.

After the supervisor or line manager responds in the affirmative, the submission is then reviewed for completeness and refers it back to the applicant if obvious content is missing or needs elaboration. The applicant makes these revisions and resubmits the Google Form.

The paperwork is distributed to the full ethics committee for review if the project is complex, suggests any serious risks, or necessitates multiple perspectives on its design. Archaeology’s Representative collects the committee’s feedback and, if revisions are required, passes it on to the applicant for re-working. The revised paperwork is then resubmitted to AHEC for final review.

In the case of standard submissions, if requested revisions have been fully attended to, the committee approves the application and notifies the applicant to confirm that their research can proceed. In the case of full submissions, these must be signed off by the Head of Department, then the applicant will be notified that their research can proceed.

Common problems

Many applications are approved on their first submission. Where not, this is usually because the applicant has not addressed the following points in sufficient detail on their submission forms.

More than one point of data storage must be identified for saving your research. These must be at least two different points of data storage must be maintained by the applicant – usually paper-based, and on either a hard drive or online storage space, encrypted or otherwise password protected. These must be kept separate from one another (i.e., in two different locations). Research students, post-docs and staff are required to retain their data for a minimum of 10 years. Undergraduates and Masters students are advised to retain their data for between 3-5 years.

Research participants must be granted informed consent. All research participants must be given the opportunity to consent to participating in the research, and to withdraw if they so choose by a specified date. You must provide your participants with contact details, and must document the names of these participants for future confidential reference. If interviews/focus groups are being conducted, informed consent forms (with signature) and an information sheet must be provided to participants. If a survey is conducted, an information sheet should be available to participants.

Withdrawal. Should research participants wish to withdraw from your project, you will need to inform them, on their information sheets and consent forms, of the last date when such withdrawal will be possible (usually just prior to submission of your dissertation or published work).

Anonymity. If your research guarantees anonymity, then there must be no possible way that participants might be identified. If the organisation being studied or the sample size is small, if job titles are specified, or if the subject matter is very narrow, the potential for identification is much higher. In these cases, you must specify that all efforts will be made to keep participants’ identities confidential, but that complete anonymity cannot be guaranteed. This must be made explicit to participants before they consent to contribute to the research.

Sharing results. Participants have the right to access the findings derived from their contributions to research. Unless specified during the informed consent process, provisions must be made to ensure results are communicated back to these participants – e.g., through distribution of the dissertation, through web or other forms of publication, etc. Your application will be returned to you for resubmission if you do not articulate a means to share your results with participants.

Proofreading. Ethics applications will be returned to you if they have not been properly edited and proofread. Information sheets, consent forms and associated submissions must be legible and grammatically coherent.

Deadlines. The approval process is complicated, involves many parties, and can be lengthy depending upon the number of revisions required. Turn-around time on applications is 4 weeks (20 working days) during term time, and longer if outside of term time, meaning that these applications must be planned well in advance. Research using human data cannot proceed without ethics approval, so please attend to the application process as quickly as possible upon designing the project.