Accessibility statement

Ethics for art historians

The Code of practice and principles for good ethical governance establishes an ethical framework for all academic activity carried out at the University. If your research falls within the framework, it must be signed off before that research commences.

Most UKRI, EU and international funders expect researchers to be compliant with ethics regulations. Reviewing ethics as part of the research process can enhance the quality of a proposal and help to ensure the integrity of data and robustness of the findings.

This checklist provides some, but not all, areas where ethical considerations may arise:

1. Research or research-related activity involving:

  • humans, including interviews, questionnaires, observation, and/or making photographic or other visual reproductions of living human beings
  • human tissue and/or other materials
  • animals
  • controversial or sensitive subjects

2. The involvement of sponsors, participants and/or associates:

  • whose connections or interests might impede or be perceived as impeding the impartiality of the research process from design through to publication/exploitation
  • with a controversial ethical record.

A lot of historical research does not require formal ethical approval. But research which involves interviewing people or drawing on unpublished personal reminiscences, memoirs or information passed to you in person is subject to University Ethics guidelines and policies. You must seek ethics approval for using such material, even in BA work.

Retraction of consent by interviewees: students/researchers should make it clear in writing to potential interviewees up until what point they may retract their consent to the inclusion of their interviews/ data, etc.

In the case of assessed work, it would be sensible to make such a date at least one to two months before submission date, because you will have to rewrite your work based on the removal of that data. It is important that PhD students are aware of this.

Ethics approval process

Undergraduate students

You must first discuss the ethical implications of your research with your supervisor.

If it is judged that your research falls within the Code of Practice, you must complete ethical approval documents and submit these to your supervisor. Documents include: 

  • the appropriate submission form
  • any related paperwork such as an information sheet and consent forms (see examples of best practice).

After this discussion with your dissertation supervisor and after completing the form with their guidance and input, please send the form to the Ethics Officer in the Department with a short explanatory note.

Research which involves interviewing people or drawing on unpublished personal reminiscences, memoirs and information passed to you in person is subject to University Ethics guidelines and policies. You must seek ethics approval for this.

Please consult the relevant documents and discuss the ethical implications of your research with your supervisor. Following their advice, please contact your departmental ethics committee member who may require you to complete ethical approval documents.

MA and PhD students

You must first discuss the ethical implications of your research with your supervisor.

If it is judged that your research falls within the Code of Practice, you must complete ethical approval documents and submit these to your supervisor. Documents include: 

  • the appropriate submission form
  • any related paperwork such as an information sheet and consent forms (see examples of best practice)

All ethical approval documents must be fully reviewed by your supervisor and you may be asked to revise the forms.

Non-anonymous interviews (eg with Director of Tate) can be signed off in your department.

Once your supervisor is satisfied with the documents, they will submit them by email to the Arts and Humanities Ethics Committee (AHEC).

The review process by AHEC may take up to four weeks.

Postdoctoral

You should ensure that ethical considerations are covered by the original research project, including in the application, and that it is reviewed as part of your research training as the project develops. Arts and Humanities Ethics Committee (AHEC) recommends you to undertake BERT as part of this training (see 'Managing your research').

If your research develops into new areas which fall within the Code of Practice, please complete ethical approval documents and proceed as detailed under Staff.

Staff

Non-anonymous interviews (eg with Director of Tate) can be signed off in in your department.

If your research falls within the Code of Practice, you must complete ethical approval documents and submit these to your Head of Department or Department Research Chair. Documents include: 

  • the appropriate submission form
  • any related paperwork such as an information sheet and consent forms (see examples of best practice)

All ethical approval documents must be fully reviewed by the Head of Department or Department Research Chair who will submit them by email to the Arts and Humanities Ethics Committee (AHEC).

The review process by AHEC may take up to four weeks.

If you have questions concerning the process, please contact your departmental ethics committee member. The HRC also offers an Ethics and methods training session and workshop each year to all staff and students.