Economics, Law, Management, Politics and Sociology Ethics Committee (ELMPS)

The Economics, Law, Management, Politics and Sociology (ELMPS) aims to provide advice and support about research ethics to staff and students within the departments (and associated units) listed below:

If you are conducting, or planning to conduct, research within any of these departments, you may need ethics approval from ELMPS before continuing with your work. On these web pages you will be able to find all the information you need to determine whether you need such approval, and if so, how to obtain it.

Why Ethics?

Ethics is usually defined in relation to standards of conduct or as a set of moral principles or moral judgments (between right and wrong). Research is not a purely technical or instrumental activity - it should be a reflective activity with moral underpinnings. We all need prompts to ensure that we keep learning. Ethics helps us through the cycle of doing, reflecting, doing better next time.

Research processes

Put another way, how we research (process) matters as much as what we produce (outputs). Research processes are important for a number of reasons:

  • To ensure that we 'do no harm'. Our research may not - often will not -bring benefits to those we research. It is important that we take precautions to ensure that it does not make matters worse.
  • To help manage the uncertainty, uniqueness and dilemmas that are an inevitable part of research. For example, with regard to interviewing members of vulnerable groups, how should we balance 'validating the interviewee/victim', which implies empathy, acknowledgement and belief, with 'validating the story', which involves questioning, greater distance, and even a certain scepticism?
  • To ensure that our research relationships are not exploitative.
  • To protect our personal reputation, as well as that of our discipline, department and university.
  • To ensure that we do not 'spoil the field' for other researchers who come after us.

Informed consent 

A range of tools are available to help researchers, from professional and disciplinary codes, to standard techniques such as informed consent. Informed consent is a good place to start when thinking about the core principles of ethical research:

  • Disclosure (is the interviewee fully informed about you and your institutional affiliations, as well as your methods, purpose, any risks and potential benefits)
  • Voluntariness/respecting autonomy (participation must be fully voluntary - without coercion, undue influence or misrepresentation)
  • Comprehension (interviewees must comprehend the implications of the interview: 'going public', 'on' and 'off record' comments, etc.)
  • Competence (for example, children or people who are traumatised)

Ethical research practice is best understood as a means of improving your research, and your skills as a researcher. The pages of this website are designed to make this as painless as possible.

Codes and conflict of interest resources

This is a range of material for use when considering the ethical implications of research and teaching. If you have material that you think could usefully add to deliberations then please make us aware of it.

Economic & Social Research Council on Ethics

British Sociological Association

Social Care Research Ethics Committee and Register

Advice on conflicts of interest

Best practice