On My To Do List

Do you have an ever growing list of things that you need to do?  Do you keep it written down or like me swirling in your head?  In truth, I have in recent years had to resort to using a list of actions that sits alongside my email and have various jotted notes as well.  Anyway my point is?

 My point is that sitting at the top of my ‘to do’ list this week is to complete the mandatory ethics module for all researchers at BU [Research Ethics].  The clock is ticking and this needs to be completed by the end of September by all academic staff.  This includes all BU employees who supervise students on dissertations/thesis, part-time hourly lecturers who supervise students, academic staff who are not research active and demonstrators/technical staff who assist with dissertation supervision; everyone in fact!  It is also mandatory for all new starters and PGR students.  So why, I hear you ask?

 We all face ethical questions within our research, even those like me that like to work on inanimate rocks!  Should one collect a rock sample, pocket that fossil and what are the implications of doing so?  Ethics impacts on all research and understanding the basic issues and when formal approval is needed and when it is not, is vital for all researchers.  Our Ethics Policy and procedures are still relatively new which reflects our institutional history and the fact that we don’t have a large medical faculty.  However, most of our research does involve people and ethics can’t be ignored.  A year ago we tightened up our procedures around ethics, introducing the online ethics checklist, and are currently revising our ethics codes with the intention of making further changes to procedures this autumn.  This reflects a growing institutional maturity and also, disturbingly for me, a growing body of case law. 

Raising institutional awareness of ethics is therefore both timely and, in my experience over this last year, much needed.  Completing the course ‘Ethics 1: Good Research Practice’ and passing the online test is mandatory for all staff including myself!  There is also a second module ‘Ethics 2: Working with Human Subjects’ that is recommended for those working with human participants (directly or indirectly) in research projects.  You gain access to the modules by logging in to myBU and clicking on ‘Research Ethics’ under the ‘My Communities’ tab. 

I would encourage you all to complete the module, since the draconian bit – yes sorry – is that staff who don’t complete the training will be excluded from applying for BU funding (e.g., Fusion Investment Funding and BU Studentships) and participating on BU development schemes.  So I had better stop writing and get on with doing the module!