This page provides key information relating to the research ethics and governance arrangements in place across the University.
It includes the University of Aberdeen Research Governance Handbook and provides information and direction to research staff and students on key issues in this area, including ethical review, unacceptable research conduct and training in research integrity and ethics & governance.
All stakeholders in research should be familiar with the University Handbook for Research Governance and the information contained on this page.
All research staff and students should be aware of the UKRIO Recommended Checklist for Researchers. Developed by the UK Research Integrity Office, this lists the key points of good practice for all research projects and is applicable to all subject areas. More detailed guidance is available in the UKRIO Code of Practice for Research.
For research staff and students seeking more information in relation to clinical research, please visit the following link: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/medical/researchgovernance/clinicalresearch/.
For research staff and students seeking further infomation in relation to undertaking research during the Covid-19 pandemic, please refer to the Research FAQs and the guidance on Restarting Research with Human Volunteers.
- Research Governance Handbook
The University of Aberdeen Research Governance Handbook provides a framework for research ethics and governance at the University and applies to all academic disciplines.
It sets out the standards, principles and expectations for research ethics and governance which underpin the University’s approach to research, and provides an overview of the institutional structures in place for ensuring that the University meets the highest standards in its research ethics and governance arrangements.
It outlines the University’s approach to research ethics and provides information on the types of research that require ethical approval and how to obtain that approval. It details the University’s policy and guidelines for good research conduct, and its position on unacceptable research conduct, including the processes in place for reporting and investigating allegations of unacceptable research conduct.
It also provides information on the governance processes in place to support applications for research funding (such as peer review processes and registration of research projects), and details of the University policies for storing research records and research data management.
The Handbook is reviewed regularly to ensure that our standards and processes comply with those promoted by the UK Research Integrity Office.
Research Governance Handbook - Individual Sections
- Provides definitions of terms used throughout the Research Governance Handbook
- Foreword from Professor Marion Campbell, Vice Principal for Research
- Explains the standards, expectations and general principles which underpin the University's approach to research governance along with the University's commitment to meeting these expectations.
- Explains the University's research ethics and governance structures. The University has an organisational structure in place to oversee research ethics and governance; to ensure that the institution meets its obligations in this area, and that it continues to seek and maintain the highest standards.
- Explains the framework for research ethics and ethical approval of research. Research ethics refers to the moral principles underpinning research at all stages, from developing a project grant application, data collection, to writing up and disseminating their findings. The University is committed to promoting and facilitating the ethical conduct of research conducted by all of its staff and postgraduate and undergraduate students.
- Explains the policy and guidelines on good research conduct.
- Explains the key governance processes involved in research grant applications. This section provides an overview of the arrangements in place for managing key requirements relating to the development of research proposals and funding applications.
- Explains the University's approach to Research Data Management.
- Explains the training opportunities in research ethics and governance. The University is committed to ensuring that all researchers (staff and students) receive appropriate training opportunities in relation to research ethics and governance as part of its over-riding commitment towards staff development and to achieving the highest standards of research governance.
- Explains the internal health checks and monitoring processes. The University carries out regular research ethics and governance "Health checks" across the institution. The health check is an exercise designed to provide light-touch monitoring of the research governance arrangements in place at local levels. It is coordinated centrally by the Research Policy Committee and every School is involved. The Health check is intended to identify existing good practice and to highlight any local weaknesses in the University's current research ethics and governance arrangements.
- Provides a list of the key documents and webpages (internal and external) relating to research ethics and governance.
- Committees for Research Ethics and Governance
Research Policy Committee
The Research Policy Committee has oversight of research ethics and governance issues; developing and reviewing institutional policy on research ethics and governance; receiving reports from Ethics Boards and Committees; undertaking ethics health checks within Schools.
In addition to our clinical governance structures there are five further Committees/Boards responsible for oversight of policy and procedure for the ethical review of research and for the development of appropriate guidance for the good practice of all research activity in Schools and Institutes.
Members of these Committees are responsible for considering applications for the ethical review of research in accordance with Policy.
Arts, Social Sciences and Business
Committee for Research Ethics & Governance in Arts, Social Sciences & Business
This Committee is responsible for oversight of ethics and governance arrangements and good practice in the broad research area of Social Sciences, including the Business School.
Members of the Committee are responsible for considering applications for the ethical review of research in accordance with the institutional Governance Framework.
Each School has an Ethics Officer who is a member of the Committee and who can provide advice to members of their School on all matters relating to research ethics and governance.
- Dr Liz Curtis - Chair (School of Education)
- Vacancy - Dean for Academic Partnerships & Research Governance
School Ethics Officers:
- Business School
- School of Divinity, History and Philosophy
- School of Education
- School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture
- School of Law
- School of Social Science
Senior academic external to the disciplines:
- Professor Maria Kashtalyan (School of Engineering, Convener of the Physical Sciences & Engineering Ethics Board)
Senior representative from IT Services:
- Mrs Gail Smillie (Relationship Manager Team Lead, Directorate of Digital and Information Services)
The Committee may also invite other members of staff to participate in committee meetings, as necessary.
The Committee's remit can be viewed here. The Committee's Policy and Procedure for the Ethical Review of Research can be viewed here. The School Ethics Officers: Best Practice Guidance and Description of Duties can be viewed here.
Further information on research ethics and governance can be obtained from the Committee Clerk, Mrs Dawn Foster.
Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
School Ethics Review Board
The remit of the committee is to provide a review of ethical aspects of any research proposal for projects on human volunteers or human tissue samples carried out by University staff and students within SMMSN which are not covered by another committee e.g. the NHS Research Ethics Service, the Rowett Institute Ethics Panel or the Psychology Ethics Committee. This ethical review flow chart provides further guidance on the remit of SERB.
General enquiries: SMMSN Ethics Review Board
Chair: Professor Helen Galley
Clerk: Dr Katie Crosley
Physical Sciences and Engineering
Physical Sciences and Engineering Research Ethics Board
The Physical Sciences and Engineering Ethics Board is responsible for the ethical review of research and for the development of appropriate guidance for the good practice of all research activity within Physical Sciences and Engineering.
Members of the Committee are responsible for considering applications for the ethical review of research in accordance with the institutional Research Governance Framework.
Representatives from all Schools within Physical Sciences and Engineering (School Ethics Officers) sit on the Board.
The Board's remit can be viewed here. The Board's Policy for Ethical Review and Approval can be viewed here. The best practice guidance and description of duties for School Ethics Officers can be viewed here.
- Professor Maria Kashtalyan - Convener (School of Engineering)
- Professor Mirela Delibegovic - Dean for Industrial Engagement in Research & Knowledge Transfer (School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition)
- School of Engineering
- School of Geosciences
- School of Natural and Computing Sciences
- Mrs Marlis Barraclough - Senior Policy Adviser, Research and Innovation
- Miss June Middleton - Business Development Officer, Research and Innovation
- Mrs Gail Smillie - Relationship Manager Team Lead, Directorate of Digital and Information Services
- Dr Liz Curtis - Senior Academic external to the disciplines (School of Education, and Chair of the Committee for Research Ethics and Governance in Arts, Social Sciences and Business)
The Board may also invite other members of staff to participate in Committee meetings and reviewing, as necessary.
For further information on research ethics and governance within Physical Sciences and Engineering please contact the Clerk to the Ethics Board at email@example.com.
Psychology Ethics Committee
Members of the committee are responsible for considering applications for the ethical review of research in accordance with the institutional Research Governance Framework. The committee reviews and provides advice on research ethics for all research projects carried out in the School of Psychology, including undergraduate, postgraduate and staff projects. All research and all teaching exercises involving human participants and their data which is conducted under the auspices of the School must have received approval by the PEC (even if ethical approval has been given by some other institution).
Further information on the Ethics Committee and their associated ethical review process can be obtained here.
Rowett Institute Ethics Panel
Members of the panel are responsible for considering applications for the ethical review of research. The panel reviews and provides advice on research ethics for all research projects carried out in the Institute, including staff and student projects.
Further information on the Ethics Panel and their associated ethical review process can be obtained from Professor Alex Johnstone, Chair of the Rowett Ethics Panel, or Mr Gary Cooper, Quality Manager, Rowett Institute.
School of Biological Sciences
Staff and student research projects must be submitted for ethical review where the nature of the proposed research activity requires ethical approval. For example,
- projects involving research on animal and biological materials (e.g. ASPA regulated procedures, genetic material subject to the Nagoya Protocol), or
- projects involving human participants (e.g. interviews, workshops, focus groups)
Ethical approval should be sought as early in the research process as possible, and certainly before the research commences.
Note: the above list of criteria for ethical review is not exhaustive. For further advice on whether your proposed research will require ethical approval, or to submit an ethics application, contact Ana Payo-Payo .
- Research Ethics and Governance Training
The University is committed to ensuring that all researchers (staff and students) receive appropriate training in relation to research ethics and governance as part of its commitment towards staff development and to achieving the highest standards of research governance.
The University delivers a generic online training programme on research ethics and governance for all research staff and students, developed in consultation with the University's Ethics Committees/Review Boards. This training is currently mandatory for all postgraduate research students, and will become mandatory for all staff applicants for ethical approval of research (including members of their research team) as of 01 February 2022. The training must be completed prior to the submission of an application for ethical approval of research. The course includes training on the key generic issues which underpin research ethics and governance and is applicable to all disciplines.
Note: SMMSN staff who have already completed the Good Clinical Practice/Good Research Practice (GCP/GRP) NHS training will be exempt from this requirement, as will any staff who have completed similar training at a previous institution within the last five years (and who can provide supporting evidence of this).
The online training can be accessed through MyAberdeen: www.abdn.ac.uk/myaberdeen (log in required)
Research ethics and governance training is also available locally across the institution, where there is a requirement for compliance with external regulatory bodies or legislation (such as the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; amended by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2012/3039). This does not affect any specific training requirements by the NHS or home office regulations. Staff who undergo ethics training as part of their clinical training or who have to complete research ethics training provided by other parties as part of their professional development are not required to complete the institutional ethics training.
Information on local training requirements should be sought from the appropriate School, or via line management.
- Research Integrity Training
The University is committed to ensuring that all researchers (staff and students) receive the appropriate training in relation to research integrity as part of its commitment towards staff development and to achieving the highest standards of research governance.
The University delivers a mandatory online training programme on research integrity for all research staff and students, and also staff involved in supporting research activities. The training programme was developed by the University of Dundee and has been licensed for use by the University of Aberdeen with the approval of the University's Research Policy Committee. The programme includes training on the key generic issues which underpin research integrity and is applicable to staff at all stages of their career and to all disciplines.
The online training can be accessed through MyAberdeen: www.abdn.ac.uk/myaberdeen (log in required)
- Advice and Guidance from UKRIO
UKRIO Advice Service
UKRIO provides an independent, expert and confidential advice service that is open all for questions and advice relating to the conduct of academic, scientific and medical research, from issues of good practice in research to concerns about research misconduct. UKRIO welcomes enquiries on general or hypothetical topics, as well as those on specific research projects, issues and cases.
Researchers wishing to seek advice from the UKRIO can do so through their online advice form, which also provides detailed guidelines on seeking advice: http://ukrio.org/get-advice-from-ukrio/.
UKRIO guidance documents
UKRIO also produce guidance documents for organisations and researchers. Currently these include:
- The UKRIO Checklist for Researchers: This provides a one-page checklist of the key points of good practice in researchers to assist researcher in fulfilling the requirements of regulatory, funding and other bodies and ensure that important issues have not been overlooked.
- Guidance for researchers on retractions in academic journals: This guidance note is designed to help researchers understand procedures for retractions, corrections and expression of concern in academic journals.
- Case study pack: A collection of case studies of research integrity scenarios for training and teaching research integrity and ethics
- Unacceptable Research Conduct
All stakeholders in research, including all academic staff, technical support staff, administrative support staff and students, have responsibility for reporting any allegation of unacceptable research conduct. Any formal allegation must be made in writing to the University Secretary.
Where a member of staff would like to discuss any allegation of unacceptable research conduct prior to making a formal complaint, they should, in the first instance, contact their line manager. If the staff member would initially be more comfortable discussing the issue with another party, they should contact one of the following:
- The Chair of the appropriate University Research Ethics Review Board/Committee
- The appropriate Dean of Research
- The Vice Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange
The University has a Policy and Procedure on Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) relating to the treatment of whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. This includes a clear statement that unacceptable research conduct is taken seriously by the University and that any member of staff raising bona fide concerns in good faith can do so confidentially, and without fear of suffering any detriment, but equally disciplinary procedures are in place to deal with malicious allegations. The Policy and Procedure on Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) also includes a clear indication of the procedures in which such bona fide concerns by staff may be brought to the attention of a designated individual within the institution.
For further information on the University’s Policy and Guidelines on Good Research Conduct, and its Statement on Handling Allegations of Unacceptable Research Conduct, please refer to Section 4 of the institutional Research Governance Handbook.
- Key Documentation
- University Peer Review Policy Framework
- University Policy and Procedure on Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing)
- University Policy on Data Protection
- University Guidelines on Keeping of Research Records
- University’s Retention Schedules
- UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Data Protection Act 2018
- The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity
- The Universities UK (UUK) Concordat to Support Research Integrity
- UKRI Policy on the Governance of Good Research Conduct
- UK Research Integrity Office Code of Practice for Research
- UKRIO Recommended Checklist for Researchers
- What is Open Access?
Contemporary open access (OA) dates back to the 1990s although the idea of open access to scholarly journal articles can trace its origins back a further 50 years or so.
The contemporary open access movement strives to make research publications (but especially peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers) available globally, for free, to anyone, at their point of access. This is made possible by the increasing ubiquity of computer and telecommunications technologies. The unacceptable inflationary costs of traditional print models of scholarly journal publishing have given tremendous impetus to alternative contemporary open access publishing modes in recent years.
An open access journal article or conference paper can:
- be viewed for free by anyone, including academics, other scholars, the general public etc.
- normally be re-used in more ways than a traditionally published article.
University of Aberdeen Open Access Fund
The University receives a block grant to support open access publishing of UKRI funded research; the University also receives money from the Wellcome Trust to support open access publishing arising from Wellcome Trust funded research grants.
Together these block grants constitute the University of Aberdeen Open Access Fund.
The University encourages use of the Green route for OA publishing. However, if your research is funded by either of these grant awarding bodies and needs to be published using the Gold route for open access (i.e. immediate open access availability on publication) you may be able to obtain funding for your APCs. Please see How to Make Your Research Open Access for more information.
The University benefits from a number of publisher deals which can be used be used where Gold open access is needed. These schemes are listed here - please note that there is no requirement for your research output to be funded by external funders to take advantage of these deals.
What should Researchers do?
- Before submission: check whether the journal you plan to submit your article to is REF compliant: go to Sherpa/Romeo or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- On acceptance: e-mail confirmation e-mail or letter, together with the final accepted version of the output to: email@example.com
- On publication: complete bibliographic detail in Pure or notify firstname.lastname@example.org
The REF open access policy formally applies to papers accepted after 1 April 2016.
- Research Governance Statement
Annual Statement to Court on activities undertaken to strengthen the university's Research Governance arrangements.
- Ethical Approval of Research
Some types of research will need ethical approval before it can begin. Access further guidance on the University processes for obtaining ethical approval of research here.