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Event 2: Three Day Course on Ethics as Practice in UK research settings

This event will offer training for researchers who wish to increase their understanding of what constitutes good ethical research in UK settings. The event will run twice during the course of the initiative, the first event will be offered in March 2007, with a more advanced option offered in September 2008. Training will focus around six half-day seminars/workshops, with informal discussions facilitated outside of the formal sessions to encourage the development of a broad forum for exchange of ideas. The event will be convened by a single member of the training team from Lancaster University and delivered mainly by members of the team but with additional input from other experienced staff from across Lancaster University where appropriate. An external speaker will be invited on Day One of the first workshop to address issues of informed consent and what constitutes informed consent.

Day 1

a.m.: Designing good ethical research

This session will explore different research methods, such methodologies, qualitative, quantitative techniques, and the use of novel media, such as the internet. Participants will be introduced to the need to consider ethical issues at the earliest stages of project design and advised on how this might be achieved.

p.m.: What is informed consent and critical reflections on informed consent in contemporary codes of research practice

Informed consent is central to most codes of research practice but there are often subtle variations as to how it can be achieved. Participants will evaluate some key aspects of research practice through the use of vignettes and case studies. Issues to be considered will include, how much time should a research participant be given to decide whether or not to consent, should information always be given in writing, how detailed should written information be, and under what circumstances should consent be taken by a person who is independent of the researcher.

Day 2

a.m.: Informed consent with vulnerable groups

This session will take the form of a panel of experts from Lancaster who undertake work with Disabled People, Learning Disabled, Children and Gay and Lesbian Communities. Each panellist will speak for approximately 15 minutes on their experiences of gaining informed consent with vulnerable groups. The remainder of the session will involve small group working around the issues raised – each one lead by a panellist and the session convenor.

p.m.: Anonymity and confidentiality

Here participants will be introduced to the key differences between anonymity and confidentiality and will asked to consider a) how to ensure anonymity is preserved; b) instances when anonymity may be inappropriate; c) whether anonymity can be preserved in research with small groups or elites; d) when it may be appropriate to break the ethical commitment to confidentiality. The session will take the form of convenor-lead discussion followed by group work with vignettes illustrating examples of each of the themes addressed. Participants will have the opportunity to draw on their own research experiences to illustrate examples of where anonymity or confidentiality has raised particular ethical concerns.

Day 3

a.m.: Safety and risk in the field

Some research techniques have the potential to expose both participant and researcher to risks which may or may not be easy to identify. This session will focus on a range of potential risks associated with research ‘in the field’ and identify methods of avoiding or minimising them.

p.m.: Experiences of Ethics as Practice in UK Research Settings

This session will reflect on earlier sessions in the course to further develop the theme of ethics in practice in UK settings and include a talk from an invited expert external speaker covering all aspects of the course and developing the ideas further in the light of personal experiences.

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Institute for Advanced Studies
County South
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD