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Procedures for Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students

From 2016/17, every student at SOAS conducting primary research, either for an Independent Study Project (ISP), a BA Dissertation, a Masters’ dissertation or any other piece of coursework that involves primary research, MUST fill in the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance form BEFORE the actual start of the project.  Deadlines and procedures for the various degrees are spelled out below.  Further information can be found on the Research Office ethics pages. This form will replace the dissertation proposal form.

Students thinking about collecting primary data for their coursework should seek advice from the appropriate convenor or supervisor as soon as possible.  It is furthermore strongly recommended that the students attend one of the talks on research ethics that will be offered and advertised during the academic year.

If a project does not meet ethical standards, students must resubmit a revised version of their project.  Should it then still not meet standards, the project must be dropped and a new one has to be designed.

Student should be aware that any data which have been collected without appropriate prior risk and ethics clearing, or any results or generalisations based on such data, cannot be used in any assessed work.  Failure to obtain appropriate prior risk and ethics clearing may thus result in failure of the relevant module.  

Should the focus of the project change, students MUST contact their supervisor immediately, and if necessary, seek renewed approval.

Guidelines for Undergraduate Students, supervisors and ISP convenors

4-year programmes with year abroad in year 3

Most departments will have a session on research ethics integrated into their year abroad preparations. In departments in which this is not the case, students should attend one of the Faculty talks instead.  Undergraduate students wishing to collect data for their ISP/BA dissertation during their period abroad need to contact the ISP convenor/UG convenor of their department/section as soon as they approach a topic, but no later than March of their year abroad.  The convenor will then allocate a suitable supervisor.  The supervisor will advise the student when to formally submit the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance Form – in other words, as soon as it becomes clear what the scope of the project will be.

If the research for the ISP/BA dissertation is not to be undertaken while abroad, the same rules apply as for students on a three-year degree/4-year degree with year abroad in year 2.

4-year programmes with year abroad in year 2 and 3- year programmes

Undergraduate students on a programme with no year abroad (or a year abroad in their second year) must contact the ISP convenor/UG convenor at the very latest in week 3 of term 1 of the year the ISP/BA dissertation is to be submitted in.  The convenor will then assign a supervisor who will advise the student about the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance form.  The deadline for submissions of those forms to supervisors is the Monday of week 11, term 1.

Guidelines for Taught Postgraduate Students

Students must fill in the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance form as soon as they are start approaching the topic.  The form must be submitted to the supervisor as soon as possible, but no later than Monday of week 11, term 2.

Guidelines for Staff

After the submission of the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance Form, supervisors will screen the forms and make sure the project abides by SOAS standards.  If they are unsure, they should seek advice from the ISP/programme convenor and/or ADLT (for undergraduate students) or the ADM (for postgraduate students).  Supervisors should fill in Section C of the form and communicate their approval/rejection of the research topic to the student as soon as possible, but no later than three weeks after submission.

Supervisors should furthermore collect all the forms of their supervisees and pass them on to the Faculty Office, Student Support – where the forms have to be stored for six years.  Should the student change the focus or approach of their research project, staff should advise them whether they need to seek Ethical Clearance again.

Please note that the Risk Assessment and Ethical Clearance Forms must be processed electronically, paper forms cannot be stored and passed on in an adequate way, thus electronic signatures and e-mails from identifiable accounts are acceptable.