• Richard Fay

    As the ‘Attending Supervisor’ for both Lou and Eljee’s UREC meetings yesterday, here are the points I noted down (some of which obviously restate some of EJ’s points above):

    1. All data must be kept on computers in accordance with the University’s Encryption Policy and this needs to be stated. As Achilleas’ comments indicate, this seems that the policy in this area is ‘firming up’ as the new ethics approval / risk assessment ‘culture’ beds in.

    2. Similarly, the Information sheet and Consent form should follow the templates provided unless a good reason can be provided for not doing so. The Committee’s view is that more-or-less all research studies could use the forms provided.

    3. In that Information sheet where it speaks – and here I am being approximate – of what should happen if anything goes wrong from the participants’ perspective, their point of contact should be the Supervisor and not the researcher. Why? Because the ‘issue’ of concern might be one that relates to the researcher ….

    4. The correct answer for the point about Indemnity is not n/a. the committee point out that more-or-less all conceivable research would involve the need for such indemnity cover.

    5. If participants drop-out, we need to make clear that they have final say-so in more or less all cases about whether the data they have provided up to that point can still be used.

    6. Any interviews etc occurring in e.g. the participants own home (rather than e.g. in a public cafe) need to be explicitly covered by the ‘Lone Worker Policy.

    7. Researchers need to have prepared ready links to, and/or details for, support organisations if participants experience distress during the research process. How this applies if the participants are scattered across countries is not clear but the Committee were looking for a clear researcher stance on this.

    8. The Committee asked if the researcher and the School had experience of working with participants on a long-term basis and of using a reserach deisgn which placed a significant burden upon them (e.g. four interviews per participant per year). We said ‘ yes’ since, for example, recently graduated members of this community (Viv and Carol to name but two) successfully placed such a ‘burden’ on their participants.

    9. The Committee also asked about the researcher’s strategy for if/when they themselves became distressed during the research process. I did wonder whether we should not have a strategy for researcher distress but also for supervisor distress ….

  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    Interesting… I can’t recall the first two points being raised with my submission. I think I mentioned that I would use encryption / password protection without providing specific technical details. As for the consent forms, I guess that they were happy to go with the ones I designed because they were already in Greek, or maybe there was no standardised form at the time. I had discussed the possibility of participants becoming distressed in my application (do you want me to send it to you as one example of how to approach this?), and as for my being distressed, I suppose they didn’t care 🙂

  • Eljee Javier

    Thanks for the well wishes!

    UREC is one of those experiences that you realise what you should have said after the event has taken place. Kinda like thinking of the best come back one-liner you could have said to your mate in response but you only thought of it an hour afterwards.


    In all honestly I didn’t know how to prepare for the UREC meeting other than getting into the mindset that it’s not a panel but a meeting to clarify what aspects of my research could be seen as a risk (i.e. liability) to the university. Getting into this mindset is a strange place to be. I understood this conceptually but it didn’t really hit home until I faced the committee themselves.

    It wasn’t an unpleasant “we’re out to get you” kind of witch hunt type of meeting. The setting aside (formal summons to THE Council Chambers which is at the top of a grand stone staircase, where you are seated in a vaulted room in a hard chair with 9 professors looking at you, no names exchanged, and being right before lunch…) the actual meeting lasted no more than 10 minutes where they raised the following concerns:

    RISK 1: My lack of encryption software on the laptop that I will be using.
    Change: I’ll get the software installed on my laptop.

    RISK 2: The fact that I’m planning to use my own consent forms instead of using the university standardised consent forms.
    Change: I’ll use university standardised forms instead of my own.

    RISK 3: Their concern with my lack of any formal contingency measures if the situation arose where my participants may reveal information that could be distressing and upsetting in nature and therefore who can I refer them to if they are located around the world.
    Change: ? (I got to work on that.)

    RISK 4: Their concern with what would I do if I began to become distressed through conducting my research.
    Change: ? (Ditto.)

    It is an interesting set of concerns that don’t necessarily have to do with ethics and more to do with risk assessment. Regarding the first two the committee basically told me to make the changes. No ifs or buts. Fine. I can work with it. The last two, well, the ball is in my court now. Given the mindset that I had to get into prior to the meeting I have a much better understanding of their point of view when they look at mitigating the risk my research could pose. More on that later.

    The point raised are fair and I’ll take them on board but I think it would have been just as effective had I had the feedback in an email or via my supervisors than having to go through the whole ceremony.

  • Richard Fay

    Let me ask Eljee, maybe there is something like that buried deep in WordPress stylesheets ….

  • Achilleas Kostoulas

    Don’t you wish our blog had a ‘like’ button? Congratulations, both!

  • Richard Fay

    Well done to both on today’s outcome which was: “Approved subject to minor amendments to be approved through Chair’s Action”.