Developing Generic Ethics Principles for Social Science Research

A ‘Site Map’ for the Research Ethics Section can be found here.

An Academy Initiative on Research Ethics

Ron Iphofen FAcSS,  Robert Dingwall FAcSS, Janet Lewis FAcSS & John Oates FAcSS

‘The Generic Ethics Principles in Social Science’ project is a long-term programme that, over a number of years, has been taken forward by four of the Academy’s Fellows: Janet Lewis, Ron Iphofen, John Oates and Robert Dingwall. The aim of the project is to promote the discussion of all facets of ethics in social scientific research. In particular it seeks to promote interdisciplinary discussion between the Learned Societies that collectively constitute the Academy. A secondary aim of the project is to promote engagement and dialogue between social science researchers and various stakeholders, including the public, interest groups, funders, HEIs, users of research and those involved with the ethics of research more generally.

Following a conference we held in January 2014 the following Mission Statement was drawn up to guide our ongoing activities:

“The Generic Ethics Principles in Social Science project of the Academy of Social Sciences was established in 2010. It is committed to working with social science learned societies, research funders, higher education establishments and participants in research. Its aim is to mutually advance the understanding and application of core ethics values that should inform and underpin social science research in all aspects from inception and review through data acquisition, analysis and management to dissemination and application.”

To date the group has initiated the activities that have taken place but have sought to do so in a collaborative way. In the future the hope is that the Academy’s mission can be achieved through the more active involvement of learned societies and members of the wider academic and research communities. The group’s work has included:

1. Promotion and discussion of the ‘Five Ethical Principles for Social Science Research‘ which have been formally adopted by the Academy’s Council. These principles are the result of work over a number of years and grew out of the position paper ‘Towards Common Principles for Social Science Research Ethics.’

2. We organized ‘roadshow’ events that are designed to disseminate the 5 common principles of social science research ethics and encourage debate, both in general terms and in regards specific approaches to and contexts for social science research. The first of these took place on 10th November 2015 at Queen’s University Belfast. The full programme is available here.

3. Taking forward discussions between interested Learned Societies and individuals about the creation of a ‘Common Statement’. This is being led by Helen Kara FAcSS of the Social Research Association.

4. On the 21st of March 2016 we held a conference on ethics and social media research. The full programme can be found here. We are keen to engage in further discussion social science research ethics and the 5 principles in relation to specific topics, methodologies and approaches to social science and ethics. We also held an event to discuss virtue ethics in May 2015.

5. Facilitating and supporting discussions about the application of the ‘principles’ approach to particular subject arenas with the aim of developing more refined ‘modules.’ A workshop organised by one of BAICE‘s thematic forums was entitled Research Ethics in International and Comparative Education and included discussion of the 5 principles.

A ‘Site Map’ for the Research Ethics Section can be found here.

This project has been supported by the British Psychological Association, the British Sociological Association; The Open University; The British Library and the Economic & Social Research Council.


Copy of BPS logoCopy of BSA new logoOU logoBL logoesrc logo