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ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (FRE)

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), in facilitating innovative and high quality research, requires that the research it supports will be carried out to a high ethical standard. The Framework for Research Ethics (FRE) is based on the Research Ethics Framework published in 2005. The ESRC committed then to a process of regular review to ensure the framework was kept up to date to reflect changing scientific agendas and policy developments. This revised Framework responds to new developments and an extensive consultation with the research community and stakeholders. A summary of the changes is provided at Appendix E.

In a fast moving research environment, new situations arise and new forms of research emerge which cannot all be covered within this document. We encourage the research community to share their guidance, experience and solutions to ethical dilemmas to facilitate innovative research. Research Ethics Committees in institutions have an important role in facilitating ethical research by sharing their expertise.

The principal aim of the ethics review is, as far as possible, to protect all groups involved in research: participants, institutions, funders and researchers throughout the lifetime of the research and into the dissemination process. Research integrity is closely linked. An example checklist on research integrity is given in the appendix and it is suggested that such a list is used alongside ethics review.

This document outlines the ESRC’s approach, aims and methods for maintaining high ethical standards in research in light of the new developments, while further clarifying issues that were unclear in the original framework. The original principles, procedures and minimum standards have been retained. The Framework for Research Ethics sets out what the ESRC requires by way of ethics approval for the research it is asked to support, and sees as good practice for all social science research. Whilst it is mandatory