What is ethics
For Imperial College London, ethics means ensuring that a research project is conducted in such a way that any adverse impact is in proportion to its expected benefit. Adverse impacts are those that may affect the environment and/or the health, well-being, safety, threats to privacy and in rare cases liberty of individuals and/or the reputation of the College .
These may consist of:
- The acknowledged potential direct risks e.g. rare or adverse reaction to researcher intervention
- The unintended consequences .e.g. local stigmatisation of an individual through involvement in research in a socially sensitive context
- The College being vulnerable to criticism by imprudent partnership with an (overseas) partner or non-government organisation
The expected benefits must be not only be desirable but also in sufficient degree likely to actually occur. The benefits of the research are a material consideration in deciding whether a proposal is ethical as presented, since they must be in satisfactory proportion to the potential adverse impacts.
Research ethics forms an integral part of proper scientific conduct, and we expect all staff and students to adhere to the College Ethics Code.
Following a review by the Research Office of our guidance and processes for ethics approval and our training materials and courses for research integrity , we now have two committees to govern the ethics approval process – the Imperial College Research Ethics Committee (ICREC) for non-NHS health research involving human participants and/or their data, and the new Science, Engineering and Technology Research Ethics Committee (SETREC) for non-health research for studies which impact the environment, involve human participants and/or their data.