Generally we can categorise “Ethics” into two categories:
In engineering disciplines “Professional Ethics” is by far the major concern [see IEEE code of conduct and ACM ethics]. It covers the issues concerning professional conduct and legal issues that may arise from problems related to the engineering profession. For example, for Software Engineers a major issue could be about the implications that the use (or misuse) of a software product might have in the life and economy of people, and specifically about the liabilities when a software system does not function as it should.
In contrast, “Research Ethics”, (for engineering disciplines) is mainly concerned with the issues of plagiarism and collusion, publishing, intellectual property rights, etc. In cases where the primary research is done by collecting and analysing primary data from third party participants, the researcher has to take care that the process is done ethically. This means that the researcher must have considered any ethical issues that may arise in relation to i) the participants, ii) to himself and iii) to his research.
The department expects all research to abide by the University ethics principles and the British Computer Science's code of ethics. In order to ensure that any research that a member of the department (student, staff or otherwise) participates, is abiding to the ethics policy of the University of Sheffield, the computer science department has established an ethics committee responsible for a) informing all members about the ethics process, and b) making sure that any research associated with the department is done with full consideration on any ethical issues, and in compliance to the University’s ethics principles. The committee includes the Director of Research and the Ethics Co-ordinator, who are available to offer advice on any issue regarding research ethics to staff and students.
Any member of staff or student of the department participating in research that involves a sensitive issue or where human participants will be conducted directly or indirectly, should apply for ethics approval to the ethics committee. Direct contact is when as part of the research, information has to be gathered directly from 3rd parties either though interviews or questionnaires. Indirect contact is when the research involves personal information of human subjects, even when no data collection is conducted. In order to apply for ethics approval the researcher should complete an online form and wait for comments from the appointed reviewers. The research may begin only after an approval is given. For support about completing the online form students and staff should contact their supervisor or the ethics co-ordinator of the computer science department, Dr Kostas Dimopoulos (email@example.com). In addition, the University's ethics web pages contain important guidance on research ethics for staff and postgraduate research students. It is useful to read this before completing your ethics application:
Research is not allowed to begin until the ethics approval process is completed (usually within two weeks).
The University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) oversees the department's ethics review procedures. In very exceptional cases where agreement cannot be reached within the department, this committee can review applications. Members of the department wishing to appeal a decision of the Department´s Ethics Review Committee should inform Richard Hudson (Research & Innovation Services) via Sally Midgley, the Department's Ethics Administrator.
Amendments to the original research design are common in any research project. You are only required to submit a new ethics application form if the amendments raise new ethical issues in your research. Undergraduates and postgraduate taught students should consult with their supervisor or personal tutor to decide if a new ethics application is necessary. If your supervisor or personal tutor is unsure if your proposed amendments warrant a new ethics application, you should submit a 1-2 page A4 summary of the proposed amendments and a copy of the original application to Sally Midgley, the Department's Ethics Administrator at: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your summary should refer directly to the original application in order to explain why your proposed amendments raise new ethical issues. Staff and postgraduate research students who are unsure if their proposed amendments warrant a new ethics application are required to do the same. The lead ethics reviewer of your original application will decide if a new application is necessary. If (s)he is unavailable the Department's ethics co-ordinator will make the decision. You will be informed of the outcome by email.