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The Faculty of Architecture and History of Art


University Research Ethics Website

Faculty of Architecture and History of Art Research Ethics Subcommittee Terms of Reference:

The objectives of the Subcommittee are: to maintain ethical standards of practice in research; to ensure that researchers are trained in, and aware of, ethical issues in research; to protect participants in research and researchers from harm; to preserve the participants’ rights; to take account of legitimate interests of other individuals, bodies and communities associated with the research; and to provide reassurance to the public and to outside bodies that these are being done.

Much of the research conducted in the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art (critical, analytic, technical, design-based or historical) is unlikely to raise any ethical issues. However, experimental research, and fieldwork (whether conducted within anthropological or sociological frameworks) will probably constitute exceptions to this. The Faculty has guidelines for the conduct of such research, and procedures (see Ethical Review Procedure Flowchart) which require ethical review by the Faculty Ethics Subcommittee in all cases where proposed research will involve:

  • (i)  fieldwork or experiments involving human participants; or 

  • (ii)  use of personal data. 

  • (iii)  work with children or vulnerable individuals; 

  • (iv)  work with NHS patients, staff or facilities; 

The appropriate Ethical Review Forms (available below) should be completed in compliance with the Faculty’s guidelines, and submitted as indicated. You will probably also need one participant consent form per participant.

For undergraduates undertaking a Extended Essay (Part IA) or a Dissertation for Part IB or II that involves research falling into categories (i) to (iv) above, an Ethical Review Form must be completed and submitted together with the dissertation title/abstract (generally by the division of Michaelmas Term). The Chair of the appropriate Examination Board will assess the proposal and forward the proposal and their recommendation to the Ethics Subcommittee who will confer or withhold approval. In cases where experimental research or fieldwork constitutes a component of a taught course, the course leader will implement course-specific procedures for managing ethical issues that have been approved by the Ethics Subcommittee.

For graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and staff whose proposed research falls into categories (i) to (iv) above, Ethical Review Forms must be completed (in the case of students, in consultation with the supervisor) and submitted to the Ethics Subcommittee for evaluation.

Where research proposals involve children or other vulnerable individuals, or pose ethical issues that appear beyond the expertise of the Ethics Subcommittee, they will be remitted to an appropriate Schools-level Ethics Committee (either the Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee  or the Social Science Research Ethics Committee).

Forms and Guidelines

Experimental research

Questionnaire-based, Interview-based or Ethnographic social research

Guidelines for Ethical Review of coursework for Undergraduate and Graduate Course Leaders

The value of ethical review is to ensure that researchers have rigorously considered the potential consequences of their research for themselves and others, particularly those who participate in, or are the subjects of, the research. Completion of an Ethics Review form should help guarantee this, as the nature and the practicalities of the research to be undertaken has to be clear in a student's mind for the form to be filled in satisfactorily.

All students undertaking practical coursework involving human participants (whether experimental, questionnaire- or interview-based, or ethnographic) should fill in a form, once they have settled on a topic or project in sufficient detail. In the first instance these are reviewed by the course leader, who can require students to revise their forms, and who approves those that have no—or trivial—ethical implications. It is expected that the majority of forms for any given course are likely to be fall into this category.

Those deemed by the course leader to require more comprehensive scrutiny should be forwarded to the Chair of the Ethics Subcommittee for approval; revision may be required before approval is granted. It is expected that very few—if any—applications for ethical review will be rejected; the value of the process lies in making explicit to the students what is required of a successful piece of research involving human participants or data, and in providing a process of review that can draw on broad expertise in providing feedback to the students in order that they can amend their research plans appropriately.

Each course leader should provide a copy of all submitted and approved Ethical Review forms to Secretary of the Faculty Board; the University requires that we compile an annual report on the workings of the ethical review process in the Faculty.

Course leaders should familiarise themselves with the Faculty's guidelines for the conduct of experimental and social research. Links to more detailed, discipline-specific guidelines are provided on the Faculty's ethics website and on the University Research Ethics Webpage.