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Research ethics (Penryn Campus)

Research in the College of Life & Environmental Sciences (CLES) at the Penryn Campus is diverse, covering a large array of topics in animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolutionary biology and human and social geography. All research has the potential to raise ethical issues, which must be given due consideration during the research process.

Research ethics refers to the application of moral principles that inform the research process, from planning through implementation to completion and publication of results. Researchers are responsible for the care and welfare of animals used in their research, and, in human research, should respect the rights and dignity of participants. The gain in knowledge from research must be balanced against any potential adverse consequences for the individual animals, human participants and populations involved, and the wider ecosystem and/or society. However, the huge diversity of topics and questions associated with human and animal research can often make judgements about the ethics of research difficult. To help CLES researchers make clearer assessments of the ethical implications of their work requires a set of principles, established by codes of conduct and legislation.

All our research work is guided by the Ethics Policy and the Code of Good Conduct in Research, informed by the Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity.

More specifically, research involving human participants should follow guidelines such as those drawn up by the British Psychology Society (BPS) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Research on animals should follow the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) guidelines and Home Office legislation, with consideration of the 3Rs the key guiding principle.

Researchers are expected to give consideration to the environmental, social, political, religious or economic consequences of any research undertaken as well as legal or professional obligations and any potential safety and reputational risks to participants, researchers, the College or University

Individual researchers are responsible for due consideration of the ethical implications of their research and, in order to maintain uniformly high ethical standards and provide an independent view, all research projects that do not fall under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (which are assessed by the University Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board) and do not require external review (by e.g. NHS ethics committees), are assessed by the CLES Penryn Ethics Committee. The CLES Penryn Ethics Committee provides regular, independent assessment of the ethics of research projects and meets monthly during term time to discuss ethics more widely. It is comprised of members from both Biosciences and Geography and different research job families (academic staff, postdoctoral researchers, postgraduate researchers and technicians).

Ethical approval

Ethical approval is required before starting research. Please contact the Chair of the CLES Penryn ethics committee, Prof Alastair Wilson ( if you have any queries about ethical approval.