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Loughborough University

University Committees

                     

Ethics Committee

 

EC13-M3


Minutes of the Ethics Committee held on 18 October 2013 

Members:  Ann Greenwood ( Chair), Hannah Baldwin, John Blackwell, Jonti Davis ( ab), Mike Gleeson, Victoria Haines, Stephen Kenny, Chris Linton (ab), Sarabjit Mastana (ab), Jonathon Potter, Steve Rothberg, Richard Taylor, Jon Walker.

In Attendance:  Brigette Vale


13/24.             Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were received from Chris Linton and Sarabjit Mastana

13/25              Business of the Agenda

No items were unstarred.

 

13/26.     Minutes

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The Minutes of the meeting held on 10 May 2013 were confirmed

 

13/27.      Matters Arising from the Minutes

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The Committee noted matters arising from the Minutes and the actions taken. The PVC (E) reported that further work needed to be done on developing the ethical checklist for taught programmes and that this needed to be considered by Learning and Teaching Committee

Action: PVC (E).

It was noted that the revised Ethical Policy Framework was available on the University website, but that the previous edition could also be found. It was felt that, to avoid confusion,   any previous editions should be explicitly archived.

Action: BPV

 

13/28.       Membership and Terms of Reference of Ethics Committee

.1

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i) The Committee considered the membership and terms of reference of Ethics Committee for 2013/14 and agreed to make a recommendation to Senate and Council to amend the membership to include ‘a member of Senate nominated by the Vice Chancellor’ instead of ‘a member of Senate elected by Senate.’

 

ii) On the advice of the Chair the Committee confirmed the appointment of the PVC (E) as Deputy Chair of the Committee, for a period of one year in the first instance.

 

13/29.      Review of Committee Effectiveness

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Members were invited to review the effectiveness of Ethics Committee as part of an annual exercise.  It was agreed that it was very helpful to have a structure in place where ethical issues could be escalated and which could address a wide range of issues as they arose.

It was reported that, to identify matters for consideration, the process relied on the use of ethical checklists in areas wherever issues might arise. In addition the Ethical Policy Framework relied on anyone with concerns to challenge the University’s conduct.  The purpose of the Framework itself was to identify the University’s ethical principles against which decisions could be made, and to gather together all relevant guidance. Members asked whether the LSU had a separate ethical policy and how well integrated the two approaches were. It was noted that the student member was not present and it was agreed that they should be encouraged to attend the meetings. If the student member was unable to attend an alternate could be sent, provided that the secretary was informed well in advance it was agreed that the student should be asked to present the LSU’s ethical policy at the Committee’s next meeting.

Action: LSU

It was agreed that the style and presentation of the papers were very helpful.

It was further agreed that the role of the Ethics Committee should be more widely promoted and some consideration should be given to its further promotion.

Action: BPV/HB

 

13/30.      Agenda Items for the Ethics Committee 2013/14

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Members noted that in the course of establishing the Committee and producing the Ethical Policy Framework there had been a consultation process to identify possible items for immediate consideration. The majority of these items had now been addressed and progress on each item was noted by members. There remained to identify a simple process for covering activities with engagement with people which did not involve experimentation, e.g. field trips and life drawing. It was felt that perhaps a checklist could be developed which could cover these areas and VH agreed to assist with this development.

Action: VH

A member raised concerns that there might be child protection issues arising perhaps with respect to Open days, or with individual academic interviews. It was agreed that these were operational matters and could be referred to the COO for advice as necessary.

It was agreed to seek clarification as to the availability of training on ethical issues.

Action: BPV

It was agreed that it would be helpful to maintain such a list of future actions, which could be reviewed annually. It was further agreed to include a standing item on the agenda which listed on going developments which had been raised but not yet actioned.

 

13/31.        Research with Military Applications

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The Committee received a report from the working group on research with military applications. The Group had been asked to develop a framework as to how to consider project proposals within the military sphere or with possible military applications. It was agreed that no research work would be excluded by the University on principle but that it would have to be evaluated against the University’s ethical policy framework under this process. It was noted that even where research was legal, the University might not wish to engage with it because of the ethical implications. Nevertheless it had to be recognised that the concept of academic freedom embodied in Statute 21 would enable staff to engage in research activity which might be open to challenge, even if it was legal, and that this needed to be reflected in the recommendations. It was felt that the University should not reject a proposal because it disliked it, but that the purpose of this process was to identify whether the proposal conformed to the University’s ethical principles (which included legal compliance as a minimum expectation).

The group’s recommendation identified a three stage process. The first element was a self- assessment stage. Where the research proposal had a clear military application this would be evaluated alongside the company involved itself. It was proposed that a list would be developed of companies and organisations whose ethical position was acceptable to the University such that further investigation of the company or organisation (as distinct from the project) would not be necessary on each occasion.

 At present the only comparable list was that of charitable donors, where further checks were not considered to be required. It was felt that such a list was expedient, and could be developed on a case law principle. If a research proposal was with a company which was not on the list of companies, then the proposal would be referred to a Sub Committee for further consideration. Any research proposal failing the self assessment process would also be referred to the Sub Committee, who could either approve it or refer it to the full Ethics Committee. It was agreed that it was important not to delay applications. Under the current arrangements proposals could be submitted or applied for, but work could not commence until ethical approval was given.

The Committee felt that the recommendations represented an acceptable way forward but that a more detailed proposal should be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee. It was felt that further work needed to be undertaken to identify the companies and organisations to be on the initial list. The Group could begin to do this work based on those the University worked with, which the Research Office could help to identify. In the longer term the list could be developed by a specific task-and- finish project group.

The process itself also needed further development and concrete procedures, in particular how the process would commence, how the companies would be identified, the composition of the Sub Committee and what expertise they required, what criteria would determine the elevation of the proposal to the Ethics Committee.

The Committee thanked the chair of the group for the recommendations to date and requested a further report for the next meeting of the Committee.

Action: SK

 

13/32.      Impromptu Gifts

The Chief Operating Officer reported on the arrangements surrounding the receipt of impromptu gifts. It was confirmed that the arrangements broadly conformed to the proposals in the Woolf report. Clarity was required as to who was responsible for advising on the receipt of gifts and the disposal of gifts and it was agreed that this should be the Director of Finance. It was further agreed that there should be a named individual who could advise on the receipt of gifts as the situation arose and this should be from the COO’s team. It was felt that there should be some awareness raising surrounding the receipt of gifts. It was agreed that it was important that these matters should be clarified prior to the next meeting of the Committee.

Action: COO

 

13/33.      Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

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The Committee noted that the section on CSR in the Ethical Framework Policy was still under development and had been in this position for some time. The University was still developing a strategy in this area as part of its strategic planning and once this was agreed the statement could be completed. At present the governance structure for CSR was unclear and there needed to be further discussion on this. It was noted that CSR was a very broad concept which embraced ethics, sustainability, operational and academic issues. The Committee requested that a CSR statement be presented to its next meeting.

Action: JW

 

13/34.      Ethical Approvals (Human Participants) Sub Committee

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The Minutes of the Ethical Approvals (Human Participants) Sub Committee meeting held on 11 April 2013 were received.

 

13/35.     Date of Next Meeting

7 February 2014