As a publicly-funded organisation the ESRC has a responsibility to ensure that all researchers and research organisations it supports have rigorously considered any ethics implications arising from the research design, methodology, conduct, dissemination, and the archiving, future use, sharing and linkage of the data produced.
Research Councils expect that those who receive funding demonstrate an awareness of the social and ethical implications of their research, and take account of public attitudes towards these issues. It is also expected that they will adhere to RCUK policy and guidelines on governance of good research conduct.
Social research requires a situated and reflective approach to research ethics, helping to identify potential benefits and pitfalls in ways that benefit and protect participants and researchers alike. Careful reflection and planning in relation to research ethics should not only benefit participants, but should enhance the quality of the research as a whole. Lack of rigorous reflection around ethics issues and failure to mitigate risks may result in liabilities, reputational damage, negative public attitudes towards research and harm to participants' and/or researchers' health and wellbeing.
Ethics issues may not always be obvious from the outset or may arise after an ethics review has been undertaken. Researchers' awareness of ethics issues and engagement with research ethics committees is vital to ensure that research is conducted and carried out in a manner that achieves the maximum level of benefits for all involved parties and for the benefit of society.