The support provided by members of the public, when agreeing to take part in social science research, helps create a true picture of society today. Without this support it would prove difficult for social science researchers to uncover findings of benefit to science and society. Therefore we take seriously the expectations of those taking part in research (research participants).

As a participant you can normally expect:

  • ESRC-funded researchers to be guided by our research ethics principles
  • research to be independent, aimed at disclosing the truth, and not conducted for the personal gain of the researcher or his or her research organisation.
  • researchers to be polite and professional towards you at all times and to show that your views, values, lifestyle and beliefs are understood, respected and valued, even if they differ from those of the researchers’.
  • any risks will have been thought about beforehand by the researchers who will have taken steps to minimise these. If there are any risks the researcher will explain these to you clearly before you decide whether or not to participate. 
  • to be given clear and full information about the research and what your participation will involve. 
  • to be given enough time to carefully consider your decision before you agree to take part. 
  • to be given plenty of opportunity to ask questions about the research and have these questions answered.
  • to be able to change your mind about taking part, without needing to give any reasons and with no negative consequences. 
  • to be able to say if there is any information that you have given that you do not want the researchers to use or you prefer to remain private (or if you prefer, to be identified by name, where possible). For example if the research is likely to lead to what you say being quoted, or the publishing of information that could identify you - such as photographic or video images of you, or places and people connected with you.
  • any information that you have given to be stored in secure conditions with appropriate access and treated confidentially unless you wish or agree otherwise. 
  • to be listened to and steps taken to address your concerns for example if you want to talk about the research with someone other than the researchers, they should be able to give you details of an alternative contact.
  • a researcher to assist you in accessing help or support if something unexpected happens during the research, for example if something upsets you.
  • if you wish, you will be told about the outcomes of the research when the project has finished.
  • that any travel or other expenses that you incur while taking part will be reimbursed.

As a participant you should not expect:

  • to come under any pressure to participate, or experience anything negative if you decide that you don’t want to take part. 
  • to be given anything to induce you to take part other than reasonable compensation (for example travel expenses)
  • the research to involve any risk of harm to yourself (for example, potential physical or psychological harm, discomfort, stress or reputational risk, risk to your personal social standing, privacy, personal values and beliefs), anyone else connected with you or anyone else potentially affected by the research.

Any research funded by the ESRC will be managed throughout by a research organisation that is required to oversee the integrity and proper conduct of all aspects of the project. The ethics issues of ESRC-funded research will have received the appropriate ethics review, usually by an independent research ethics committee, to ensure that the research is conducted to the highest ethics standards.