Research Ethics

The Research Ethics Policy aims to promote a culture within the School whereby researchers conscientiously reflect on the ethical implications of their research.

Researchers in the social sciences have responsibilities - in the first instance to the people from whom the researcher is gathering data (the research participants), but also to society at large, to those who fund their research, to the institutions that employ them or at which they study, to their colleagues and the wider academic and research community, and also for their own safety and wellbeing. Reconciling those responsibilities can be difficult and may entail ethical judgement. 

Researchers should familiarise themselves with the School’s Research Ethics Policy and Code of Research Conduct. These policies form part of the School's over-arching Ethics Code.

For a short overview of the ethics reveiw procedure please see our Research ethics review in a nutshell.  Guidance on how to complete your review and a link to the online ethics submission system can be found here.  

The research ethics policy and procedures are overseen by the Research Ethics Committee and supported by Lyn Grove and Myriam Fellous-Sigrist.

When is research ethics review/approval required?

Ethics review/approval is required for any research involving:
Collection of data from participants, e.g. via interviews, surveys, focus groups, experiments, observations, etc.
User generated data (e.g. from discussion forums, social media, vlogs, blogs, comments on posts or articles)
The collection or use of any personal data/identifiable information (e.g. names, email addresses, IP addresses, social media profiles or meta-data, visual material, etc.). However, research that will only use data from publicly available archival records (including newspapers) does not require ethics review (unless there are other reasons why it may give rise to ethical issues)
Any other information that could identify a living individual (or potentially lead to their identification). For example: where information from micro datasets, if combined, could lead to the identification of individuals; or where an online search for particular wording could lead to the identification of an individual
If findings/conclusions/publication could have damaging repercussions for any individuals (reputation, stigma, bullying) or groups with protected characteristics
• Any other reason why the research might raise ethical issues.

Guidance on how to complete your review and a link to the online ethics submission system can be found here.

Informed consent

Please see the LSE guidance on informed consent which includes three example participant information sheet/consent forms you can use as a template. Word versions of the templates can be found here.

If your research participants are children or young people, please see our advice on how to seek their consent in our Guidance on working with children and other vulnerable groups.

See our "What is consent?" to understand the difference between consent in terms of ethics versus consent for data protection purposes

If you plan to use data from the internet or social media in your research please see the guidance document 'Using data from the internet and social media in research: ethics & consent'.

Research conduct and research integrity

All researchers (whether staff or students) are expected to abide by the School's Code of Research Conduct. The Code incorporates the policy and procedures for the investigation of research misconduct.
Please see the Research integrity at LSE webpage for further information.

The LSE is a subscriber to the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO). LSE researchers can find a number of resources and details of events on the UKRIO website

Training and guidance

  • All students: in the first instance please contact your department to ask what discipline-specific research ethics training may be available in your department. 

  • Ethics review considerations: A quick guide for researchers (students or staff)

  • PhD and MRes students: termly workshops on informed consent and conducting sensitive interviews are held in the PhD Academy. See here
    MY530 research ethics workshop: see the Methods training webpage
    Research ethics training is also available via the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network (BPSN).

  • Using social media data in research: please see the guidance on ethics and consent here
  • Payments and benefits to research participants: see the guidance here
  • Research with children and vulnerable groups: see the guiance here. If working with children you may also find it very useful to look at the resources available on the Global Kids Online website.
  • Data Management: please see the guidance available here or check out the Research Data Management Toolkit.
  • Fieldwork training: training and guidance available for fieldwork and travel can be found here
  • Global Health Training Centre course ‘Research ethics online training. This free access online course is very relevant to most research in the social sciences. 

  • Mental Health 'First Aid' training: for training available at LSE see here 
    External: most providers of MHFA can be found here 

  • Research team leaders: this UCB presentation ‘Working With Research Study Participants: An Overview’  is designed for research team leaders to go through with their research assistants.

  • The Social Research Association has very helpful Research Ethics Guidance and also runs a range of training courses, some of which include research ethics related issues. 

Overseas fieldwork

Researchers planning to conduct any fieldwork overseas – either by themselves or via local research assistants/enumerators, etc., and regardless of whether or not any travel will be involved - must contact the Health and Safety team to ascertain whether a risk assessment is required.

Note that any travel for fieldwork to high-risk countries requires approval by SMC.  Overseas research that is considered to be high risk or contentious may also be referred to SMC. 

Please see the latest information on travel here. If you have any questions relating to travel or the risk assessment process, please contact the Health and Safety team.

Support and contact

  • Drop-in surgeries: All staff and students are welcome to come along to one of our online 'Research ethics, data management, data protection and copyright' drop-in surgeries with any questions they have. Sessions are held on Thursdays from 3-4pm (on zoom). For more details and to book please click here   
  • Links to further LSE and external frameworks and guidance are available in the Research Ethics Policy Annex A

  • If you require copies of any documentation in an alternative format, or other reasonable adjustments, please let us know (link below)
  • If you have any questions concerning research ethics not answered here please contact Lyn Grove or Myriam Fellous-Sigrist


Further guidance