Conducting Sensitive Research
All information on the processes and provisions relating to sensitive research are in the new Policy on Conducting Sensitive Research. It is strongly advised that all researchers read this policy.
Guidance Notes can be found here. (If you have any problems reading the document a black and white format is available here).
The definition of sensitive research encompasses a wide variety of research topics, but there are three broad research areas which would usually cause the research to be classified as ‘sensitive’:
- Research into illegal activities, including the collection of source data, e.g. crime statistics;
- Research which requires access to web sites normally prohibited on university servers; including, but not limited to; pornography, or the sites of any of the organisations proscribed by the UK Government;
- Research into extremism and radicalisation.
De Montfort University (DMU) endorses the principle of academic freedom and supports its researchers in undertaking ambitious, rigorous, and challenging research, but also takes seriously its responsibility to try to protect them from misinterpretation of intent by authorities and subsequent investigations.
To ensure that DMU is able to demonstrate the actions of researchers are part of legitimate research activities, researchers must be aware of the nature and implications of certain types of research before it begins. The ethical review and approval process enables provisions to be put in place to mitigate risks generated by undertaking the research.
Please note: DMU does not permit any crime to be committed for research purposes, such as accessing images of paedophilia or child abuse, or trespassing in prohibited areas.
DMU is clear that research involving into sensitive research areas carries a personal risk to researchers, and therefore any such research should go through a full ethical review and approval process.
Each of the Faculty Ethical Approval Application Forms (available here) contain a sensitive research appendix with a series of filter questions. These identify if a research project should be classified as sensitive research, and as such require special consideration before ethical approval can be granted.
Questions can also be found as a PDF here.
Access and Storage of Sensitive Research Materials
Researchers whose projects have received full ethical approval and who require access to web sites normally prohibited on university servers must contact ITMS to arrange for special provisions to be made.
Certain sensitive research materials must be stored securely in a password-protected central store. See Section 11 of the Policy on Conducting Sensitive Research for further details. If the provision for secure storage has not already been arranged as part of the project, it is the responsibility of the researcher to contact the ITMS Helpdesk to request a Secure File Share.
The first point of contact for questions about sensitive research should be the Chair of your Faculty Ethics Committee. If for any reason this person is unable to advise you, please contact Elizabeth Lunt (email@example.com) or Elizabeth Nolan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emma Harris (email@example.com) in the Research, Business and Innovation Directorate.
Any queries from legitimate bodies e.g. the police or security services will be handled by the Head of Security (firstname.lastname@example.org), in conjunction with the Research, Business, and Innovation Directorate.