Research organisations (ROs) are responsible for monitoring research to ensure good research conduct, compliance with conditions set out in the ethics review, and clear managerial arrangements for the supervision of staff and oversight of ESRC-funded projects at all times. The responsibility also applies to ROs involved in collaborative research (including non-academic and international collaborators) and hosting students and visiting researchers. All relevant policies and guidance should be disseminated to all staff including post-graduate students.
ROs should undertake occasional ad hoc audits of ESRC-funded research. How often this is done will depend on the amount of ESRC research undertaken in the RO. In ROs with a substantial amount of ESRC research, or a large ESRC-funded centre, we anticipate that audit of at least one ESRC research project per year, randomly chosen, will be undertaken. Principal investigators and supervisors of students need to know that they should keep good records of their ethics procedures in case they are called to account. This could be a desk-based exercise, asking to see the consent documents, other special permissions and relevant paperwork, information on data storage and data sharing, as well as a note from the principal investigator on changes that have been made, and highlighting specific problems.
Regular monitoring of RECs as part of research governance procedures is fundamental to demonstrating the RECs independence and integrity, and the quality of the decision they take. Monitoring would normally take the form of annual reports on REC membership, procedures and decisions, and periodic detailed audit of a sample of reviews. These reports should be made available should the ESRC wish to see them. ROs should be mindful that RECs, although part of the ROs governance structure, should reach their decisions independently and in relation to the ethics issues raised by the specific project. Undue influence of the REC decision by ROs, researchers or other groups will compromise its independence, and would be contrary to the expectations of the ESRC.