Issues for BSA Members


The British Sociological Association gratefully acknowledges the use made of ethical codes produced by the American Sociological Association, the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth and the Social Research Association.

The purpose of these Guidelines is to make members aware of issues regarding professional conduct that may arise in their work. The guidelines do not provide a set of recipes for resolving choices or dilemmas surrounding professional conduct, but recognise that often it will be necessary to make such choices on the basis of principles and values, and the (often conflicting) interests of those involved.

The work of sociologists is diverse and subject to change, not least because sociologists work within a wide variety of settings. Sociologists carrying out their work inevitably face ethical, and sometimes legal, dilemmas which arise out of competing obligations and conflicts of interest and uncertainty about the consequences actions will have.

The guidelines provided here aim to alert members of the BSA to issues that raise ethical concerns and to indicate potential problems and conflicts of interest that might arise in the course of their professional activities. While they are not exhaustive these guidelines point to a set of professional obligations to which members should normally adhere as principles for guiding their conduct. Departures from the principles should be the result of deliberation and not ignorance.

The strength of the guidelines and their binding force rest ultimately on active discussion, reflection, and continued use by sociologists.  In addition, the statement will help to communicate the professional position of sociologists to others, especially those involved in or affected by the activities of sociologists.  The statement is meant, primarily, to inform members' ethical judgements rather than to impose on them an external set of standards.  The purpose is to make members aware of the ethical issues that may arise in their work, and to encourage them to educate themselves and their colleagues and students to behave ethically.   

The issues addressed by these guidelines are not unique to sociologists.They may arise in a range of contexts and may be faced by sociologists and others performing a variety of professional roles.

Professional Integrity

Members should strive to maintain the integrity of sociological enquiry as a discipline, the freedom to research and study, and to publish and promote the results of sociological research.

Members have a responsibility both to safeguard the proper interests of those involved in or affected by their work, and to report their findings accurately and truthfully.  They need to consider the effects of their involvements and the consequences of their work or its misuses for those they study and other interested parties. Sociologists should note that there are national laws and administrative regulations (for example the Data Protection Acts, the Human Rights Act, copyright and libel laws) which may affect the conduct of their research, data presentation and publication and data storage, rights of research respondents, of sponsors and employers etc..

While recognising that training and skill are necessary to the conduct of social research, members should themselves recognise the boundaries of their professional competence.   They should not undertake work of a kind that they are not qualified to carry out. Members should satisfy themselves that the research they undertake is worthwhile and that the techniques proposed are appropriate.    They should be clear about the limits of their detachment from and involvement in their areas of study.

Social Researchers face a range of potential risks to their safety. Safety issues need to be considered in the design and conduct of social research projects and procedures should be adopted to reduce the risk to researchers, including research assistants and students.

Members who are undertaking research on any form of illegal activity/behaviour should take advice on their own position.

Members should be careful not to claim an expertise in areas outside those that would be recognised academically as their true fields of expertise. Particularly in their relations with the media, members should have regard for the reputation of the discipline and refrain from offering expert commentaries in a form that would appear to give credence to material which, as researchers, they would regard as comprising inadequate or tendentious evidence.

Relationships between Members and BSA Staff

The BSA aims to be an equal opportunities employer.  Click here to view Equal Opportunities Policy.

Members should ensure that their behaviour (in person, on the telephone, in written communications) towards BSA staff is respectful and polite at all times and ensure that their behaviour towards BSA staff colleagues contributes to a positive working environment.

Relationships between Members

Members should act in ways which ensure equal opportunities for all students, colleagues or job applicants irrespective of age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender, political beliefs, sexuality, 'race', religion.  Steps should be taken to increase participation from minority groups within the profession at all levels.

Members should take care to ensure that direct or indirect discrimination does not take place at any stage in any selection procedure - advertising, response to preliminary enquiries, shortlisting, interviewing - or in the requirement of formal qualifications which are not wholly necessary. (It is acknowledged that, in research, commonality of gender and/or ethnicity, and other characteristics, between researcher and researched may sometimes be appropriate for methodological reasons).

Care should be taken that the element of preferment frequently present in the appointment of part-time/hourly paid teachers does not amount to indirect discrimination.  Such posts should be advertised wherever possible.

Harassment is an abuse of power which negates both the principles of equal opportunities and the possibilities of a good working environment.  Members thus have a duty to refrain from them and to actively oppose such behaviour by others.    Members should not use the inequalities of power which characterise many working relationships including those between teachers and undergraduate and postgraduate students to obtain personal, sexual, economic or professional advantages.

Members should behave respectfully towards all colleagues, both within their own working environment and in the wider sociological community.  This wider community includes colleagues at conferences, in study groups and journal board members.

Members should be aware that such inequalities of power pertain not only in coercive but also in consensual relationships.  They should take care that personal or sexual relationships entered into at work on a consensual and reciprocal basis do not reinforce or exploit those inequalities of power and do not disadvantage or unfairly advantage the less powerful party.

Relationships between Members and Others

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Students

Members employed in teaching institutions have both academic and ethical obligations to their students. Besides the general duties of competence, adequate preparation and up-to-date knowledge, they should observe the following principles:

All students are entitled to adequate information in good time about the content of courses, programme choice, modes of assessment, and appeals procedures.  They are also entitled to prompt and fair evaluation of their work, and to the keeping of full and proper records of their progress.

Members should support students´ studies in a diligent manner by regular attendance to teach and by being available for consultation by students.

Members should respect the confidentiality of personal information about students.   They have a duty to ensure that any records are secure and that access to them is restricted in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

While intellectual differences are a sign of healthy diversity and exposure to these is a proper part of students´ education, members should not allow intellectual differences or personal animosities among colleagues to impinge on students´ relationships with those colleagues.

Members have a duty to assist both undergraduate and postgraduate students in their attempts to find employment.   This will normally involve the writing of references and, in the case of graduate students, may include introducing students into appropriate networks.

Members should not deceive or coerce students into serving as research respondents.  They should not use them simply as cheap or unpaid labour in the conduct of research.  They should not represent the work of students as their own.

In view of the considerable evidence that they distribute their time and attention differentially between groups of students in ways inimical to equal opportunities, teachers have a duty to self-awareness on this issue.  In addition they have a duty to minimise discriminatory practices by students which might detract from equality of educational opportunity; this applies particularly to racial and sexual harassment, including verbal abuse.  They have a duty to be cognisant with the disciplinary codes existing in their institutions for dealing with students who insult or intimidate others, including their teachers and supervisors.

Members should be particularly aware of the inequality of power between teacher and student, and the difficulties which may be experienced from close working relationships emotionally, especially when they are either very close or very distant.  This may be so particularly in one-to-one supervisions. Supervisors should take particular care not to exploit such inequalities of power. If personal or emotional difficulties develop between supervisor and student which may impede the successful completion of the student´s work, it is the supervisor´s responsibility to ensure that an alternative supervisor is found for the student and it the student's right to request this. Within such a process the attempt should be made not to jeopardise the student´s progress.  Members are advised not to enter into personal emotional or sexual relationships with students.

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Colleagues

Members should try to minimise the way self-interest or personal factors interfere with their commitment to the production and spreading of knowledge, and should ensure that their behaviour towards colleagues contributes to a positive working environment. When acting as managers and as employers, members have a duty to implement fair employment practices and promote equal opportunities in relation to appointments, appraisal and promotion as well as disciplinary procedures.

All employees should be properly informed of the terms and conditions of their employment. Care should be taken not to underpay part-time (hourly paid) staff or to use them for duties for which they are not being paid.

All employees, particularly research staff, should be clearly informed about intellectual property rights with respect to the data which they collect or to which they may have access.  The general principle of academic freedom means that freedom to analyse and publish the results of research should be limited only in exceptional circumstances.

Members should not knowingly misrepresent the findings of their research, or the work of others. They should not present other people´s work as their own, or hold up the publication of work by others so that their work gets precedence.  They should acknowledge fully all those who contributed to their research and publications. Attribution and ordering of authorship and acknowledgements should accurately reflect the contributions of all main participants in both research and writing processes, including students.   Material quoted verbatim from the writing of others must be clearly identified and referenced to its author.

Where ideas or material are drawn from the written work of others without verbatim quotation the sources should be cited to the full extent that is reasonably practicable for the purpose in hand.

  • Review Processes

Sociologists may be involved in a wide range of review processes; these include reviewing proposals for manuscripts prior to publication, book reviews, research grants applications, accreditation of courses, examination of theses, and involvement in procedures for appraisal or promotion of individual staff, as well as writing references for students and colleagues.

Members have a general duty to ensure that any participation in review processes is an honest evaluation of work in question.

The expression of strong views for or against a particular piece of work are part and parcel of the review process.  In reviewing the work of others,       however, members should avoid conflicts of interest.  They should also normally avoid participating in review procedures where they have a close positive or negative connection with those under review.

Members should not normally review the same book in more than one journal, except in relatively rare cases where the journals involved have non-overlapping membership and where the editors are agreeable.All reviews should be based on full and conscientious reading and consideration of the work in question.

Members should supply requested references promptly and ensure that these are full, fair and adequately considered, and appropriate for their purpose.  Within legal limits, they should not disclose personal information which is not directly relevant to the post in question without the subject´s explicit and prior consent.  In cases where they feel unable to give a positive reference, that information should be clearly communicated to the person concerned, to ensure them to seek another referee.

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Research Respondents

Sociologists, when they carry out research, enter into personal and moral relationships with those they study, be they individuals, households, social groups or corporate entities.

Although sociologists, like other researchers, are committed to the advancement of knowledge, that goal does not of itself, provide an entitlement to override the rights of others.  Members must satisfy themselves that a study is necessary for the furtherance of knowledge before embarking upon it.

Members should be aware that they have some responsibility for the use to which their research may be put.  Discharging that responsibility for the use to which their research may be put. Discharging that responsibility may on occasion be difficult, especially in situations of social conflict, competing social interests or where there is unanticipated misuse of the research by third parties.

  • Relationships with Research Respondents

(a) Sociologists have a responsibility to ensure that the physical, social and psychological well being of research respondents is not adversely affected by the research.  They should strive to protect the rights of those they study, their interests, sensitivities and privacy, while recognising the difficulty of balancing potentially conflicting interests.

Because sometimes sociologists study the relatively powerless as well as those more powerful than themselves, research relationships are frequently characterised by disparities of power and status. Despite this, research relationships should be characterised, whenever possible, by mutual respect and integrity.

In some cases, where the public interest dictates otherwise and particularly where power is being abused, obligations of trust and protection may weigh less heavily.   Nevertheless these obligations should not be discarded lightly.

(b) As far as possible, sociological research should be based on the freely given informed consent of those studied.  This implies a responsibility on the sociologist to explain as fully as possible, and in terms meaningful to respondents, what the research is about, who is undertaking and financing it, why it is being undertaken, and how it is to be published and presented.

(i) Research respondents should be made aware of their right to refuse participation whenever and for whatever reason they wish.

(ii) Research participants should understand how far they will be afforded anonymity and confidentiality and should be able to reject the use of data-gathering devices such as tape recorders and video cameras.

Sociologists should be careful, on the one hand, not to give unrealistic guarantees of confidentiality and, on the other,  not to permit communication of research films or records to audiences other than those to which the research respondents have agreed.

(iii) Where there is likelihood that data may be shared with other researchers, the potential uses to which the data might be put may need to be discussed with research respondents and their consent obtained for the future use of the material.

(iv) When making notes, filming or recording for research purposes, sociologists need to make clear to research respondents the purpose of the notes, filming or recording, and, as precisely as possible, to whom it will be communicated. It should also be recognised that research respondents have contractual and/or legal interests and rights in data, recordings and publications.

(v) Researchers should inform respondents of their rights under any copyright or data protection laws.

(vi) Researchers making audio or video recordings should obtain appropriate copyright clearances.

(vii) Researchers should clarify whether, and if so the extent to which, research respondents are allowed to see transcripts of interviews and field notes and to alter the content, withdraw statements, to provide additional information or to add glosses on interpretations.

(viii) Clarification should also be given to research respondents regarding the degree to which they will be consulted prior to publication.  Where possible, respondents should be offered feedback on findings, for example in the form of a summary report.

(ix) It should  be borne in mind that in some research contexts, especially those involving field research, it may be necessary for the obtaining of consent to be regarded, not as a once-and-for-all prior event, but as a process, subject to renegotiations over time.  In addition, particular care may need to be taken during periods of prolonged fieldwork, where it is easy for research respondents to forget that they are being studied.

(x) In some situations access to a research setting is gained via a ´gatekeeper´.  In these situations members should adhere to the principle of obtaining informed consent directly from the research respondents to whom access is required, while at the same time taking account of the gatekeepers´ interest.

Since the relationship between the research respondent and the gatekeeper may continue long after the sociologist has left the research setting, care should be taken not to disturb that relationship unduly.

(c) It is incumbent upon members to be aware of the possible consequences of their work. Wherever possible they should attempt to anticipate, and to guard against, consequences for research respondents which can reasonably be predicted to be harmful.  Members are not absolved from this responsibility by the consent given by research respondents.

(d) In many of its guises, social research intrudes into the lives of those studied.  While some respondents in sociological research may find the experience a positive and welcome one, for others, the experience may be disturbing.  Even if not exposed to harm, those studied may feel wronged by aspects of the search process.

This can be particularly so if they perceive apparent intrusions into their private and personal worlds, or where research gives rise to false hopes, uncalled for self-knowledge, or unnecessary anxiety. Members should consider carefully the possibility that the research experience may be a disturbing one and, normally, should attempt to minimise disturbance to those participating in research.

It should be borne in mind that decisions made on the basis of research may have effects on individuals as members of a group, even it individual research respondents are protected by confidentiality and anonymity.

(e) Special care should be taken where research respondents are particularly vulnerable by virtue of factors such as age, disability, their physical or mental health. Researchers will need to take into account the legal and ethical complexities involved in those circumstances where there are particular difficulties in eliciting informed consent. In some situations proxies may need to be used in order to gather data. Where proxies are used, care should be taken not to intrude on the personal space of the person to whom the data ultimately refer, or to disturb the relationship between this person and the proxy.  Where it can be inferred that the person about whom the data are sought would object to supplying certain kinds of information, that material should not be sought from the proxy.

Some of the above will apply when undertaking research on people now dead, but with living relatives.In addition researchers should be sensitive to the feelings of those living relatives.

(f) Research involving children requires particular care.  The consent of the child should be sought in addition to that of the parent.  Researchers should use their skills to provide information that could be understood by the child, and their judgement to decide on the child's capacity to understand what is being proposed.  Specialist advice and expertise should be sought where relevant.  Researchers should have regard for issues of child protection and make provision for the potential disclosure of abuse.

  • Covert Research

There are serious ethical dangers in the use of covert research but covert methods may avoid certain problems.  For instance, difficulties arise when research respondents change their behaviour because they know they are being studied.  Researchers may also face problems when access to spheres of social life is closed to social scientists by powerful or secretive interests.

However, covert methods violate the principles of informed consent and may invade the privacy of those being studied.   Participant and non-participant observation in non-public spaces or experimental manipulation of research respondents without their knowledge, should be resorted to only where it is impossible to use other methods to obtain essential data.

In such studies it is important to safeguard the anonymity of research respondents. Ideally, where informed consent has not been obtained prior to the research it should be obtained post-hoc.

  • Anonymity, Privacy and Confidentiality

(a) The anonymity and privacy of those who participate in the research process should be respected.  Personal information concerning research respondents should be kept confidential.  In some cases it may be necessary to decide whether it is proper or appropriate even to record certain kinds of sensitive information.

(b) Where possible, threats to confidentiality and anonymity of research data should be anticipated by researchers. The identities and research records of those participating in research should be kept confidential whether or not an explicit pledge of confidentiality has been given.

Appropriate measures should be taken to store research data in a secure manner.  Measures should have regard to their obligations under the Data Protection Act.  Where appropriate and practicable, methods for preserving the privacy of data should be used.  These may include the removal of identifiers, the use of pseudonyms and other technical means for breaking the link between data and identifiable individuals such as ´broadbanding´ or micro-aggregation.

Members should also take care to prevent data being published or released in a form which would permit the actual or potential identification of research respondents.  Potential and actual respondents, especially those possessing a combination of attributes which make them readily identifiable, may need to be reminded that it can be difficult to disguise their identity without introducing an unacceptably large measure of distortion into the data.

(c) Guarantees of confidentiality and anonymity given to research respondents must be honoured, unless there are clear and overriding reasons to do otherwise.  Other people, such as colleagues, research staff or others, given access to the data must also be made aware of their obligations in this respect.  By the same token, sociologists should respect the efforts taken by other researchers to maintain anonymity.

Research data given in confidence do not grant legal privilege, that is they may be liable to subpoena by a court.  Research respondents may also need to be made aware that it may not be possible to avoid legal threats to the privacy of the data.

(d) There may be less compelling grounds for extending guarantees of privacy or confidentiality to public organisations, collectivities, governments, officials or agencies than to individuals or small groups.Nevertheless, where guarantees have been given they should be honoured, unless there are clear and compelling reasons not to do so.

(e) Members should take special care when carrying out research via the Internet.  Ethical standards for internet research are not well developed as yet.  Eliciting informed consent, negotiating access agreements, assessing the boundaries between the public and the private, and ensuring the security of data transmissions are all problematic in Internet research. Members who carry out research online should ensure that they are familiar with ongoing debates on the ethics of Internet research, and might wish to consider erring on the side of caution in making judgements affecting the well-being of online research participants.

(f) During their research members should avoid, where they can, actions which may have deleterious consequences for sociologists who come after them or which might undermine the reputation of sociology as a discipline.

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Academic Teaching and Research Staff on Part-Time and Short-Term Contracts

With an increase in the employment of academic teaching staff on part-time and short-term contracts, the BSA is concerned about the conditions of service under which these staff are employed. Part-timers and those on fixed term contracts often undertake work of the same type and level as permanent full-time staff.  It is obviously vital that this work is of the same quality as that by full-time staff in long-term posts.  These guidelines have been prepared with the aim of helping to promote ´good practice´ while at the same time assisting departments in achieving ´professional standards´ acceptable to external assessors. The code is framed to provide a realistic standard at which departments can aim.  While many part-time and short-term contract staff will be relatively inexperienced (notable, post-graduate students) others may be highly experienced.   Obviously, these guidelines should be interpreted taking into account these different levels of experience.

  • Teaching Contracts
    • Appointments, Procedures and Terms of Contract

(a) The requirements and duties of all posts should be clearly specified.

(b) There should be an appropriate appointments procedure.

(c) It is preferable for part-time staff to be contracted to work (and paid) pro-rata on academic scales (e.g. 30% of a full-time contract).

(d) Where staff are employed on hourly (teaching) contracts, it is essential that adequate provision is made within the provision of the contract for preparation of classes, marking, administration, and scholarship, in addition to that allowed for formal teaching.

  • Induction and Training

(a) All new part-time and short-term contract teaching staff should attend an induction or training event and receive all appropriate documents, covering:

(i) Institutional Procedures, including student work and attendance regulations; procedures for ensuring that students observe regulations; institutional sources of assistance to students; requirements for completion of end of course reports on students.

(ii) Teaching and Learning e.g. advice and information on conduct of small group meetings, on grading students.

(iii) All new part-time and short-term contract teaching staff should have allocated a permanent academic staff member, to act as guide or ´mentor´

(iv) All part-time and short-term contract teaching staff should have appropriate access to staff development programmes.

  • Course Information

(a) Information should be given about the content, structure and assessment of the whole of the awards with which staff are involved, not just the part of it for which they have a particular responsibility.

(b) All part-time/hourly paid tutors who undertake teaching in association with an experienced member of staff on a substantive contract should receive a full course guide covering: the programme of topics for classes; reading to be covered by students in preparing for classes; form and amount of written work to be prescribed for students; forms of assessment to be used on the course.

(c) Part time/hourly paid tutors should normally operate under the tutor in overall charge of the course(s) on which they teach, to provide continuing guidance during the course.

(d) Where such part time/hourly paid tutors grade the assessed work of students, they should normally only do so when an established member of staff acts as co-marker and has the final word on the level of grades.

  • Access to Resources and Representation

(a) All part time and short term contract staff should have a recognised ´location´ within the department, e.g. access to an office, provision of a desk, access to and via a telephone, a named post-box/pigeon hole.

(b) All staff should be given access to resources such as the use of headed notepaper, provision of stationery and photocopying facilities.

(c) Facilities for research and scholarship should be available, as much as is practical, on the same basis as for permanent full time staff, since the link between teaching and scholarship is as significant for those not employed on a permanent basis, and individual research is an important part of career development.

(d) The limitations placed on staff employed on ´teaching only´ contracts should be clearly specified and should not preclude opportunities for scholarship and ´private´ research.

(e) The facilities available should be communicated to staff.

(f) All such staff should be accorded appropriate rights as members of a department e.g. representation on committees, access to common rooms.

(g) All meetings at the course or department level should be open to those research staff on part time and short term contracts on the same basis as full time/permanent staff. Staff invited to attend any such meetings should be provided with appropriate agendas, minutes and papers.

  • Evaluation and Monitoring

(a) Evaluation of the performance of part time and short term teaching staff should be consistent with that for full time staff.

(b) It should be the responsibility of the Head of Department (or equivalent) to ensure that an appropriate code of practice for part time and short term contract staff is observed.

  • Research Contracts
  • Appointments, Procedures and Terms of Contract

(a) The requirements and duties of all posts should be clearly specified.

(b) There should be an appropriate appointments procedure.

(c) It is preferable for part-time staff to be contracted to work (and paid) pro-rata on academic scales (e.g. 30% of a full-time contract).

  • Induction and Mentoring

(a) All contract research staff should attend an induction or training event.

(b) All contract research staff should be allocated a permanent staff member, other than the grant holder, to act as guide or ´mentor´

(c) There is a need to think carefully about the most appropriate people for new contract research staff to meet.  They may need to meet some external people e.g. ethics committee members; Research and Development Directors in hospitals, social services and so on.  Induction needs to be individualised.

  • Access to Resources and Representation

(a) All contract research staff should have a recognised ´location´ within the department, e.g. access to an office, provision of a desk, access to and via a telephone, a named post-box/pigeon hole.

(b) All staff should be given access to resources such as the use of headed note paper, provision of stationery and photocopying facilities.

(c) The facilities available should be communicated to staff.

(d) All such staff should be accorded appropriate rights as members of a department e.g. representation on committees, access to common rooms.

(e) All meetings at the course or department level should be open to those research staff on part time and short term contracts on the same basis as full-time/permanent staff. Staff invited to attend any such meetings should be provided with appropriate agendas, minutes and papers.

  • Working in Research Teams

(a) Power relationships within research teams need to be carefully considered.  The following should be borne in mind:

(i) Lines of responsibility: who has the formal decision making power?

(ii) Limits of responsibility: does the budget holder/director automatically have more power over decision making than the rest of the team or should there be different models for different situations? When a project is completed what rights do contract research staff have?

(iii) What are the principles to be followed regarding authorship and publication?

  • Career Development for Contract Research Staff

Career advice and development needs to be individual e.g. in relation to the intended career path of the person involved. The needs of part-time and/or contract research staff should be identified (as with full-time and permanent staff) at interview, and continue in induction.

  • Evaluation and Monitoring

(a) Evaluation of the performance of part-time and /or contract research staff should be consistent with that for permanent and/or full time research staff.

(b) It should be the responsibility of the Head of Department/Director of Research Centre (or equivalent) to ensure that an appropriate code of practice for part-time and short term contract staff is observed.

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Sponsors and/or Funders

A common interest exists between sponsor, funder and sociologist as long as the aim of the social inquiry is to advance knowledge, although such knowledge can be of only limited benefit to the sponsor and the funder.  The relationship is best served if the atmosphere is conductive to high professional standards.

Members should attempt to ensure that sponsors and/or funders appreciate the obligations that sociologists have not only to them, but also to society at large, research respondents and professional colleagues and the sociological community.  The relationship between sponsors of funders and social researchers should be such as to enable social inquiry to be undertaken professionally.

Research should be undertaken with a view to providing information or explanation rather than being constrained to reach particular conclusions or prescribe particular courses of action.

1. Clarify obligations, roles and rights

(a) Members should clarify in advance the respective obligations of funders and researchers where possible in the form of a written contract. They should refer the sponsor or funder to the relevant parts of the professional code to which they adhere.  Members should  be careful not to promise or imply acceptance of conditions which are contrary to their professional ethics or competing commitments.

Where some or all of those involved in the research are also acting as sponsors and/or funders of research the potential for conflict between the different roles and interests should also be made clear to them.

(b) Members should also recognise their own general or specific obligations to the sponsors whether contractually defined or only the subject of informal and often unwritten agreements.  They should be honest and candid about their qualifications and expertise, the limitations, advantages and disadvantages of the various methods of analysis and data, and acknowledge the necessity for discretion with confidential information obtained from sponsors.

They should also try not to conceal factors which are likely to affect satisfactory conditions or the completion of a proposed research project or contract.

(c) When undertaking specific types of research members may need to obtain external ethical approval. They should be aware of the necessity to work to the rules and timetables of these external bodies.

2. Pre-empting outcomes and negotiations about research

(a) Members should not accept contractual conditions that are contingent upon a particular outcome or set of findings from a proposed inquiry. A conflict of obligations may also occur if the funder requires particular methods to be used.

(b) Members should try to clarify, before signing the contract, that they are entitled to be able to disclose the source of their funds, its personnel, the aims of the institution, and the purposes of the project.

(c) Members should also clarify their right to publish and spread the results of their research.

(d) Members have an obligation to ensure sponsors grasp the implications of the choice between alternative research methods.

3. Guarding privileged information and negotiating problematic  sponsorship.

(a) Members are frequently furnished with information by the funder who may legitimately require it to be kept confidential. Methods and procedures that have been utilised to produce published data should not, however, be kept confidential unless otherwise agreed.

(b) When negotiating sponsorships members should be aware of the requirements of the law with respect to the ownership of and rights of access to data.

(c) In some political, social and cultural contexts some sources of funding and sponsorship may be contentious. Candour and frankness about the source of funding may create problems of access or co-operation for the social researcher but concealment may have serious consequences for colleagues, the discipline and research respondents. The emphasis should be on maximum openness.

(d) Where sponsors and funders also act directly or indirectly as gatekeepers and control access to respondents, researchers should not devolve their responsibility to protect the respondents´ interests onto the gatekeeper.  Members should be wary of inadvertently disturbing the relationship between participants and gatekeepers since that will continue long after the researcher has left.

4. Obligations to sponsors and/or funders during the research process

(a) Members have a responsibility to notify the sponsor and/or funder of any proposed departure from the terms of reference of the proposed change in the nature of the contracted research.

(b) A research study should not be undertaken on the basis of resources known from the start to be inadequate, whether the work is of a sociological or inter-disciplinary kind.

(c) When financial support of sponsorship has been accepted, members must make every reasonable effort to complete the proposed research on schedule, including reports to the funding source.

(d) Members should be prepared to take comments from sponsors or funders or research respondents.

(e) Members should, wherever possible, spread their research findings as widely as possible and where required make their research data to other researchers via appropriate archives.

(f) Members should normally avoid restrictions on their freedom to publish or otherwise broadcast research findings.

  • Relationships with and Responsibilities Towards Support Staff

Members should ensure that their behaviour (in person, on the telephone, in written communications) towards support staff is respectful and polite at all times and ensure that their behaviour towards colleagues contributes to a positive working environment.

Support staff should not be asked to do any work for which they are not being paid.

Heads of Department (or equivalent) should ensure that all the academic members of the department are clear about what their rights and responsibilities are in relation to working with support staff.

Find out more about BSA Equality and Diversity Resources.