Government departments vary a good deal in what they require, and again, you should check the requirements of the individual funder. Information about specific government requirements for some of the key domains of social science research can be found in our key questions section.
Requirements may also vary to some extent between government departments in the four UK countries. However, there are some commonalities.
Government Social Research Professional Guidance: UK-wide
In England and Scotland, ethics guidance for government funded social research is based on a 2005 document produced by the cross-government Government Social Research Unit (GSRU) - Professional Guidance on Ethical Assurance for Social Research in Government.
This document is focused on the responsibility of government in the commissioning and management of research projects – rather than being aimed at researchers themselves. That said, it provides useful guidance on the expectations of government research managers, as well as helpful links to other resources and information about legislation.
However, the GSRU guidance is advisory, not mandatory, and so government departments differ in the extent to which they apply this guidance or have developed their own requirements. For example, GSRU guidance states that government departments should ensure that research they fund goes through an ethics review process, but the stringency with which this requirement is applied differs between departments. A further consideration is that this is a changing picture, as awareness of ethics issues grows in the commissioning and management of research, and so you are advised to check your funders’ specific requirements.
Ethical Assurance Checklist - Scotland
In Scotland, managers of government social research have to complete an ‘ethical sensitivity checklist’, which is intended to be completed alongside the commissioning strategy as part of the commissioning process, and to be referred to, and updated, throughout the research management process. The checklist is based on the GSRU principles of ethical research practice, and is intended to inform decisions about the level of ethics scrutiny that a project should have. If you are tendering for, or conducting, social research for the Scottish Government, it is a good idea to work through the checklist in relation to your project, because it covers the areas that your research manager will scrutinise.