Safeguarding in research

Posted on: 9 April 2024 by Claire Pierson in 2024 Posts

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Safeguarding in research

Dr Claire Pierson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, and Ethics & Integrity Lead for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has written a blog on safeguarding in research, why it's important for University of Liverpool colleagues, and what resources are available to help ensure your research is compliant.

What is safeguarding in research?

The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) has defined safeguarding in research as “preventing and addressing any sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment of research participants, communities and research staff, plus any broader forms of violence, exploitation and abuse ... such as bullying psychological abuse and physical violence” (UKCDR, February 2020).

A safe environment needs to be ensured for everyone involved in research projects including those leading the project, those working on the project (including research staff, administrative staff and students), local partners and research participants (this is not an exhaustive list).

Whilst there has been a significant development in safeguarding guidance in international development research policy, safeguarding and ensuring a safe research environment applies to any research project.

The University's intranet contains several useful documents:

The University’s safeguarding policy can be found here. Researchers should familiarise themselves with this policy.

A flowchart on how and when to use the policy can be found here.

A template safeguarding plan can be found here.

A process for dealing with safeguarding concerns can be found here.

Why is safeguarding important?

Research which takes a safeguarding approach recognises that abuses of power can happen in research projects. Putting a plan in place to prevent harm and having a clear reporting mechanism if harm occurs is part of risk management and integrity in research practice.

Further to this, many funders now require that researchers and institutions consider potential risks for exploitation, abuse and harm within research and put plans in place to mitigate these risks.

For example, find the UKRI’s ‘Preventing harm (safeguarding) in research and innovation’ policy here.

How can I ensure safeguarding in my research?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to safeguarding. Good practice in this area suggests the approach of ‘anticipate, mitigate and address’ in relation to considering potential and actual harms in the design, delivery and dissemination of research. Specifically:

Anticipate – as far as possible, working collaboratively with diverse partners/advisors, gather information on all the potential harms that your research/research call could inadvertently create or exacerbate.

Mitigate – take actions and put processes in place to mitigate the harms you have identified.

Address – take actions to ensure adequate processes to report, investigate and provide redress for any safeguarding harms which may arise.

(UKCDR, February 2020).

This is an ongoing process of monitoring during the life course of a research project and responsibility rests with the whole research team. Project teams should identify a designated safeguarding contact who can act as a point of contact for reporting safeguarding concerns. The University has created a safeguarding template plan which can be used to identify potential risks and harms.

Many safeguarding issues will be considered within the process of ethical review including risks to researchers and research participants, vulnerability, informed consent, anonymity and data storage. Guidance and support on completing ethical approval applications can be found .

Safeguarding resources

There is a wealth of experience and expertise on safeguarding policy and practice in research within our faculty. Some examples include Professor Helen Stalford’s work on a trauma informed approach to research, Professor Alex Balch and Dr Leona Vaughn’s co-authorship of the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) Guidance for Safeguarding in International Development Research, and Dr Claire Pierson’s co-designed survivor-centred safeguarding guidance [PDF 0.1MB] on conducting research with survivors of trafficking.

Further resources on safeguarding

Get in touch with Dr Claire Pierson here.







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