Ethics and originality in doctoral research in the UK
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Ethics and originality in doctoral research in the UK

Austyn Snowden Professor in mental health, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK

Aim To show that the ethics governance process in the UK is not necessarily conducive to innovative investigation by doctoral students.

Background Doctoral students need to demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge. This paper critically evaluates the concept of knowledge in relation to the concept of research paradigms. The purpose of this is to situate different claims to originality and show that original knowledge in nursing is always ethical knowledge of nursing.

Data sources Academic databases, local and national policy documents.

Review methods Ethics governance procedures in nurse research in the UK are summarised. These are contrasted with ethical issues embedded in day-to-day nursing practice.

Discussion The author’s argument is that current methods of ethics governance for doctoral research in the UK can be detrimental to the construction of original knowledge in nursing. This is because original research in nursing necessarily affects the ethics of care, but the gatekeeping function of risk-averse ethics committees tends to prevent students attempting ethically complex studies. This means less important research gets carried out.

Conclusion To mitigate these issues, doctoral students need to develop a solid understanding of the ethics governance process. They need to build relationships with relevant ethics committees. University ethics committees are ideally placed to help with this process.

Implications for research/practice Without original research practice will remain reactive. Originality entails risk on the part of both researcher and ethics committee. Positive risk taking is more feasible in the context of collaboration and mutual understanding. Nurses should become more active in research governance.

Nurse Researcher. 21, 6, 12-15. doi: 10.7748/nr.21.6.12.e1244

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 13 April 2013

Accepted: 08 July 2013

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