Following the Universities UK concordat to support research integrity, this Code of Practice describes the ethical standards by which the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (henceforth RGS-IBG) abides in supporting geographical research through its various activities (conferences, research funding, and publication). These standards embody the principles of equity, integrity and confidentiality for all who are involved in these activities. For field-based research we also draw specific attention to our Fieldwork Principles. This Code is also intended to act as guidance to assessors in discharging the responsibilities placed on them in assessing proposals, and sets out the proper conduct expected of them. The Code is intended to be proportional to the likely risk that the individual application will carry.
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Information for applicants
For each of its research awards, the RGS-IBG issues guidelines on the information to be supplied by applicants in support of bids for funds, details of the criteria against which the application will be assessed, and the process and timescale for assessment of the application.
In accordance with the latest General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), applicant information will be treated in the strictest confidence and will only be used in connection with an application. Applicant data will be shared with selected reviewers, but will not be shared with any other third parties. Information about successful applications, including names of participants and affiliated organisations, is published on our website, kept as part of the Society’s archive, and is used to promote the Society’s grants programme. Information about unsuccessful projects is entered into the Society’s archive.
Personal information provided by applicants will be used for monitoring and statistical purposes only, and will not form any part of the assessment process.
The Society is committed to social inclusion, diversity and equal opportunities throughout the geographical professions and is opposed to any discrimination. All applicants receive equal treatment.
The Society requires the research it funds to be conducted in an ethical manner. The following considerations should therefore apply to all research supported by the Society, whether through financial support, or implicit support through presentation at the Society, Research Group conferences, or other Society events or publication in Society journals:
accurate reporting of findings, and a commitment to enabling others to replicate results where possible.
fair dealing in respect of other researchers and their intellectual property.
honesty to research staff and students about the purpose, methods and intended and possible use of the research and any risks involved.
confidentiality of information supplied by research subjects and anonymity of respondents (unless otherwise agreed with research subjects and respondents).
independence and impartiality of researchers to the subject of the research.
maintaining the highest ethical standards in all settings.
Additionally, proposals may raise one or more of the following considerations:
the involvement of human participants.
the study of non-human animals.
the study of cultural objects and historic artefacts.
research that may result in damage to the natural or historic environment.
the use of sensitive social, economic or political data.
The review process should be proportional to the likely risk (for example, research on vulnerable groups or at-risk populations demands more careful attention than other forms of research). Wherever necessary, appropriate consent should be obtained from, or on behalf of, participants or others affected by the research. Applicants should indicate whether their proposed research raises any special ethical issues, and whether their application has been approved by their institution's Research Ethics Committee or equivalent body. Independent researchers without access to formal ethical scrutiny and approval should briefly describe any special ethical issues, and explain how they will be addressed. Independent researchers who wish to have further guidance should contact the Grants Officer.
Local engagement and collaboration
Research should be conducted in collaboration with local researchers, partners and communities.
Research should have local relevance.
Local partners, communities and research participants should be included throughout the research process, from planning, to implementation, to post-study feedback and evaluation.
Local partners should be recognised in data ownership and authorship of publications.
Researchers should actively share their research findings locally to key partners and stakeholders.
A local ethics review should be sought wherever possible. Research projects should be approved by a research ethics committee in the host country, wherever this exists, even if ethics approval has already been obtained by the researcher’s home institution.
Sustainable research and fieldwork
The environmental impact of research and its carbon footprint should be considered and justified by the research rationale, objectives, output and impact. Recognising that fieldwork is integral to geographical research and that this will commonly involve travel, this travel and the choice of destination(s) visited should in turn be clearly justified. Justification should balance the environmental costs involved, with the benefits of the research.
Applicants should commit to undertake a carbon audit of all travel and other activities associated with the research project
Applicants should consider alternative low carbon travel options
Evaluation and mitigation of environmental impacts should take place
All applications are judged on their academic merit through a process of peer review by appropriate experts. Recommendations are passed to the relevant awarding committee for final decision on awards.
Outcome of applications
Applicants are informed in writing of the outcome of their application. The Society is regretfully unable to enter into correspondence concerning the decision of assessment panels.
Conditions of awards
Recipients of awards are made aware of regulations governing any scheme in which they have been successful and are required to adhere to those regulations.
All applications receive careful scrutiny by the assessors. Appeals may therefore not be made against the academic judgement of the Society’s assessors panels, or committees. The sole ground on which an appeal may be made is one of improper procedure. Anyone wishing to make an appeal against a decision should write to the Grants Officer no later than two months after the result of the competition is announced, citing the specific decision and setting out clearly the substantive basis of the appeal. The Grants Officer will respond in writing within 30 days.
Information for assessors
Those who undertake assessment of applications are required to give an undertaking that all information which they acquire in the discharge of their duties be kept confidential and secure, and not be transmitted to any persons other than in accordance with the prescribed procedures for the selection process. Information provided to assessors in an application for funding may only be used for the purposes of evaluating the proposal in accordance with the Society's guidelines.
Conflict of interest
Those who undertake any responsibility for assessing applications for funds, are required to declare actual or potential conflicts of interest and observe the following guidelines:
References - Assessors shall not act as referees for proposals in which they are involved in any capacity.
Institutional affiliation - Assessors shall not participate in the evaluation of any proposal emanating from their own institution or to any institution to which they are closely affiliated.
Other connections - Where an application involves a former pupil, close colleague or co-researcher, a family member, or a person with whom there is or has been a current or prior relationship, a potential assessor is required to declare any conflict of interest to the relevant RGS-IBG Officer so that the proposal can be redirected, and shall abstain from participating in evaluation of that particular proposal.
Assessors as applicants
Fellows and others who wish to apply for support from the Society during the period in which they are serving in any capacity as an assessor must abstain from any involvement in the competition to which they are applying, that is, they may not assess or comment or vote on any application in that round of the competition.
If assessors are unsure whether their ability to assess a proposal is compromised in any way, they should inform the Grants Officer of the circumstances so that guidance can be sought on individual cases.
Assessors are normally drawn from subject-specific experts within the Society's Fellowship and wider geographical community. In cases where individual assessors feel unable to offer an informed view on a proposal, they should decline to act as an assessor, and the Grants Officer will seek an alternative assessor.
The Society takes seriously any allegations of research misconduct, such as fabrication of results, falsification of data, plagiarism, or failure to meet ethical obligations. Misconduct by grant applicants, grant recipients or assessors should be reported to the Grants Officer.