Safe, responsible and ethical research
The Society requires that the research we support be conducted in a safe and ethical manner. Grant recipients must obtain their own institution’s health and safety and ethical approval before funding can be transferred.
Independent individuals and teams that are not affiliated with an institution will need to complete a risk assessment and ethical assessment for their project, which will be formally reviewed by the Society.
All projects should adhere to the Society’s code of practice for the grants programme and its policy on ethics and sustainable research and fieldwork.
We encourage all applicants also to consider, and address in their applications, our Fieldwork Principles.
All RGS-IBG grants are awarded on the condition that a risk assessment be submitted for the project. Projects undertaken by students and academics must obtain risk assessment approval from their university. Independent projects undertaken by individuals and teams not affiliated with a university must complete and submit the below risk assessment form, which will be reviewed by the Society.
Risk assessment form
A good starting point for anyone creating a risk assessment for the first time is University College London (UCL) Department of Geography's Introduction to Risk Assessment. Your risk assessment must not be generic, but be designed around the specific risks you may face depending on the location of your project and the nature of your research. UCL's hazard tables provide examples of the kinds of risks you may need to consider.
The Society requires the research it funds to be conducted in a responsible and ethical manner, and we are committed to supporting projects that carefully consider and attempt to avoid negative environmental, social and cultural impacts. Where relevant, successful applicants must obtain their institution’s ethical approval before grant funds can be paid. Independent projects not affiliated with an institution must complete and submit the below ethical assessment form, which will be reviewed by the Society's Grants Programme Ethics Committee.
Ethical assessment form
Before filling out the form, you should think about the potential consequences of your research. For example, could your work offend the cultural sensitivities of the people you are working among? Have you gained appropriate consent from, or on behalf of, participants or others affected by the research? What measures are you taking to ensure the confidentiality of information supplied by research subjects and the anonymity of respondents (unless otherwise agreed with research subjects and respondents)?
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).
The following resources are a good starting point for thinking about the ethical dimensions of your research.
Additional resources on codes of conduct for field research can be found in our Higher Education resources.
The Society's Development Geographies Research Group (DevGRG) Ethical Guidelines
UKRI Economic and Social Research Council framework for research ethics
GOV.UK Universal ethical code for scientists
Kara, H. (2018) Research Ethics in the Real World, Bristol: Policy Press.
Lunn, J. (ed.) (2014) Fieldwork in the Global South: Ethical Challenges and Dilemmas, London: Routledge. Particularly Nora Fagerholm’s chapter, 'Whose knowledge, whose benefit? Ethical challenges of participatory mapping. Experience from fieldwork on mapping community values on land in Zanzibar’, pages 158-169
Journal of Research Practice (2014). Themed issue on ‘Giving back in field research’
American Anthropological Association ethics code
Clare Madge’s chapter in ‘Postgraduate Fieldwork in Developing Areas’, published by DARG and edited by Elspeth Robson and Katie Willis
Jenny Robinson’s 2003 article ‘Postcolonialising geography: tactics and pitfalls’ in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, volume 24, pages 273-289