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Department of Archaeology

Ethical Policy

All members of staff, and undergraduate and postgraduate students, should be aware of a Departmental Panel which scrutinizes any research being carried out by staff or students for any ethical implications. The Panel (Ethics Peer Review Group) currently comprises Mark White and John Chapman.

Every Member of Staff who is applying for a research grant MUST complete the department’s Ethics and Data Protection Monitoring Form (available on DUO). This also includes applications being submitted at other institutions where a staff member here is a Co-Investigator. The completed form is reviewed by a member of the Panel and it will be returned, either approved or requiring further consideration in the case of unresolved ethical issues. Once approved, the form is submitted to Thelma Lambert (Administrative Secretary, Finance and Research) with the research grant application as part of the departmental approval process.

Each Research Student MUST complete the department’s Ethics and Data Protection Monitoring Form (on DUO) in relation to their thesis research. The form should be submitted to his/her supervisor for approval, before submission to the Panel, together with a copy of the research proposal. This form must be completed at the beginning of the research, as part of any research design exercise, and based on the anticipated work. If the nature of the work changes, a new form must be completed and approved before work recommences. The completed form will be returned, either approved or requiring further consideration in the case of unresolved ethical issues.

Each Undergraduate and Taught Postgraduate MUST complete the Department’s Ethics and Data Protection Monitoring Form (on DUO) in relation to their dissertation/research paper proposal and submit the form to his/her supervisor for approval, before submitting it to the Panel. The application will be returned, either approved or requiring further consideration in the case of unresolved ethical issues.

Where there are ethical issues that cannot be resolved by the Panel, these will be forwarded to the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health Ethics Sub-Committee.

There are five key areas that may be of concern in archaeological research:

  1. Surveillance: this includes very recent aerial photographs and satellite images used only for archaeological features (i.e. post-2005). The Faculty has accepted our position that surveillance is only an ethical issue if it is a current or contemporary practice
  2. Studies involving human remains (for the Durham University Research Office’s guidance on using human tissue, see: www.durham.ac.uk/research.office/local/research.governance/research.ethics/human.tissue
  3. Research using questionnaires and person surveys (for a statement of good practice, see the European Unions’ document ‘Ethics for Researchers’), and for Durham University guidance on data protection and using personal information, see: www.durham.ac.uk/research.office/local/research.governance/research.conduct/data.protection
  4. Research using materials acquired through the antiquities trade
  5. Archival research involving correspondence about living archaeologists.

In any cases where the researcher is aware of ethical concerns under any of these, or other, headings, they should consult with the Ethics Peer Review Group before submitting their Form or proceeding further with their research.

Each individual takes responsibility for her/his conduct insofar as it follows the law of the country in which the archaeological activity takes place (principle of subsidiarity). This means finding out the legal position(s) with regard to teaching, fieldwork, excavation, preservation, ownership and storage of finds, etc. and taking active measures to support them.

Ethical considerations in teaching with archaeologically derived human skeletal remains

The Department of Archaeology regards teaching archaeology students about the value of studying human remains a central part of their education. However, the Department views utilising human remains from archaeological sites for teaching as a privilege. Members of the Department must ensure that the remains are handled with due respect and care and, whilst most of this type of teaching occurs in the Fenwick Human Osteology Laboratory, at times (necessitated by timetabling) skeletal remains may be used for teaching in other Departmental Laboratories. If this is the case, this policy is to keep the remains covered when not in use to prevent unexpected contact, along with posting appropriate signage on laboratory doors.

John Chapman & Becky Gowland

November 2015