Collaborative work

Since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness. For example, many ethical norms in research, such as guidelines for authorship, copyright and patenting policies, data sharing policies, and confidentiality rules in peer review, are designed to protect intellectual property interests while encouraging collaboration. Most researchers want to receive credit for their contributions and do not want to have their ideas stolen or disclosed prematurely.

Ownership, control and use of the research data and findings

When research is a collaboration between several people or partner organisations it is important to be clear who ‘owns’ any data, new knowledge or collaborative outputs that have been produced. ‘Ownership’ in this context means the right to use it and pass it on. If it is jointly owned, then it is important to decide what rights each partner has to use the data to inform their work or produce publications and whether the permission of all partners is required. Sometimes a funder may control the use of data and findings, and all parties need to be clear about the implications of this from the outset. It is particularly important that recognition is given to new knowledge made by communities and that when appropriate they receive financial rewards and have the right to own and use it.

Authorship and credits

It is a good idea to discuss in advance who will be responsible for compiling or writing the outputs, when decisions will be made about the nature and formats of outputs and how the responsibility can be shared and skills developed by those who are not used to doing this. Although it may be time-consuming, holding writing, editing, film or photography workshops, where people work and learn together, can be an empowering and satisfying process for all concerned. Agreeing who will be credited and how is also important – ensuring that the variety of contributions is recognised.

The Academic Authorship Policy (Word doc 34k) outlines the principles for determining authorship of publications that are the result of research undertaken at the University of Wolverhampton .

The purpose of this policy is to ensure:

  • Researchers who participate in investigation and other academic activities are equitably acknowledged and their contributions are fairly represented;
  • The work of others is citied and referenced appropriately and acknowledgement of authorship is given to those making a substantial scholarly contribution to the output;
  • The criteria for attribution of authorship of all research outputs is clarified and appropriate steps to confirm authorship are taken prior to any submission of research outputs for publication; and
  • The University complies with all relevant external guidelines relating to the attribution of authorship.

Proposals requiring ethical approval from more than one institution

There are some occasions when a researcher will be required to gain ethical approval from different institution.   Whilst this may appear to be over-cautious, the differing focus of each institution may mean that an important issue for one may not be covered by the other.  When duplicate approval is required the ethical procedures for each body should be consulted and followed.