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Ethics Committee: Annual Review 2011

The Committee has been concerned with ensuring that the Society maintains its key function in providing a Code of Ethics and Conduct for its members and in providing authoritative and helpful advice and guidance on ethical matters. 

The Code of Human Research Ethics was formally launched at the Annual Conference in April.  The launch was also accompanied by a symposium covering a wide range of ethics issues, including working with the media, neuroethics and controversial psychological experiments. Specific thanks must be noted to John Oates, Carl Senior, Steve Reicher, Alex Haslam and Cynthia McVey for their contributions to this work. The Committee was also particularly grateful for the input of the ESRC to the drafting of the Code.

The Committee has monitored the regulation of applied psychologists by the Health Professions Council; including reviewing the details of hearings and outcomes. It will continue with this important work in the coming year and intends to liaise with Divisions and the Professional Practice Board on matters arising.

The Committee is minded to ensure that the Society’s members are provided with appropriate ethics guidance to support their professional practice. To this end, a discussion session on ethics and social media was held in November with a view to publishing guidance on this matter early in 2012.  The Committee would particularly like to thank David Houghton (University of Birmingham) and Andy Jaeger (Nursing and Midwifery Council) for their contributions to this discussion session.

The Media Ethics Advisory Group has (with the Publications and Communications Board) provided support and advice to members of the Society throughout 2010.  Importantly, it also submitted evidence to the Leveson Inquiry: Culture, Practice and Ethics of The Press, highlighting concerns regarding headlines and the unfortunate sensationalising of research and the contributions that psychologists and the Society can make to improve the communication of good science.

The Committee undertook a survey of ethics teaching on psychology courses throughout the UK. The results are informing further work towards developing guidance on curriculum content, competencies specification and assessment approaches. 

Throughout the year, the Policy Advice Team in the office has continued to receive enquiries relating to ethical and practice matters.  In the provision of such essential advice, the contributions of the Ethics Expert Reference Group (including representatives of all Divisions, Special Groups and all the members of the Ethics Committee) has been crucial and our sincere thanks is extended to all members of that Group. The Ethical Guidance and Support section on the Society’s website has been updated throughout the year and will be expanded throughout 2012 to provide greater support to members. 

It is important that all the members of the committee are remembered in this brief report; they have worked hard behind the scenes in an often complex and difficult environment; sincere thanks to all. I Chaired the Committee throughout the year and Phil Stringer served as Deputy Chair.

Tony Wainwright, Chair