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Coomber, R. (2002). Signing your life away?: Why Research Ethics Committees (REC) shouldn’t always require written confirmation that participants in research have been informed of the aims of a study and their rights - the case of criminal populations. (Commentary). Sociological Research Online, 7(1), 218–221. https://doi.org/10.5153/sro.678


This brief commentary discusses the problematic incursion of Research Ethics Committees on social research, particularly on those groups who wish (and/or indeed it is vital for their safety) to remain anonymous. It is argued that REC's, often ignorant of social science methodology, commonly attempt to impose restrictions on research and researchers that contradict their own ethical guidelines and expose them to unreasonable risk. It is further pointed out that REC's are as yet not fully established within all UK institutions but fear of litigation will mean that those who do not already have them fully in place either have some form of REC in embryonic structure or are looking to implement REC's in the near future. It is in this context that it is argued we as social scientists should be helping to actively shape the workings of incumbent and emerging REC's in order to protect research, researchers, research participants and the integrity of what REC's actually do.