Research topics and funders

Research topics and funders

A number of seemingly simple, but fundamental, questions arise when embarking on a research study:

  • Are the research questions worth asking?  Why?
  • Have they already been answered?  In other words, has research on this topic been reviewed carefully?
  • In whose interest are the questions being asked?
  • How well do the research methods fit the aims of the research?  Are they the best way of answering the research questions?
  • How could the research findings be used or interpreted by other people?

At first sight, these appear to be questions of quality or methodology, rather than being about research ethics.  Certainly, they are questions that a funder would ask, when reviewing a research proposal, and so they are always a good starting point in planning your proposed research. 

But these questions are rooted in wider ethics considerations, about whether the research is worth doing and how it might be used or misused.  Research can waste time - not least for the people who take part in it - or it can produce wrong or misleading answers, which in turn could cause harm in their dissemination or application.

Most funders require that your application includes a statement about your approach to ethics questions.  You need to check funder expectations and requirements in relation to research ethics.  See our related resources for a list of some of the major social science research funders.  Beyond specific funder requirements, there are some fundamental ethics requirements that are common to most funders, and which you should consider whoever you hope will fund your research - or if your research is unfunded.