SAI Ethical Guidelines

The Ethics Committee of the Sociological Association of Ireland is grateful for the use of ethical codes produced by the British Sociological Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Australian Sociological Association


The Sociological Association of Ireland’s (SAI’s) Ethical Guidelines consist of a set of general principles and statements of ethical practice concerning the professional activities of sociologists in Ireland. The guidelines are intended to generate awareness about potential problems and conflicts of interest that might arise for sociologists; to draw attention to their obligations regarding the interests of persons and groups with whom they work; and to provide guidance on ethical issues they may encounter in a variety of roles and work situations. Reflecting the SAI’s view that responsibility for the highest standards of conduct in research, teaching, and professional service rests with individual sociologists, the strength of the guidelines depends ultimately on discussion, reflection, and continued use by SAI members.

General Principles

The following general principles express a common set of values that serve as a guide for sociologistsin determining ethical courses of action.

Professional Competence

Sociologists seek to maintain the highest levels of competence in their work. They are aware of the need for ongoing education in order to remain professionally competent and they avail of the appropriate professional, technical, and administrative resources to ensure competence in their professional activities. They consult with other professionals when necessary for the benefit of their students, research participants, and clients and they undertake only those tasks for which they are qualified by education, training, or experience.


Sociologists are honest and fair in the conduct of their professional activities. They are careful to avoid behaviour that might undermine public confidence in sociology and are prepared to consult with colleagues in order to protect the reputation of the discipline. They do not knowingly make or support statements that are false, misleading, or deceptive either because of what they suggest or omit in relation to their own work activities or those of individuals or organisations with whom they are associated. Such statements concern, but are not limited to, professional qualifications and expertise; research findings and publications; review processes, employment decisions, and references.

Respect for Human Rights, Diversity, and Equality

Sociologists respect the rights, dignity, and worth of all people. They strive to eliminate bias in their professional activities and to promote equality of opportunity and participation. They do not tolerate any forms of discrimination based on age; gender; race; ethnicity; national origin; sectarian or religious denomination; sexual orientation; disability; health conditions; or marital, domestic, or parental status. They are sensitive to cultural, individual, and role differences and acknowledge the rights of others, including those of other sociologists, to hold values, attitudes, and opinions that differ from their own.

Social Responsibility

Sociologists are aware of their professional and scientific responsibility not only to students, colleagues, and clients, but to the wider communities and societies in which they live and work. Thus, while promoting academic freedom and the production and dissemination of knowledge in forms that are accessible to the public, they have a general duty to safeguard the confidentiality of privileged information. They are sensitive to issues arising from inequalities of power and alert to possible conflicts of interest that may prevent them from conducting their work in a fair and impartial manner.

Guidelines for Good Professional Conduct


Sociologists have a general duty to promote a working environment that supports fair practice and equality of opportunity. The execution of this duty can be problematic. There may be conflicts between good practice and established procedures in particular institutions or constraints imposed by external funding bodies. Where possible members should seek to change procedures that are inimical to good practice. They should be particularly sensitive to issues arising from inequalities of power. These exist not only between staff and students, but among colleagues. Sociologists who find themselves in the position of managers and employers have a duty to balance the interests of staff in different grades including academic, clerical and support staff and to be sensitive to the potential for unfair practice when writing references and participating in reviews. These guidelines address equality and power issues in teaching and other academic settings.

Power Relations and Equal Opportunities

Members should act in ways which ensure equal opportunities for all students, colleagues or job applicants irrespective of age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender, political beliefs, sexuality, ‘race’, religion. Steps should be taken to increase participation from minority groups within the profession at all levels. Members should take care to ensure that direct or indirect discrimination does not take place at any stage in selection procedures – advertising, response to preliminary enquiries, shortlisting, interviewing – or in the requirement of formal qualifications which are not wholly necessary. (It is acknowledged that, in research, commonality of gender and/or ethnicity between researcher and researched may sometimes be appropriate for methodological reasons). Care should be taken that the element of preferment frequently present in the appointment of part-time teachers does not amount to indirect discrimination. Such posts should be advertised wherever possible. Sexual, sectarian, racial and disability harassment are abuses of power which negate both the principle of equal opportunities and the possibilities of a good working environment. Members thus have a duty to refrain from them and to actively oppose such behaviour by others. Members should not use the inequalities of power which characterise many working relationships including those between teachers and undergraduate, graduate and research students to obtain personal, sexual, economic or professional advantages. Members should be aware that such inequalities of power pertain not only in coercive but also in consensual relationships. They should take care that personal or sexual relationships entered into at work on a consensual and reciprocal basis do not reinforce or exploit those inequalities of power, and do not disadvantage or unfairly advantage the less powerful party.

Obligations to Students

Members employed in teaching institutions have both academic and ethical obligations to their students. Besides the general duties of competence, adequate preparation and up-to-date knowledge they should observe the following principles.

All students are entitled to adequate information in good time about the content of courses, programme choice, modes of assessment, and appeals procedures. They are also entitled to prompt and fair evaluation of their work, and to the keeping of full and proper records of their progress. Members should support students’ studies in a diligent manner by regular attendance to teach and by being available for consultation with students. Members should respect the confidentiality of personal information about students. They have a duty to ensure that any records are secure and that access to them is restricted. While intellectual differences are a sign of healthy diversity and exposure to these is a proper part of students’ education, members should not allow intellectual differences or personal animosities among colleagues to impinge on students’ relationships with those colleagues. Members have a duty to assist both undergraduate and postgraduate students in their attempts to find employment. T his will normally involve the writing of references and, in the case of graduate students, may include introducing students into appropriate networks. Members should not deceive or coerce students into serving as research subjects. They should not use them simply as cheap labour in the conduct of research. They should not represent the work of students as their own.

In view of the considerable evidence that they distribute their time and attention differentially between groups of students in ways inimical to equal opportunities, teachers have a duty of self-awareness on this issue. Teachers are advised not to enter into personal, emotional or sexual relationships with students. They have a duty to minimise discriminatory practices by students which might detract from equality of educational opportunity; this applies particularly to racial, sectarian and sexual harassment, including verbal abuse. They should be cognisant with the disciplinary codes existing in their institutions for dealing with students who insult or intimidate others, including their teachers and supervisors. Members should be particularly aware of the inequality of power between teacher and student, and the difficulties which may be experienced in either close or distant working relationships. This may be so particularly in one-to-one supervisions. Supervisors should take particular care not to exploit such inequalities of power. If personal or emotional difficulties develop between supervisor and student which may impede the successful completion of the student’s work, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that an alternative supervisor is found and that the student’s progress is not jeopardised.

Obligations to colleagues

Members should try to minimise the intrusion of self-interest or personal factors on their commitment to the production and spreading of knowledge, and should ensure that their behaviour towards colleagues contributes to a positive working environment. When acting as managers and as employers, members have a duty to implement fair employment practices and promote equal opportunities in relation to appointments, appraisal and promotion.

All employees should be properly informed of the terms and conditions of their employment. Care should be taken not to underpay part-time staff or to engage them or secretarial staff to carry out unpaid duties. All employees, particularly research staff, should be clearly informed about intellectual property rights with respect to the data which they collect or to which they may have access. The general principle of academic freedom means that freedom to analyse and publish the results of research should be limited only in exceptional circumstances. Members should not knowingly misrepresent the findings of their research, or the work of others. They should not present other people’s work as their own, or hold up the publication of work by others so that their own gets precedence. They should acknowledge fully all those who contributed to their research and publications. Attribution and ordering of authorship and acknowledgements should accurately reflect the contributions of all main participants in both research and writing processes, including students. Material quoted verbatim from the writings of others must be clearly identified and referenced to its author. Where ideas or material are drawn from the written work of others without verbatim quotation, the sources should be cited to the full extent that is reasonably practicable for the purpose in hand.

Review Process

Sociologists may be involved in a wide range of review processes: these include reviewing proposals or manuscripts prior to publication, book reviews, research grant applications, accreditation of courses, examination of theses, and involvement in procedures for appraisal or promotion of individual staff, as well as writing references for students and colleagues. Members have a general duty to ensure that any participation in review processes is an honest evaluation of work in question.

The expression of strong views for or against a particular piece of work are part and parcel of the review process. In reviewing the work of others, however, members should avoid conflicts of interest. They should also normally avoid participating in review procedures where they have a close positive or negative connection with those under review. Members should not normally review the same book in more than one journal, except in relatively rare cases where the journals involved have non-overlapping membership and where the editors are agreeable. All reviews should be based on full and conscientious reading and consideration of the work in question. Members should supply requested references promptly and ensure that these are full, fair and adequately considered. Within legal limits,
they should not disclose personal information which is not directly relevant to the post in question without the subject’s explicit and prior consent. In cases where they feel unable to give a positive reference, that information should be clearly communicated to the person concerned, to enable them to seek another referee. Editors of journals or books accepting or soliciting manuscripts should ensure that publication is reasonably prompt. Potential delays should be communicated to the author as quickly as possible, with permission to seek publication elsewhere if the delay is likely to be prolonged.

Research Ethics


The integrity of sociological enquiry and the freedom to research, study, and publish the results of research is a major concern of sociologists. SAI members have a responsibility both to safeguard the interests of those involved in or affected by their work and to report their findings accurately and truthfully. They need to consider the consequences of their work or its misuse for those they study and other interested parties and they should not accept work that they are not qualified to carry out or that is outside their true fields of expertise. Members should satisfy themselves that the research they undertake is worthwhile and that the methods used to elicit information are appropriate. Further, they should be aware that they have some responsibility for the way in which their research may be utilised. Discharging that responsibility may present difficulty, especially in situations of competing social interests or where there is unanticipated use of information by third parties. These guidelines address these and other key issues for sociologists in their relations with research participants, sponsors, and/or funders.

Relations with Research Participants

Sociologists, when they carry out research, enter into personal and moral relationships with those they study, be they individuals, households, corporate entities or other social groups. Members have a responsibility to ensure that the welfare of research participants is not adversely affected by their research activities. They should strive to protect the interests of research participants, their sensitivities and privacy, while recognising the difficulty of balancing potentially conflicting concerns. Though frequently characterised by disparities of power and status, research relationships should, where possible, be founded on trust. In cases where the public interest dictates otherwise, and particularly where there is abuse of power or exploitation, obligations of trust and protection may weigh less heavily. Nevertheless, these obligations should not be discarded lightly.

1.1 Responsibilities towards Research Participants

As far as possible, sociological research should be based on the freely given informed consent of those studied. This implies a responsibility on members to explain as fully as possible, and in terms meaningful to participants, what the research is about, who is undertaking and financing it, why it is being undertaken, and how it is to be promoted. In general, co-operation in fieldwork should be negotiated and not assumed. Where there is a possibility that data may be shared with other researchers, the potential uses to which the data might be put may need to be discussed with research participants.

Research participants should be made aware of their right to refuse participation whenever and for whatever reason they wish. They should understand how far they will be afforded anonymity and confidentiality and should be able to reject the use of data-gathering devices such as tape recorders and video cameras. Members should be careful, on the one hand, not to give unrealistic guarantees of confidentiality and, on the other, not to permit communication of research films or records to audiences other than those to which the research participants have agreed. When making notes, filming or recording for research purposes, sociologists should make clear to research participants the purpose of the notes, filming or recording.

In some situations, access to a research setting is gained via a ‘gatekeeper’. In such cases, members should adhere to the principle of obtaining informed consent directly from the research participants to whom access is required, while at the same time taking account of the gatekeeper’s interest. Members should be sensitive to research participants whose vulnerability may be increased by factors such as age, disability, or social status. In cases where an individual is not in a position to provide information, it may be appropriate to obtain the information from a third party. In these situations, extreme care should be taken not to intrude on the personal space of the person to whom the data refer, or to disturb the relationship between the person and the third party. In general, data should not be obtained where it can be inferred that the person about whom the data are sought would object to
supplying certain kinds of information.

There is an obligation for members to be aware of the possible consequences of their work. In particular, they should attempt to anticipate, and to guard against, consequences for research participants which can be predicted to be harmful. Sociologists are not absolved from this responsibility by the consent given by research participants. While some participants in sociological research may find the experience a positive and welcome one, others may feel wronged by aspects of the research process. This can be particularly so if they perceive apparent intrusions into their private and personal worlds, or where research gives rise to false hopes, uncalled for self-knowledge, or unnecessary anxiety.

Anonymity, Privacy, and Confidentiality

The anonymity and privacy of those who participate in sociological research should be respected whether or not an explicit pledge of confidentiality has been given. In some cases, it may be necessary to decide whether it is proper or even appropriate to record certain kinds of sensitive information. Members have a duty to ensure that personal information concerning research participants is kept confidential. Guarantees of confidentiality and anonymity must be honoured, unless there are exceptional, clear and overriding reasons to do otherwise. Colleagues and others given access to the data must also be made aware of their obligations in this respect. By the same token, members should respect the efforts of other researchers to maintain anonymity. Extreme care is required when delivering or transferring any confidential material over computer networks. Appropriate measures should be taken to store research data in a secure manner, in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act. These may include the removal of identifiers, the use of pseudonyms and other technical means for breaking the link between data and identifiable individuals. Care should also be taken to prevent data being published or released in a form that would permit the actual or potential identification of research participants.

2.1 Covert Research

The use of covert research raises serious ethical issues but covert methods may avoid certain problems. For instance, difficulties may arise when research participants alter their behaviour significantly because they know they are being studied. Researchers may also face problems when access to information is closed to social scientists by powerful or secretive interests. However, covert methods violate the principles of informed consent and may invade the privacy of those being studied. Participant or non-participant observation in non-public spaces that is conducted without the knowledge of those implicated is not generally recommended and should be engaged in only when it is not possible to use other methods to obtain essential data. In such studies, it is particularly important to safeguard the anonymity of research participants. Ideally, where informed consent has not been obtained prior to the research it should be obtained post-hoc.

Ethical Practice in Relations with Sponsors and/or Funders

A common interest exists between the sponsor, funder and sociologist as long as the aim of the social enquiry is to advance knowledge, although such knowledge may only be of limited benefit to the sponsor or funder. This relationship is best served if the atmosphere is conducive to high professional standards. Members should attempt to ensure that sponsors/funders appreciate the obligations that sociologists have, not only to them, but also to society at large, research participants and professional colleagues and the sociological community. The relationship between funders and social researchers should be such as to enable social enquiry to be undertaken as objectively as possible. Research should be undertaken with a view to providing information or explanation rather than being constrained to reach particular conclusions or prescribe particular course of action.

3.1 Obligation rules and Rights

Members should clarify in advance the respective obligations of funders and researchers, where possible in the form of a written contract. They should refer the sponsor/funder to the relevant parts of the professional code to which they adhere. Members should be realistic and fair in their costing and avoid compromising on quality in order to save costs. Members should also be careful not to promise or imply acceptance of conditions which are contrary to their professional ethics or competing commitments. Where funders are also involved in the research, or where those who tender for research are involved in funding decisions, the potential for conflict between the different roles and interests should be made explicit to all parties. Members should be clear about their own general or specific obligations to funders, whether contractually defined or the subject of informal or unwritten agreements. They should be honest and candid about their qualifications and expertise and the limitations, advantages and disadvantages of the various methods of analysis and data and the time-scale of the proposed research. They should acknowledge the necessity for discretion with confidential information obtained from funders. They should also try not to conceal factors which are likely to affect the quality of the work or the completion of a proposed research project.

3.2 Research Outcomes

Members should not accept contractual conditions that are contingent upon a particular outcome or set of findings from a proposed enquiry. A conflict of obligations may also occur if the funder requires a particular methodological approach. In this context, it is important to recognise that members have an obligation to ensure that funders grasp the implications of the choice between alternative research methods.

Members should also clarify, before signing the contract, if they are entitled to disclose the source of their funds, the aims of the institution concerned, its personnel and the purpose of the project. Members should also clarify the position regarding the right to publish and disseminate the results of their research before signing the contract.

3.3 Confidentiality of Information

Researchers are often given confidential information by the funder. Methods and procedures which have been utilised to produce published data, should not, however, be kept confidential unless otherwise agreed. When negotiating research funding members should be aware of the legal requirements with regard to ownership of, and rights of access to, data.

In some political, social and cultural contexts particular sources of funding may be contentious. Candour and frankness about the source of funding may create problems of access or co-operation for the social researcher but concealment may have serious consequences for colleagues, the discipline and research participants. The emphasis should be on maximum openness. Where funders also act directly or indirectly as gatekeepers and control access to participants, researchers should not devolve their responsibility to protect the participants’ interests onto the gatekeeper. Members should be wary of inadvertently disturbing the relationship between participant and gatekeepers since that will continue after the research has been completed.

3.4 Obligations to Funders during the research Process

Members have a responsibility to notify the funder of any significant departure from the agreed terms of reference of the contracted research. A research study should not be undertaken where the resources available are known to be inadequate, regardless of whether the work is sociological or interdisciplinary. Upon accepting financial support, members must make every reasonable effort to complete the proposed research on schedule, including agreed reports to the funding source. Members should be prepared to take comments from funders or research participants or those designated by such parties.

Guidelines for Postgraduate Research


The aim of these guidelines is to outline general principles of good practice for postgraduate research. With growing numbers of students entering into postgraduate programmes the SAI feels that formal guidelines are urgently required. These guidelines address the responsibilities of Sociology departments, supervisors, and students. Doing postgraduate research can be a very stressful experience. In Ireland a central issue is the fact that postgraduate students generally do not receive adequate funding and so fund their own PhD research. This can lead to a variety of tensions and potential problems. (For further discussion on these issues see Norman Graves and Ved Varma (eds.), Working for a Doctorate. London: Routledge).

Course Information

Sociology departments should ensure that detailed information is made freely available to all intending students. This should be in the form of a postgraduate booklet outlining all relevant requirements and regulations. These should include information about conditions of full-time and part-time registration, minimum and maximum registration periods, examination requirements and so on. Arrangements for supervision and the monitoring of student progress should also be clearly set out in writing. Details of facilities for postgraduate students, including workspace, computer facilities, postgraduate awards/studentships, teaching assistantships and teaching opportunities or expectations should also be provided. Departments should generally only accept students for registration in areas in which they
have relevant expertise.

Once students are registered they should receive regularly updated written information outlining the following: arrangements for supervision and for reviewing students’ progress; procedures and requirements of postgraduate students including the submission of research proposals, progress reports, and the form in which the thesis is to be presented; eligibility for up-grading from Master’s to PhD, transfer and appeal procedures; complaint and grievance procedures; student regulations and disciplinary procedures; equal opportunities and harassment policies, codes and procedures; availability of, and access to, resources including: work space, stationery, photocopying, telephone, computing facilities, travel and conference funds, library facilities, careers and counselling services; relevant departmental activities such as departmental seminars; institutional research ethics policies and procedures (students should also be alerted to the SAI Ethical Guidelines); institutional policies and
procedures on intellectual property rights; requirements for the examination of theses and for appeals; regulations about the appointment of examiners.

Monitoring and Support

A named staff member should have overall responsibility for research degrees. In addition, a research degree committee, or its equivalent, should regularly review and monitor the progress of students and be empowered to intervene in the case of problems or disputes. There should be clearly defined procedures enabling students to change supervisor where necessary. There should also be clear procedures for transfer to another university that should be known to students. Departments should have formal arrangements for ensuring continuity of supervision during periods of staff leave. Postgraduate students should be encouraged to become fully involved in the intellectual and social life of the department. Students should also be made aware of external sources of support and development such as:
▪ The SAI Postgraduate Summer School;
▪ SAI Conference and membership concessions.

The Student/Supervisor Relationship

Each department should have a formal code of practice for research students which should, clearly define the responsibilities and expectations of students and supervisors. Supervisors and students should agree formally how these requirements are to be met and this agreement should be kept under review. It is the student’s and the supervisor’s joint responsibility to ensure that regular meetings take place. A timetable of work should be developed and monitored from the outset. Students should submit regular written work to their supervisor and should expect regular and prompt feedback. It is crucial that supervisors give substantial feedback on research proposals, and, once fieldwork is completed, continue to give feedback on the interpretation and analysis of data.

Supervision is a two-way process. It is essential that supervisors recognise that primary responsibility for the supervisory relationship rests with them. Of course this relationship can only work successfully if both parties are committed. It is important for supervisors to realise that students are responsible adults who do not undertake postgraduate degrees lightly. It is therefore inappropriate for supervisors to create a hierarchical supervisory relationship, for example by putting undue pressure on a student. It is also crucial that both supervisors and students are aware that it is the student who must take ultimate responsibility for their own research. It is inappropriate for a supervisor to try and take control of the thesis, or to pressurise a student to complete.

It is good practice for a written record to be kept by both parties of important supervisory advice, and any agreements made. Supervisors should be familiar with current regulations and take responsibility for reminding students of such matters as length limits and the issue of plagiarism. Supervisors should play an active role in the choice of appropriate examiners, and it is good practice for the issues involved to be discussed with students. Supervisors should not act as examiners of PhD theses, although one person from the institution should always take part in the examination. Whether or not the institution has a formal procedure for this, it is a supervisor’s duty to advise whether a thesis is ready for submission. Where students choose not to take advice, supervisors should have the right to place a written statement of the advice given on file.

Supervisors should ensure that students are supported in their professional self-development. For example students should be encouraged to give papers at conferences, and to publish articles under their own names. Students should be aware that in joint publications drawing on their work they have the right to be first named authors. Students should also be aware of the extent to which joint publications may affect a judgement about whether the thesis is their own work, particularly given that joint publications are not the norm in Irish sociology.

It must be recognised that postgraduates who are employed by their supervisors as research assistants, and who draw on their supervisor’s data for their own degree are in a particularly delicate position. In all cases where students are working as part of a larger project team, or where joint supervisor/student publications are proposed, questions of intellectual property rights should be carefully considered by all concerned.

Employment of Postgraduate Students

It is helpful to students’ careers for them to have teaching opportunities. These should be properly remunerated and should be supported by appropriate training and supervision. Although there are general issues that apply to all casual teaching staff (see SAI Guidelines on the Employment of Part-Time and Short-Term Contract Staff), there are specific employment issues relevant to postgraduate students. It is important that departments recognise that the majority of postgraduate students in the Social Sciences have no external funding. In practice this means that students need to work to support themselves even though they might be registered as full-time students. This balancing of research and teaching can be very difficult for students to manage.

Postgraduate teaching staff are a vulnerable group, particularly in the university where they are registered for their degree. A combination of understaffing and increases in student numbers can lead to a situation where postgraduate students are pressurised into taking heavy teaching loads. All parties need to recognise that overwork is likely to lead to students taking longer time-periods to complete their theses.

It can be the case that the teaching done by postgraduate students facilitates the universities/
departments rather than the students’ professional development as sociologists. In some cases, the difficulties of doing a postgraduate degree are compounded by exploitation which can be very difficult to resist. In addition, postgraduate students are often given contradictory messages about their role in the university and whether their research or teaching commitment should be given priority. Departments need to be clear about their expectations of students and to make these known to students from the outset.

4.1 Recommendations

Departments should realise that there a number of practical ways in which they can help to ensure that teaching and research are not necessarily incompatible activities. For example, it is preferable that students have continuity in their teaching over the course of their studies; the teaching assistantship model facilitates this. It may also be helpful for students to teach in areas related to their own thesis topic, so that there is some synergy between their research and teaching commitments.

Guidelines on the Employment of
Part-Time and Short-Term Contract Staff

Guidelines in the Employment of Teaching staff


In recent years there have been increases in the employment of academic staff on part-time and short-term contracts in Irish universities. The SAI is concerned about the casualisation of university teaching, as well as the conditions of service under which staff are employed. Part-timers and those on fixed term contracts often undertake work of the same type and level as permanent full time staff, however, they are generally paid at lower rates, and experience insecure employment. The guidelines aim to help to promote good practice and to raise awareness of the inequalities created as a result of such employment practices. At the same time, the SAI recognises that in many cases decisions about appointments are made at university level. It is therefore essential that departments lobby for permanent appointments to protect the working conditions of all sociologists employed by universities. It should be the responsibility of the Head of Department (or equivalent) to ensure that an appropriate code of practice for part-time and short-term contract staff is observed. (For further discussion see ‘Casualisation of University Teaching’, Equality Issues, Irish Federation of University Teachers, Summer 1996).

Appointments Procedures and Terms of Contract

Appointments procedures should be fair and open. The requirements and duties of all posts should be clearly specified in writing. It is preferable for part-time staff to be contracted to work (and paid) prorate on academic scales (e.g., 30% of a full time contract). This proportion should reflect the proportion of a full-time workload carried by the part-time staff member. These pro-rata salaries should be subject to relevant incremental increases. Where staff are employed on hourly contracts, it is essential that adequate provision is made within the contract for preparation of classes, marking, administration, and scholarship, besides that allowed for formal teaching. The fragmentation of fulltime or part-time posts into a series of occasional appointments as a cost-cutting measure should be strongly resisted by departments.

Induction and Training

All new part-time and short-term contract staff should receive copies of all appropriate documents, including for example institutional procedures and requirements. They should also attend an induction or training event, covering such areas as how to conduct small group meetings, guide students, or grade students’ work. All part-time and short-term contract staff should have access to staff-development programmes.

Course Information and Course Organisation

Information should be given about the content, structure and assessment of the entire courses with which staff are involved, not just that part of it for which they are responsible. All part-time tutors should receive a full course guide covering: the programme of topics for classes, reading to be covered by students in preparation for classes, the form and amount of written work to be prescribed for students, forms of assessment to be used on the course. Part-time tutors should normally operate under the tutor in overall charge of the course(s) on which they teach to provide continuing guidance during the course. Where such part-time tutors grade the work of students, they should normally only do so when an established member of staff acts as co-marker and has the final word on the level of grades.

Access to Resources and Representation

All staff, including part-time and short-term contract staff, should have a recognised ‘location’ within a department. They should be given access to resources such as headed note paper, provision of stationery and photocopying facilities, library facilities, E-mail, access to a telephone, a named postbox/pigeon hole. Meetings at the course or departmental level should be open to all staff. Facilities for research and scholarship should be available to all staff. The limitations placed on staff employed on ‘teaching only’ contracts should be clearly specified and should not impede opportunities for scholarship and ‘private’ research. All such staff should be accorded appropriate rights as members of a department e.g., representation on committees. Short-term and part-time staff should have access to services and facilities such as staff common rooms.

Evaluation and Monitoring

Evaluation of the performance of part-time and short-term contract staff should be consistent with that for full time staff.

Guidelines in the Employment of Research staff


Over the past decade there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of sociologists involved in research, especially in private sector. The greater availability of funding for social research is reflected in expansion of employment in academic institutions, but particularly in the growth in the numbers of private consultancy firms who employ sociologists as researchers. As the sector has expanded, so too have work structures and arrangements so that there are now many more sociologists who work on contract or as freelance researchers. These guidelines are an attempt to set out standards of good practice for those involved in employing researchers whether in research institutes or the more unregulated private sector.

Appointments Procedures and Terms of Contract

Appointments procedures should be fair and open. The requirements and duties of all posts should be clearly specified in writing. It is preferable for part-time staff to be contracted to work (and paid) prorate on academic scales (e.g., 30% of a full time contract). This proportion should reflect the proportion of a full-time workload carried by the part-time staff member. These pro-rata salaries should be subject to relevant incremental increases. Where staff are employed on hourly contracts, it is essential that adequate provision is made within the contract for preparation of classes, marking, administration, and scholarship, besides that allowed for formal teaching. The fragmentation of full-time or part-time posts into a series of occasional appointments as a cost-cutting measure should be strongly resisted by departments.

Induction and Training

All newly contracted research staff should be furnished with appropriate documents, including, where relevant, institutional procedures and requirements. They should be briefed by the research team and their work programme discussed and clarified. In the case of trainee/junior researchers, there should be provision for a regular review of their work, including, in the case of long-term or permanent contracts,a facility for career review. Where appropriate, all research staff should have access to staff development programmes.

Status and Acknowledgement

Researchers involved in large research projects should be given information about the entire research project in which they are involved and, as far as is practicable, be facilitated to participate in activities associated with the project such as meetings, seminars, conferences etc. Research staff, regardless of status, should be given due recognition/credit for their work in research reports and publications.

Access to Resources

All research staff, regardless of status or length of contract should have a recognised location with access to an office, including computer, phone, E-mail and fax, photocopying, etc. They should also have access to headed notepaper, stationery, etc. Research staff should have rights to attend meetings, be represented on committees, have access to common rooms in the organisation/institution in which they are working. Research staff should be entitled to represent the organisation for which they work commensurate with their seniority and experience.

Evaluation and Monitoring

Evaluation of the performance of part-time and short-term contract staff should be consistent with that for full-time staff.