The Prevent Duty and its implication for Research Governance & Ethics
1. Introduction and Background
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (2015) provides that ‘specified authorities’ must, when exercising their functions, have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Universities are a ‘specified authority’ and from September 2014, have therefore been subject to this requirement, which is referred to as the ‘Prevent Duty’. The Government’s Guidance for Higher Education institutions in England and Wales should be read alongside the Revised Prevent Duty Guidance (July 2015), and with the Universities UK Guidance Oversight of security-sensitive research material in UK universities: guidance.
The Act states that compliance will be monitored by HEFCE, which in 2015 carried out a sector-wide consultation into this function; further details on the nature of the monitoring is therefore expected to follow in due course, and will clearly be influenced by the recent White Paper. However, regardless of HEFCE’s future role, it is clear that universities shall be expected to provide a Government Body with the information that it requires for the purpose of ‘Prevent’ monitoring. Warwick’s institutional compliance with the ‘Prevent Duty’ is supported by the ‘University Prevent Working Group’, chaired by the Deputy-Registrar.
Certain elements of ‘Prevent’ are specific to research, and therefore the Working Group invited the Director and Deputy Director of Research & Impact Services (R&IS) to attend its meeting on 8 September 2015. Further also to discussion at Research Governance and Ethics Committee, this paper updates on the current provisions within Prevent as regards research, and outlines how the University’s internal ethics and governance system be enhanced to accommodate the new requirements of ‘Prevent’.
3. ‘Prevent’ - Research Governance & Ethics
The ‘Prevent Duty’ guidance for Higher Education Institutions (England and Wales) states that, ‘we would expect to see clear policies and procedures for students and staff working on sensitive or extremism-related research’. Universities are also expected to ‘identify and address issues where online materials are accessed for non-research purposes’ (paragraph 28, Appendix 1). The guidance issued by Universities UK in 2012 is specifically referred to in the ‘Prevent Duty’ guidance. Outlined below is a summary of the new additions to the University’s current systems and processes that is currently in progress.
3.1 Externally funded research
Financial Procedure 14 states that all research grants and contracts that are funded by an external organisation must be submitted and accepted via Research & Impact Services. This process is now supported by IDEATE, Warwick’s central research administration system. Contained both within the pre-award; FP14a, and post-award; FP14b work-flow in IDEATE are a list of Principal Investigator Certifications that must be addressed prior to a grant or contract being awarded. These include, does the ‘research involve human participants, their data or tissue’ and ‘will the project involve animals’, and a positive answer to either triggers a referral to the appropriate Warwick research ethics committee. In light of the ‘Prevent Duty’ and having due regard for the guidance provided by Universities UK (2012), the following additional questions be added to the PI Certifications list:
- Is the research commissioned by the military;
- Is the research commissioned under an EU security call;
- Does the research involve the acquisition of security clearances;
- Does the research concern terrorist or extreme groups.
The questions above are also being added to the internal ethics application forms of BSREC and HSREC, in order that these matters can be reviewed by research ethics committee members if deemed necessary. It is important that records of the decision making process with regards to any ethics review are maintained, including the details of the proposed secure storage of any sensitive documentation, in order that these can be referred to in the future if required. Any projects that the research ethics committee deems to be ‘high risk’ can be escalated to the Chair of the Research Governance & Ethics Committee.
3.2 Own-funded research
Research that is not supported by external funds is not referred to R&IS. However where it involves human participants, their data or tissue or animals is referred to the relevant Warwick research ethics committee by the Principal Investigator. Departments should add the ‘Prevent’ related questions outlined above in Section 3.1 into their internal referral processes so if the research has not already been referred to a research ethics committee, a positive answer to any four of the questions triggers referral to the relevant Warwick research ethics committee and any projects that the research ethics committee deems to be ‘high risk’ can be escalated to the Chair of the Research Governance & Ethics Committee.
3.3 The use of University Computing Facilities
All users of the Computing Facilities are required to abide by Regulation 31. Regulation 31 forms part of the University’s Information Security framework and is intended to protect the Computing Facilities against unauthorised access, misuse or harm and promote effective and secure communication when using the Computing Facilities and to ensure the University fulfils its statutory and legal obligations. The University of Warwick has a statutory duty to comply with all legislative requirements such as the Equality Act 2010, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, the Human Rights Act 2000. Any individual wishing to view, create, transmit or store security sensitive material must seek prior permission in writing from the Registrar or his/her nominee.