Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Ethics Section

It might be helpful to other applicants in the SOC panel to see an example of the ethics section as well, so I’m providing this example from 2015. It is very important to note, however, that the rules for personal and data protection have gotten more highly defined, and so it would not be a good idea to copy paste this for your own submission. It must be updated for current GDPR regulations, as well as being tailored to your topic.

For the full suite of posts:

Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section (here)
Final Report from 2016 submission

6      ETHICS SELF-REVIEW           

This research study involves (1) interviewing women who are studying engineering at 3rd level and (2) conducting surveys with male and female engineering students. Because this project involves human participants, we must obtain informed consent from each participant. Informed Consent Form and Information Sheets examples are provided below. Ethics approvals will be obtained from the host institution and each partner university prior to any data collection (see Tables 2, 4, and 6). Profs. Chance and Tyler will accept responsibility for being ethical stewards of the data throughout its life cycle. This will be checked during the Milestone reviews that occur every six months, where, for instance, Dr. Chance will provide Prof. Tyler with proof that Informed Consent has been secured.

HUMAN SUBJECTS

All participants will be university undergraduates, postgraduates, or practicing professionals. They will all be volunteers, recruited with the help of their teachers (or, in the case of Poland, via the Perspektywy Education Foundation website). They will be solicited in class, during events, via list serves, and/or by email. They can withdraw their participation at any time and they will be informed of such on the Information Sheet and Informed Consent Form. Interview and survey participants will be asked three demographic questions:

  1. What is your gender?
  2. Were you born in the country where you are now studying?
  3. On which continent were you born?

Raffle prizes (such as Kindle readers or iTunes gift certificates) may be offered to encourage participation in the interviews and surveys. Prizewinners will be selected randomly, by drawing numbers from a hat.

Volunteers for surveys will be limited to students over age 18 who are studying engineering and/or architecture. The opening page of the online survey will include a concise Information Sheet and ask the participant to give informed consent before starting the survey by clicking “continue.” The content of the online survey will be generated in light of findings from the interviews and will be provided to the host institution’s Ethics Review Committee prior to commencing the survey.

Volunteers for interviews will be limited to students over age 18 who are women studying engineering and/or architecture. When they are recruited, they will receive an Information Sheet and be invited to provide their preferred form of contact (email or text number) so the researcher can contact them. The Informed Consent Form will explicitly ask if it is okay to keep the contact information on file for follow-up and will let each participant specify time limits and any other preferences/stipulations about use of her contact information, interview data, and personal data. Each interview participant will be asked to sign the Informed Consent Form before the interview starts. The content of the Information Sheet and the Informed Consent Form will be translated into Polish and Portuguese for use in those countries. These materials will undergo review by Ethics boards at UCL and our partner institutions in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and the USA. Our primary goal with this research is to support minority students (in engineering this mans women as well as non-native born students and those belonging to groups of minority status in their country of study). We will make every effort to protect the interests of and to support the success of participants of minority status in our research, outreach, and dissemination. Prior to submitting for Ethics approval, Dr. Chance will carefully review UCL’s Data Protection guidelines, policies, and principles. She will meet with a member of the UCL Research Ethics Committee  (i.e., UCL’s data protection officers) to discuss various aspects of the proposed work. The timeline for submitting ethics applications to UCL and the various partner institutions are provided in the Gantt chart (Table 6, in Section 3.1).

Check for collection of sensitive data

Interviewees may be asked to complete an epistemological survey instrument (an updated version of one produced by Kuhn, Cheney, and Winestock from Columbia Teacher’s College12) and to provide some basic demographic information as identified above. If we decide to include an epistemological survey questionnaire along with the interviews, information about the survey tool will be incorporated into the Information Sheet and Informed Consent Form. These personal data are of fairly low sensitivity, but nevertheless, UCL’s data protection officers will be consulted to ensure compliance and to advise the researchers if any specific authorizations from the national data protection authority are necessary. The ethics application/review process will include detailed information about the collection of the demographic data identified above, as well as the epistemological survey instrument.

SOCIAL SCIENCE AND HUMANITIES RESEARCH

This research involves online surveys and audio-recorded interviews. Interviews will be conducted in English, which presents one form of bias in sampling. Recruitment will happen in designated partner institutions, so there is also a convenience sampling bias. We will use extreme-case sampling for interview participants to get the most diverse points of view. In other words, we will be attempting to secure participation from native-born and non-native students in each location. Within the participating architecture and engineering programs, we will invite all registered students to complete the online surveys, which will be translated into the native language by a native speaker (working in consultation with the primary researcher to achieve the most accurate translation possible for each language).

Minimal risk/minimal burden. Questions will involve non-sensitive topics regarding experiences in engineering education. Risks associated with participating are extremely small. It is possible that participants could experience some emotional distress in reflecting on their past experiences, but not more than would be expected in the course of normal conversation. Participants’ identities will be kept confidential and references to actual names will be removed from transcripts, as detailed below; pseudonyms will be used in reporting.

Benefits of participation to the individual participation are the opportunity to reflect on past experiences and to contribute to research about engineering education, epistemological development, and design thinking.

PERSONAL DATA

Procedures for data collection, storage, protection, retention, transfer, destruction, or re-use.Personal data to be collected in this study will be collected through face-to-face interviews and online survey questionnaires.

Online surveys. No personal identifiers will be collected during online surveys—they will be completely anonymized. As per Horizon 2020 ethics self-assessment instructions, “completely anonymized data does not fall under data privacy rules (as from the moment it has been completely anonymized).” Responses to surveys will be stored in Excel spreadsheets, and analyzed using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) or similar.

Face-to-face interviews. The researcher is likely to know/record the name, email address and/or telephone number, gender, continent of birth, and national/non-national status for each interview participant. Processing of interviews will involve: collection of digital audio recordings, organization and storage, use, and deleting / destruction of audio recordings following transcription. If a prize raffle is held to encourage participation, email addresses will be collected, stored temporarily, and destroyed following the award of prizes. Interview data will be collected using digital sound recording devices and stored on a password-protected computer. Interview participants can choose to have their data included only in this study, or archived for future research, conditional on the restrictions listed on the Consent Form. The list of interview participants (with name, contact information, and identifying code / pseudonym will not be stored in the same digital archive as the transcriptions and audio recordings. Audio recordings will be deleted/destroyed following transcription. Data will be analyzed using Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, NVivo, Scrivener, or other specialized software for qualitative data analysis. At the beginning and end of each interview the researchers will ask the participant for both verbal and written confirmation that it is acceptable to archive the interview transcript for future use. Each participant will be asked to note in writing any specific limits for use of her data. 

Use of previously processed data (secondary use). The longitudinal component of this study utilizes data collected during interviews conducted in Ireland (in 2014-15) and Poland (in 2015). Each participant has already provided written consent for archiving and ongoing use of her interview data, following the same procedure described above. These procedures were reviewed and approved by DIT’s Ethics Review Committee and by WUT’s Rector. These data have been and will be collected, stored, and processed in the ways stated above. Dr. Chance is the manager of these data, which are owned by Dr. Chance and the respective interview participant.

Privacy and data safety protection procedures. All individual information collected as part of the study will be anonymous—the identity of participants will be known only to the official research team. Data may be included in future conference presentations and publications, but at no time will it be possible to identify it as belonging to a specific individual. Information will be used solely for Dr. Chance’s research. It will be stripped of any personal identifiers and stored securely in password-protected electronic format pending possible continuation of the study. Data will be stored on two external backup hard drives and on UCL’s encrypted servers. Dr. Chance will provide Prof. Tyler with evidence that agreed-upon procedures for protection of personal data are being upheld during the Milestone reviews that occur every six months.

THIRD COUNTRIES

The only third country involved in this study is the USA. Ethical research standards and procedures are clear and well enforced in universities in the USA that will be involved in this study (Hampton University and the College of William and Mary). Procedures will follow those described above.

INFORMATION SHEET

DESIGINING ENGINEERS

Note: This is an example Information Sheet for Research Participants–the one that was actually used was updated to meet UCL specifications and all current GDPR regulations:

You are invited to participate in a research study about your experiences with project work, design, and design projects in engineering and/or architecture. The research team has received approval from your institution’s research ethics committee. Please read the following information before deciding whether or not to participate.

What are the objectives of the study? Dr. Shannon Chance is conducting this study because she wants to understand what it is like to be an engineering or architecture student, to experience project work, and to think about design and knowledge.

Why have you been asked to participate? You are engineering and/or architecture courses and you have experience of project work and/or design.

What happens if you agree to take part?

  • Information about you will be treated in strict confidence.
  • You will be asked to schedule a time for an interview at a time and place that suits you. You’ll be provided with Dr. Chance’s telephone/text number so that you can use it to make scheduling changes if necessary.
  • During the interview, we will chat about your experiences for about an hour. Before we start, you will be asked if it is okay to audio record what you say. You will be asked if you’d like a written copy of your interview for your records and/or to check for accuracy. Dr. Chance will also ask if she can keep your permanent email address and telephone number on file so that she can follow up with you in later years to talk again. (You can still participate in this study if you do not want to provide that information or if you don’t want her to keep it.)

Benefits of participating: The benefit of participation to you is the chance to talk about what you are going through in your engineering program—which can be a fun learning experience. By participating, you can also help teachers understand what it’s like to be an engineering student and how they can support students who are learning engineering and design.

Are there any risks involved in participation? There is very little risk associated with participation. In the unlikely event that talking about what you’re going through causes distress, Dr. Chance can help you locate support services or you can go directly to [TBD office or website at each university], which provides a list of support services available to students on your campus.

Participants’ rights:

  • Your participation in this research project will not influence your academic marks or your relationship with your institution in any way.
  • You may decide to stop being a part of this study at any time, and you do not need to explain why. You can omit or refuse to answer or respond to any question that is asked of you if you feel uncomfortable. If you decided to stop participating, you have the right to request that all data about be withdrawn from the study you (including the interview recordings, transcriptions, and contact information).
  • You have the right to have all your questions about the study and the research methods answered. If you have any questions as a result of reading this information sheet, please ask Dr. Chance before the study begins or email her at any time.

Confidentiality: Your identity will remain secret/anonymous. Your data may be included in future publications and conference presentations, but at no time will it be possible to identify it as yours. All information will be reported using pseudonyms (fictitious names, rather than real names). Your interview data will be stored using a code, and it will be kept separate from your actual name and contact information.

If you’d like to set any additional restrictions for use of your data and your contact information, please let Dr. Chance know now or at the end of the interview.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

If you want to find out more about the study or would like a summary of the results, you can contact:

Prof. Shannon Chance, [email and phone number were provided]

Prof. Nick Tyler, [email and phone number were provided]

Note: This is an example Consent Form–the one that was actually used was updated to meet UCL specifications and all current GDPR regulations:

CONSENT FORM

DESIGINING ENGINEERS

PLEASE CIRCLE YOUR RESPONSE TO EACH QUESTION

• I have read and understood the attached Information Sheet YES / NO

• I have had the opportunity to ask any questions I have about the study YES / NO

• I have received satisfactory answers to all my questions YES / NO

• I understand that my data will be used for research purposes and stored securely on a password protected device in a secure location until the end of the project, when they will be destroyed, unless I grant additional permission for their use below*. YES / NO

• I would like to receive a written copy of my interview transcript YES / NO

• I understand that I am free to withdraw from the study at any time YES / NO

without giving a reason and without this affecting my college studies

I agree to take part in the study YES / NO

You may, in addition, agree to have your interview transcript (without your name or any personal identifiers) archived for future similar research. Please read the note below and decide whether you wish to agree to this element:

I give my approval that these anonymous data concerning me may be stored or electronically processed for the purpose of scientific research and may be used in this research project, and, potentially, in other research studies in the future. (Any future use of the anonymous interview transcripts related to me would still be subject to approval by an independent ethical review body.)

Please tick        I agree [ ]          I do not agree [ ]

I make the following stipulations regarding the use of my data or length of time my data may be archived:____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

If you want to find out more about the study or would like a summary of the results, you can contact:

Prof. Shannon Chance, [email and phone number were provided]

Prof. Nick Tyler, [email and phone number were provided]

DIT Research Ethics Committee notes from prior research:

  • For persons under 18 years of age the consent of the parents or guardians must be obtained or an explanation given to the Research Ethics Committee and the assent of the child/young person should be obtained to the degree possible dependent on the age of the child/young person. (For this study, we do not intend to recruit under-age participants.)
  • In some studies, witnessed consent may be appropriate. (We do not anticipate any need for witness consent.)
  • The researcher concerned must sign the consent form after having explained the project to the subject and after having answered his/her questions about the project.

11,573 MSCA-IF Proposals Submitted in 2020

The deadline passed last week for submitting applications for Marie Curie Individual Fellowships. I received many supportive messages, most on Facebook, with thanks for sharing online one of my past proposals and the evaluators’ comments. I was so happy to help others through the challenging process of creating and refining their proposals.

The posts on this topic were accessed by a huge number of people–some 4,363 visitors to my blog site–making this perhaps the most widely read document I’ve ever written.

I posted the following content from my unsuccessful 2015 proposal, which provided the best lessons on how to address the evaluation criteria:

• Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.11.21.31.4
• Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.12.2
• Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
• Ethics Section
• Final Report from 2016 submission

Almost all people visiting Ireland By Chance in August and September 2020 have been those preparing proposals. In August, there were 3,687 visitors to the site, and in September there have been another 676 visitors. The number of views for since the start of August totals 10,661!

I’m pleased to have reached people in most parts of the world, as illustrated in the August maps provided by WordPress (see below).

I’m happy to report that people in Ireland used the site most, and many from the UK as well, so the time and effort contributed by people from Ireland and the UK, helping me learn these skills and create this proposal, had benefits to those countries.

The total number of applications received this year was up 17%. In all, 11,573 MSCA-IF proposals were submitted to the European Commission. Writing just one is a massive undertaking, requiring 5-6 weeks of focused work.

Unfortunately, the most recent EU budget allocations provide 25% less money to this particular fellowship program. You can read more about the cuts in this article:

https://sciencebusiness.net/framework-programmes/news/member-states-agree-cuts-2021-rd-budget

Congratulations on the huge accomplishment of submitting to all those who met the deadline–and the best of luck in garnering funding to support your important work.

Final Report of my MSCA Individual Fellowship

My Marie Curie fellowship ended the last day of 2019 and I had 60 days to complete my final report. For Marie Curie Research Fellows, it can be difficult to figure out what will be required for reporting, based on discussion threads I read online.

Fellows don’t have much indication of what the report will entail until the European Commission’s “Participant Portal” invites them to submit the final report. Even then, it’s not clear how long the descriptions will need to be or where the report template is located. Only after you enter the text for the public statements, will the system inform you how long the text must be. Surprises I encountered in the official reporting process: The text you post for the public is limited to just 7480 characters! There’s specific button you’ve got to locate that contains the blank PDF template for the full report.

This blog post contains the public synopsis of my 2018-2019 project as well as a link to a PDF of the full report, which uses the required template and thus may be of help to other fellows:

I’ve posted this blog for (a) people interested in the research I’ve done and also (b) other MSCA fellows who have questions about the reporting process. This particular post shares my short, public synopsis (below). It’s likely I’ll post more detailed info in coming blogs, along with photos of the MSCA grant period that I’ve never posted before.

Getting the photos loaded onto WordPress has provided me a pleasant trip down memory lane. I plan to share more of these in coming posts.

Public Synopsis

1Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project (For the final period, include the conclusions of the action)

This section should include information on:

  • What is the problem/issue being addressed?
  • Why is it important for society?
  • What are the overall objectives?

The Action “Designing Engineers: Harnessing the Power of Design Projects to Spur Cognitive and Epistemological Development of STEM Students” looks at how engineering and architecture students learn, and how design projects and teamwork affect students’ thinking and overall development. The research questions how students learn to design and how their thinking changes over time with regard to what knowledge is, where it comes from, and how it gets validated; their views on this constitute their epistemologies. Such topics are important because society needs more engineers and more STEM graduates. Not only is there widespread lack of engagement, but problems also have been identified in graduate engineers’ ability to think holistically—today’s graduates do not seem prepared to identify and address global challenges in the comprehensive way society needs. Although engineering is often perceived as a dry, technical subject there is great room for creativity.

Architecture programs around the world are filled with highly engaged students. In engineering, there has been a move to teach in more active, hands-on, project-based ways that incorporate design, as done in architecture. Engineering can learn from architecture’s historic success in engaging and teaching students to design, but engineering has placed more focus than architecture has on understanding how students learn. The fields of engineering and architecture education have much to learn from each other. 

Objectives of this Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) have been to (a) develop and promote better ways to teach and support STEM students; (b) help transform engineering into a more diverse and creative field; and (c) investigate questions surrounding the theme, To what extents do design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture? A parallel goal of the MSCA Individual Fellowship is to foster the development of the individual researcher (that’s me!).

2Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far (For the final period please include an overview of the results and their exploitation and dissemination)

Work was conducted via 6 work packages (WPs). WP1 comprised 3 qualitative research studies that yielded 4 conference publications and 1 journal publication to date, with an additional 3 conference publications and 2 journal manuscripts underway. WP2 sought to build skill with multiple research methodologies. In it, the Fellow delivered 5 conference presentations, 3 published journal articles, and 1 encyclopedia entry, with 2 conference manuscripts underway. WP3 involved developing a special-focus journal issue. The Fellow exceeded goals by spearheading development of 2 different special focus journal issues (published 2018 & 2019). The Fellow is leading the development of a third special focus issue (for 2020). In WP4, the Fellow delivered 20 public engagement activities to popularize STEM and communicate findings. In WP5, for researcher training and transfer-of-knowledge, the Fellow attended 70 intensive training workshops and multi-day conferences. She provided leadership in publishing and research at university, national, and international levels. To transfer of knowledge, she conducted 18 workshops for researchers and educators; she provided supervision and mentoring for early career researchers. She was appointed Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Education, Editorial Board member of the European Journal of Engineering Education, and serves as Chair of the global Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN). During the grant, she earned a teaching qualification in the UK (SFHEA) and secured €56,000 (as co-PI) for education projects in Spain, a £11,200 donation to UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineers via EWBUK, and €237,727 in contract work from UCL Consulting. The project was managed under WP6.

Results of this MSCA are reported in: (1) forthcoming papers on how architecture and civil engineering students conceptualize design creation and knowledge generation; (2) forthcoming papers on ethics, sustainability/SDGs and early-career engineers from a study on UK civil engineers’ practices and perceptions of global responsibility; (3) papers about women’s experiences studying engineering including a longitudinal study (that uses data collected over four years in Ireland regarding Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering abroad) and analysis using the framework known as A Hero’s Journey (of a single mother’s challenges and successes studying and working in engineering); (4) a systematic review of grit in engineering education; a multi-method study of engineering teachers’ experiences implementing problem based learning (PBL). The data sets collected during this MSCA will inform and enhance dozens of publications in the coming years, in addition to the ones produced and published during the fellowship itself.

3Progress beyond the state of the art, expected results until the end of the project and potential impacts (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

This MSCA has pushed the frontiers of engineering education research (EER) forward in a numerous ways. The 2 special focus issues the Fellow spearheaded have shed new light onto socio-cultural diversity and engineering students’ identity formation and epistemic development. The educational blogs, STEM activity books for kids, and fun, creative events conducted by the Fellow are helping popularize engineering—the first STEM book was nominated for an award of excellence in the UK. The engineering education journals, and the workshops and community up-skilling events led by the Fellow are helping cultivate broader human capacity to produce quality research in the field of EER (e.g., Chairing the Research in Engineering Education Network to help raise the quality, credibility, and usefulness of EER globally and delivering Master Classes to help engineering teachers and researchers upskill).

This MSCA allowed the Fellow to develop agility with many different research methodologies and promote best practices to the larger EER community (e.g., co-authoring a study on “grit” in engineering education and identifying how to report it for maximum impact). The Fellow’s project on UK civil engineers exposed shortfalls in ethics and sustainability education and identified how engineers learn about these crucial topics, in that research participants said they did not learn enough about them in university. The Fellow’s PhD student is generating important new knowledge about processes and organizational systems that support creativity in engineering production; working together they are generating new models that describe shortfalls in engineering for UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and illustrate what can be done to address them. Through the Fellow’s research on architecture and civil engineering students, valuable new understandings are emerging related to how students conceptualize both design creation and knowledge generation.

Impacts anticipated from the MSCA are increased and improved: focus by engineering educators on developmental patterns shared among engineering students; student retention as a result of improved support; diversity as techniques to support minority students are increasingly employed; overall teaching in engineering education as a result increasingly credible and useful research; focus on ethics and sustainability in engineering education; and production of tools and models to help engineering educators foster creativity and engineering firms contribute to realizing the UN’s SDGs. A final overarching impact is enhanced public perception of engineering as a fun and creative field.

The commission also requested:

4 – Address (URL) of the project’s public website

5- Images attached to the Summary for publication