CREST is a publically funded Centre that is committed to producing independent, world-leading research that is value for money and impactful. CREST has in place a robust management plan, and it is subject to multiple forms of independent oversight. Collectively these structures seek to ensure that CREST’s work is ethical, independent, open for scrutiny, and value for money.
The primary management of CREST is provided by the Director and Deputy Director, who, supported by the Centre Manager, ensure all of CREST’s activities meet high standards in relation to academic integrity, accountability to funders, stakeholders and the wider public, clear strategic direction, and adherence to requirements in respect of data management and ethics.
The strategic direction of CREST is delivered by the Leadership Team, which comprises the two Directors, Programme Leaders (one representing each Institution), the Communications Director, the Research-to-Practice Fellow, and the Chair of the Security and Research Ethics Committee. This team meets regularly to oversee and manage progress, consider new opportunities, and plan the long-term sustainability of the Centre.
All research undertaken within CREST must conform to the Centre’s Data Management Plan, which was prepared in accordance with the ESRC’s Research Data Policy and the Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity. This Management Plan requires that CREST’s researchers, inter alia, (1) assess and utilize existing data (and methodological/experimental materials) where it is available; (2) manage new data through a tiered system that ensures public accessibility and participant confidentiality; (3) carry out quality assurance checks on data; (4) appropriately back-up the data and hold it securely at all times; (5) ensure that their activities do not violate copyright/IR rights, and (6) prepare data for sharing and archiving at the UK Data Archive in a timely fashion.
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
As the public body responsible for commissioning CREST, the ESRC has a key role in ensuring that the Centre upholds the expectations is has of all research Centres. Accordingly, the ESRC has oversight of the Centre’s activities, and annually it receives and reviews an annual report and forward planning document.
The strategic direction of CREST is reviewed and developed by a stakeholder Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of representatives from the research community, public and policy bodies, and organisations that play a critical role in countering security threats. Together, they review and develop the strategic direction of CREST.
At the end of the second year of operation, CREST will commission an independent review. This review will audit the Centre’s expenditure, measure our success against key performance indicators, and provide an analysis of the overall impact of the work conducted so far, including the social, cultural and economic impact. The reviewer will be selected through an open tender process in line with UK/EU Government guidelines.
The topics being studied within CREST and the collaborative relationship the Centre has with the security and intelligence agencies make it particularly important that transparent and comprehensive ethics processes are in place. All activities of CREST have ethical oversight, even when they do not involve the collection of new data.
To deliver a comprehensive ethics review process, CREST combines the existing approval processes at the partner universities with its own Security Research Ethics Committee (SREC).
All research projects are first evaluated through the relevant Institutional process and then by SREC. All non-research activities, which fall outside the remit of Institutional review processes, are reviewed by SREC. All committees have the mandate to stop work proceeding.
Institutional Ethics Committees
At each of the Partner Institutions, the committee responsible for ethical approval is chaired by a Pro-Vice Chancellor or his delegate, has membership from senior academics who represent multiple disciplines, and takes input from external, independent members. They operate under a comprehensive ethics framework that meets the requirements set out in University UK’s Concordat to Support Research Integrity and RCUK’s Policy and Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct. This includes:
- Requiring that Investigators meet best practices regarding data security and integrity
- That Investigators take responsibility for the actions of research associates and students
- That there is a clear and responsive process for identifying and handling misconduct.
Security Research Ethics Committee (SREC)
SREC is chaired by Dr Sarah Marsden, who is Lecturer in Radicalisation and Protest in a Digital Age at Lancaster University and on the Politics, Philosophy and Religion Departmental Ethics Committee. The Communications Director sits on SREC to ensure that dissemination and public transparency is considered at the earliest stages. Sarah Marsden also sits on the Leadership Team as an ‘Ethics Advocate’. Her role is to ensure accountability and integrity in the strategic direction of CREST’s full range of activities.
The remit of SREC is to consider issues relating to:
- The potential misuse of the research
- The risks and benefits of public sharing, especially to national security
- The best way to promote public consumption and ensure transparency
- The wellbeing and security of personnel
- The support of researchers at the early stage of project development.