The reliability and credibility of research and science within the European Research Area (ERA) do not depend only on its excellence and productivity but also on the players’ awareness of highest standards of ethics in research and commitment to a responsible conduct of research. It has been consistently stated by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and by ALLEA (All European Academies): “Science is expected to enlarge mankind’s knowledge base, provide answers to global challenges, and guide decisions that shape our societies. Yet when science is compromised by fraudulent activities, not only the research enterprise stumbles, but also society’s trust in it. Thus, researchers and leaders throughout the world should ensure that science is trustworthy to our best knowledge.” (ESF/ALLEA, 2011). This objective will be promoted in ENERI by bringing together European initiatives involved in research ethics and research integrity.
Research ethics addresses the application of ethical principles or values to the various issues and fields of research. This includes ethical aspects of the design and conduct of research, the way human participants or animals within research projects are treated, and aspects of scientific misconduct. Research integrity is recognized as the attitude and habit of the researchers to conduct research according to appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards. The fields of research ethics and research integrity combine general ethical reflections, ethics and law as academic disciplines addressing research activities, moral attitudes of researchers, normative policies of stakeholders like sponsors or funding organizations, and various ethical expectations of the civil society. Against this background a joint network and platform of research ethics and research integrity will strengthen activities of education and training in this field, promote a culture of integrity, and foster the development of and compliance with joint rules and norms. This is to improve the awareness of ethical standards in the research community taking into account the diversity of stakeholders. The networking process will also be an important step to enhance the effectiveness of research. Ignoring RI leads to ineffective research and science.
ENERI will meet these demands and challenges by establishing an operable platform of actors in the fields of research ethics and research integrity. The proposed network will to be based on existing networks, projects and infrastructures that already initiated and developed important steps in sharing information, training and capacity building. Research ethics committees, review boards, ombudspersons’ offices, research integrity offices and supporting structures are the established bodies monitoring, accompanying and assisting the process of responsible and justifiable research. Therefore the European Network of Research Integrity Offices (ENRIO) and the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (EUREC) mutually initiated this proposed European Network of Research Ethics and Research Integrity (ENERI) in collaborations with experts in academic research ethics (RE) and responsible research and innovation (RRI), practitioners in training and education in research ethics, and specialists in e-communication and database design.