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, whether research results may be misused for criminal purposes and it refers also on 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.
Research ethics – considered as the more generic concept – is likely to be one of the ethical sub-disciplines that leads more and more to institutional arrangements and guidelines. The most well-known in this regard are the research ethical guidelines for medical research. Based on central declarations such as the Declaration of Helsinki and commission reports such as the Belmont Report, these guidelines have shaped medical research practice not only in terms of content, but also institutionally regarding professional law, the involvement of research ethics committees or institutional review boards etc. Beyond the implementation of those guidelines into the infrastructure of research institutions, the guidelines of research funding need to comply with ethical research standards. Therefore, funding organizations and scientific journals that are ready to publish findings of research projects play an increasingly important role in the process of implementing normative principles of research ethics. Nearly all research funding organisations and sponsors commit researchers to agreed ethical rules, principles, and standards. The funders conduct ethical reviews of research projects to care for a sustainable application of these norms. At the same time, European Union research funding seeks not only to operationalize and develop research ethical guidelines and principles, but also to react constructively to the national differences between these norms. Since the legislation and organization referring to research ethics differ in the Member States.
As part of the recent European practice, it can be shown that non-medical research with human participants has a similar or comparable moral dimension to medical research, but less often equivalent precautions are available for a practice that appropriately addresses these ethical issues. Although all research with human participants is subject to process of getting an informed consent originally derived from the ethics of medical research, other procedural precautions such as the review by an ethics committee are often not implemented outside medical research. Moreover, in international comparison, the requirement for the ethical accompaniment of non-medical research varies considerably.
Against this background the ENERI network and platform 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, and it brings Research Ethics Committees and Research Integrity Offices closer together. The networking process will also be an important step to enhance the effectiveness of research itself, since ignoring ethical considerations leads to ineffective research and science.
For more information, please click here to download the ENERI e-Manual.