What is research ethics?

Research Ethics

Research ethics addresses the application of ethical principles or values to various issues and fields of research, including:

  • 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 aspects of scientific misconduct.

The main actors in the field are researchers, research ethics committees (RECs) or other ethics bodies, funders and sponsors, and publishers.

The ongoing discussions about research ethics led more and more to institutional arrangements and a legal framework, especially for medical research. Rules are based on central declarations such as the Declaration of Helsinki and commission reports such as the Belmont Report

One of ENERIs main partners is EUREC, the European Network of research Ethics Committees. EUREC brings together local and national research ethics committee (REC) members from different European countries. The function of RECs is to review research projects involving human beings. RECs often focus on medical fields. However, there is also a strong need for ethical review beyond biomedical research, e.g. of research projects in the social sciences in psychology and in technical fields, like research in artificial intelligence and robotics. Non-medical research with human participants has a comparable moral dimension to medical research. Only a few RECs are dealing with research outside the medical sector and operational guidelines for RECs to review research are existing only in the biomedical field.

Against this background ENERI will strengthen activities of education and training in this field 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.

For more information on research ethics please read the ENERI e-Manual.