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Introduction to Research Ethics


Ethical problems arise in situations in which our actions are likely to affect others ... Wager, Elizabeth: How to survive peer review. BMJ Publishing Group, 2005. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Research Ethics

Introduction to Research Ethics
  • Session 5,
  • Consequences of Research and Ethical codes
  • Elin Palm

  • Scientists responsibility for the consequences
    of research
  • Ethical codes
  • Exam
  • Evaluation

Terminology Morality and ethics
  • Morality An individuals set of immediate
    intuitions concerning what is right and what is
  • Ethics A set of carefully thought-out principles
    governing or influencing behaviour.

What is an ethical problem?
  • Practical problems
  • Lack of knowledge or resources
  • Ethical problems arise in situations in which our
    actions are likely to affect others
  • Uncertainty about which of several possible
    actions (including the possibility of not acting
    at all) is the right one.
  • None of the possible actions seems right (ethical

3 kinds of research ethical problems
  • Problems concerning good scientific practice
    and researchers relations and responsibilities
    toward each other
  • Problems concerning research subjects (humans or
  • Problems concerning the external consequences of
    scientific research (what will research results
    be used for..?)

The researcher in society
  • Scientists have a responsibility to serve
  • People who produce knowledge should be
    responsible for its consequences.
  • (Resnik 1998 p. 147)
  • Science versus knowledge

Research and industry
  • Industry is driven by profit
  • Possibility of conflict with research ethical
    principles of openness, honesty, freedom of
    research, ?

Science and the public
  • Researchers have a responsibility to communicate
    their results to the public.
  • Tredje uppgiften
  •   Högskolorna skall också samverka med det
    omgivande samhället och informera om sin
  • Högskolelagen (SFS 19961392)

Ethical codes
  • Ethical codes are specialized and specific codes
    of ethics, directed at a specific profession or a
    specific group of people.

An ethical code The KTH ethics policy
  • What is the purpose of the policy? Why does KTH
    have such a policy?
  • Does the policy fulfill its purpose?
  • How useful do you find this policy? Will it be of
    help when considering cases of the kind we have
    discussed in this course?

What is the purpose of an ethical code?
  • Action guidance
  • To resolve conflicts
  • To increase awareness of ethical problems
  • To create respect for the profession
  • Send a signal...

KTH Ethics Policy
  • KTH basic values
  • KTH operations rest on a foundation of ethics
    based on human rights, democracy and free, open
    debate. The conviction that technical/scientific
    research and education are able to contribute to
    a better life situation for individual people,
    sustainable development and the improved
    functioning of society plays a vital role for all
    KTH activities. KTH works to implement free
    exchange of information and for national and
    international cooperation. Gender equality and
    repudiation of all forms of discrimination are a
    self-evident part of the KTH value platform.

Research at KTH should
  • aim at maintaining high levels of scientific
    quality and achieving international recognition.
  • aim at systematically and critically searching
    for new knowledge. Knowledge that is intended to
    increase understanding of the world and knowledge
    that has relevance for social development.
  • whenever suitable for the task at hand, carry
    out activities in cooperation with the rest of
    society, including companies working with
    technical development.

Research at KTH should
  • always be carried out in such a manner so as not
    to expose the integrity of the research or the
    researcher to risk of any kind. Any connections
    to commercial or other interests, which may cause
    a conflict of interest or credibility, must be
    openly reported. Expert advice, participation in
    debates, authorship of popular scientific works
    etc. which is connected to the researcher and
    teacher roles must be characterised by
    objectivity and integrity.

Research at KTH should
  • be carried out without tolerance for any form of
    plagiarism, exertion of undue influence or other
    impropriety. This includes providing proper and
    correct references and stating any indebtedness
    to the work and efforts of others.
  • be carried out with the aim of publication in
    scientific journals and books in both traditional
    and IT-based publishing forms.
  • be published or reported in such a manner that
    the efforts of colleagues are recognised to a
    degree equivalent to their scientific
    contributions. Co-authorship means joint
    responsibility for the material published.
  • when other people are involved, be carried out
    with respect for the individuals autonomy and
    personal integrity.
  • when animals are involved, include a thorough
    animal experiment ethical review.

  • Doctoral studies at KTH should
  • be designed so that students and teachers
    together work to ensure the student achieves
    established educational goals. Both parties must
    be committed to the attainment of these goals.
  • be led by a supervisor (or a supervisory group)
    with good levels of competence within the
    relevant research field and who are sensitive to
    the interests and views of the doctoral student
    within the framework of any project goals.
  • be supervised taking into consideration the
    doctoral students relationship of dependence as
    concerns his/her supervisor.
  • be characterised by mutual respect between the
    doctoral student and supervisor.
  • lead to the doctoral student developing his/her
    independence and, after graduation, possessing
    the capacity to carry out research of good
    scientific quality.
  • be carried out with zero tolerance of all forms
    of partiality, plagiarism, prohibited exertion of
    influence or pressure or other impropriety during
    teaching and examinations.
  • ensure that the doctoral student, after
    graduation, is well versed in the ethical
    problems relevant to his/her own research field.

  • Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving
    Human Subjects
  • Adopted 1964 by World Medical Association, last
    amendment 2004
  • A. Introduction (extracts)
  • 4 Medical progress is based on research which
    ultimately must rest in part on experimentation
    involving human subjects.
  • 5 In medical research on human subjects,
    considerations related to the well-being of the
    human subject should take precedence over the
    interests of science and society.
  • 7 In current medical practice and in medical
    research, most prophylactic, diagnostic and
    therapeutic procedures involve risks and burdens.

  • 10 It is the duty of the physician in medical
    research to protect the life, health, privacy,
    and dignity of the human subject.
  • 18 Medical research involving human subjects
    should only be conducted if the importance of the
    objective outweighs the inherent risks and
    burdens to the subject. This is especially
    important when the human subjects are healthy
  • 19 Medical research is only justified if there is
    a reasonable likelihood that the populations in
    which the research is carried out stand to
    benefit from the results of the research.
  • 20 The subjects must be volunteers and informed
    participants in the research project.

Minimal requirements for ethical deliberation
  • Serious consideration of the issue
  • Open-minded discussion
  • Willingness to give reasons for one's views
  • Consistency
  • Fairness

Summing up
  • Many of the recommendations and advices in the
    course book may seem fairly straightforward
  • And, there are laws and policys to regulate
    scientific conduct
  • Nevertheless, research ethical problems occur and
    researchers sometimes behave unethically.
  • This course does not provide precise answers,
    rather it serves to stimulate reflection on
    ethically problematic matters.

Research ethics ressources
  • General resources
  • Codex (the Swedish Research
    Council's gateway to research ethics guidelines
    for many areas of science)
  • Resnik, David B. The ethics of science an
    introduction. Routledge, 1998. (A general
    introduction to research ethics available at
    the KTH library).
  • Whitbeck, Caroline. Ethics in Engineering
    Practice and Research. Cambridge University
    Press. (Available at the KTH library)
  • Vad är god forskningssed? Rapport från
    Vetenskapsrådet, 2005.
  • (In Swedish. Available at http//
  • Issues related to publication
  • Wager, Elizabeth How to survive peer review. BMJ
    Publishing Group, 2005. (Available as e-book from
    E-brary via KTH library)

The exam
  • Exams will be assessed according to how well they
  • describe the ethical problem,
  • draw in relevant ethical principles,
  • point out relevant empirical issues, including
    how empirical facts may affect the ethical
    assessment of the case,
  • provide a nuanced discussion and solution of the
    ethical problem.

The exam
  • 1 point per achieved criterion (1/2 points may be
    given per attempts that go some way but that are
    not completely satisfactory)
  • Maximum 22 points. To pass, 11 points are
  • Graduate students Pass/fail
  • Undergarduate A-F scale.

Aims of the course
  • After completing this course, students should be
    able to identify and describe common research
    ethical problems, and analyze the problems taking
    relevant empirical factors into account.
    Moreover, students should be able to suggest
    possible solutions to the problems and to justify
    the chosen solution by means of basic research
    ethical principles.

Thank you!
  • Questions?