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Welcome to
European Research area information portal


Ethics in research

Ethics is often perceived by researchers as unnecessary administration, hampering or even obstructing research. The reality is that ethics places the boundaries between what is ethically acceptable and what is no longer. In any case, ethics has no ambition to regulate research and not to limit academic freedom as guaranteed by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in Art. 13. The ethical evaluation process aims to improve the quality of the research presented.
The European Commission deals with the ethical dimension of projects being submitted from 2 perspectives. On the one hand, they evaluate how ethically sensitive aspects are treated in the projects and also focus on the culture of scientific integrity of the researchers involved - that is, the issue of conducting research ethically.


Excellent research must necessarily be ethical


1. Ethically sensitive areas

If ethically sensitive issues are addressed in the project, a detailed justification of the need and adequacy of use e.g. Human data, human tissues, human subjects or animals. Furthermore, it is necessary to evaluate the burden-benefit ratio of the participants, to describe possible potential consequences of research for human dignity, society, the environment, culture, to easily demonstrate the applicant's ability to handle the ethical dimensions of the project sensibly.

Horizon 2020 (in the H2020 project submission rules) identifies the following areas of research that need to be treated ethically:

  1. Protection of human subjects (human embryo / fetus, human stem cells from both adult and embryo)
  2. Protection of animals
  3. Data and privacy protection
  4. Environmental protection and research security
  5. Participation of non-European (third) countries
  6. Abuse (malevolent) and dual use research results


Horizon 2020 does not support the following research activities:

  • Research activities aimed at cloning human subjects for reproduction.
  • Research activities to modify the genetic heritage of mankind if these modifications become hereditary (research on the treatment of gonadal cancer is funded).

(c) Research activities to investigate the emergence of a human embryo only for research purposes or for the purpose of stem cell acquisition, including through somatic cell nuclear transfer.


2. Responsible research conduct – Research Integrity)

Horizon 2020 work programs explicitly pay close attention to the issue of scientific integrity. The European Commission emphasizes the need to maintain and deepen a culture of scientific integrity in the realization of research.

The key key principles behind scientific integrity are:

  • Absolute integrity of practice, teaching and science administration
  • Transparency,
  • conducting research critically and without prejudice
  • Compliance with the highest professional and moral standards.


Scientific integrity is a prerequisite and a recognized condition for quality scientific work in international competition. The opposite of scientific integrity is scientific dishonesty and research misconduct. Aware of the fundamental principles of scientific integrity mentioned above, which must be precisely avoided. In cases where it occurs, it is necessary to thoroughly investigate it and ultimately to draw appropriate consequences in confirmed cases.

At present, when the percentage of successful grant applications is constantly small, strong motivation for researchers can be expected, even at the cost of violating scientific integrity rules (falsification, fabrication and plagiarism). In addition, competition pressure can also lead to negligence (questionable research practices) and often the lack of information and education in the field of scientific integrity is the cause of such behavior.

In particular, the devastating consequences of scientific dishonesty are:

  • Discrediting science and distrusting the public
  • Mistrust among colleagues - scientists
  • Loss of time and money
  • In some cases, impact on public health and national policy-making.

The culture of scientific integrity needs to be implemented at all stages of the research activity - in the preparation, evaluation, as well as funding and implementation phase of Horizon 2020 projects.

Basic violations of scientific integrity include:

  • Fabrication refers to the generation of results, the recording of fictitious data, or the administration of fabricated messages.
  • Counterfeiting is the manipulation of research or deliberate change and omission of inappropriate facts, data and data.
  • These two categories are scientific fraud and are among the most serious violations of the essence of science.
  • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, research results or words, without proper recognition. It is an unacceptable form of unethical behavior and violation of rules towards other researchers, although it may not interfere with the nature of scientific research as seriously as fabrication and counterfeiting.

Then there is a large group of practices that undermine the traditional values ​​of science and research:

  • Doubtful research practices are activities that can seriously jeopardize the research process. These practices do not threaten the integrity of scientific research directly, but can contribute to a breach of trust in the integrity of scientific research, to the impact of scientific research, to the loss of time and resources, and, last but not least, to the weakening and distortion of the new scientific generation.


The main responsibility for resolving any scientific dishonesty in the Horizon 2020 project is with the organization in which the research is conducted. The European Commission expects these research organizations to have structures in place that are able to respond to such cases responsibly and inform the Commission of the outcome of the investigation, as well as to notify the European Commission of the outcome.

The ERC Council has set up a CoIME (ERC Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest) which deals with cases of scientific dishonesty of projects submitted and dealt with under the H2020 program.

The European Commission recommends that all researchers carrying out research supported by Horizon 2020 adopt the principles of the European Code of Codes on Research Integrity. The Code is a joint output of two organizations - ALLEA (Federation of All European Academies) and ESF (European Science Foundation). Among other things, it describes in detail the principles and procedure for investigating allegations of scientific dishonesty, as well as the recommended text in international agreements dealing with cases of dishonesty in international projects, as proposed by the OECD Global Science Forum.

Rules for evaluating the ethical dimension of the H2020 project.

All proposals for funding projects will be subject to a process of evaluating the project's ethical dimension. Ethics Review Procedure (ERP) carried out by the Ethics Review Panel.

The Ethics Review (ERP) process focuses on checking compliance with all ethical rules and standards, as well as relevant European and national legislation, international conventions and declarations, authorizations and approvals by national ethics committees, and for applicants to be aware of all ethical and social consequences of planned research.

The procedure is as follows:

  • Ethics Pre-Screening
  • 2nd Screening (Ethics Screening)
  • 3rd Ethics Assessment
  • Second Ethics Assessment
  • possibly monitoring (audits and controls during project solution - Ethics Check and Ethics Audit)


This procedure may result in additional requirements related to project ethics, fulfillment of which is a prerequisite for signing the grant agreement control. In particular, they aim to assist the applicant in complying with all the ethical principles of the project (prevention, possible corrections) during the project.

Controls and audits may lead to an amendment to the grant agreement. In serious cases of violation of the principles, the European Commission may proceed to a reduction of funding, to sanctions enshrined in the grant agreement or even to the repeal of the grant agreement.

RNDr. Soňa Ftáčniková, PhD.

Email: Sona.Ftacnikova@cvtisr.sk

Tel.: +421 2 5720 4502