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Welcome to the information portal
about the European Research Area (ERA)

EN

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:

  1. Research activities aimed at cloning human subjects for reproduction.
  2. Research activities to modify the genetic heritage of mankind if these modifications become hereditary (research on the treatment of gonadal cancer is funded)
  3. 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 prerequisited 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, scientific misconduct must be precisely avoided. In cases where it occurs, it is necessary to thoroughly investigate it and ultimately  draw appropriate consequences in confirmed cases.

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

In particular, the devastating consequences of scientific dishonesty are:

  • it damages the research processes,
  • degrades relationships among researchers,
  • undermines trust in and the credibility of research,
  • wastes resources and may expose research subjects, users, society or the environment to unnecessary harm.

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

Basic violations of scientific integrity include:

  • Fabrication is making up results and recording them as if they were real.
  • Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment or processes or changing, omitting or suppressing data or results without justification.
  • Plagiarism is using other people’s work and ideas without giving proper credit to the original source, thus violating the rights of the original author(s) to their intellectual outputs.

These three forms of violation are considered particularly serious since they distort the research record.

There are further violations of good research practice that damage the integrity of the research process or of researchers and violate the traditional values ​​of  the research enterprise - questionable research practices (QRP).They do not directly damage the integrity of the research process but they can:

  • erode confidence in the integrity of the research process;
  • violate traditions associated with science;
  • affect scientific conclusion;
  • waste time and resources;
  • weaken the education of new scientists.

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 of misconduct in responsible way and inform the Commission of the outcomes of the investigation. The ERC Council has set up a CoIME (ERC Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest, Scientific misconduct and Erthics https://erc.europa.eu/erc-standing-committees/conflict-interests-scientific-misconduct-and-ethical-issues) which deals with cases of scientific dishonesty of the ERC 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 (https://allea.org/code-of-conduct/). 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 (http://www.oecd.org/sti/scienceandtechnologypolicy/40188303.pdf).

 

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.

ERP  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
  • Ethics Screening
  • Ethics Assessment
  • Second Ethics Assessment
  • Ethics monitoring (audits and controls to ensure that the research complies with the ethics principles throughout the duration of the grant)
  • Ethics Check and Ethics Audit (amendment to the Grant Agreement)

 

This procedure may result in additional requirements related to project ethics, fulfillment of which is a prerequisite for signing the Grant Agreement control. The objective is to assist the applicant in complying with all the ethical principles of the project (prevention, possible corrections) during the project.

In serious cases of violation of the principles, the European Commission may proceed to a reduction of the grant and suspension or termination of grants.

RNDr. Soňa Ftáčniková, PhD.

Email: Sona.Ftacnikova@cvtisr.sk

Tel.: +421 2 5720 4502