Institutionen för informationsteknologi

Abstracts IIIa, 21 January; Good research practice: What is it?; Good research practice; Freedom, responsibility and universality of science



When we are doing research we continuously need to make ethical considerations and decisions, both as researchers and as human beings. We always have a personal responsibility for our choices, or as it is expressed at the Codex website: "it could be said that the researcher's own ethical responsibility forms the basis for all research ethics. That is, the researcher him/herself has the ultimate responsibility to see that the research is of good quality and is morally acceptable"( In the role as researchers we have a number of rules and guidelines that help us work ethically correct, but what happens when different aspects clash towards each other? How shall we think? What shall we do? Can we know what is appropriate or not? What if one way to go is beneficial for one category of respondents, but not for another? These problems become even worse if we also consider that effects of our ethical (or un-ethical?) decisions and practices are situational and contextually dependent; it might be right for that situation/context but not for the other. Of course we can and should reflect upon as many potential consequences as possible, but is this enough if we also include reflections upon dynamics? Many workplaces and real life environments are fluid and highly dynamic. What if the context and situations are continuously changing so the decision we take one week is no longer ethically correct and valid the next? One potential way to handle these issues is to focus more on thoughts and reasoning than on the actual decision making. Still; the reality is that we need to make decisions. Otherwise our research practices and presentations will get blurry. So; what I argue for is that when we take ethical decisions it needs to be very well thought through in many different aspects, and we must be able to motivate our decisions so it is clear for everyone involved how the process has been put through. This perspective were lacking in the quite intensively discussed example during the seminar, concerning researcher Adam (Gustafsson et al 2006) who denied other researchers to examine his data due to ethical responsibility towards his respondents. We were kind of stuck in discussions about the solutions and what was right or wrong to do. Still; we did not know how Adam himself had reasoned about ethical issues during the actual research process. How could we know if something is ethically correct or not if we do not know anything about reasoning, thoughts and ethically related practices during the research process?
Another issue that was discussed during the seminar was researcher´s honesty versus needs for funding. It was discussed like a potential contradiction between desired levels of honesty on the one hand, and other forcing impacts from the so called reality on the other. I agree with Gustafsson et al who write that: "the requirement of honesty is in fact considerably more stringent in research than it is in everyday life"(Gustafsson et al (2006). This issue certainly needs to be further discussed. Is there really a contradiction between honesty and forces in reality? If there is; how should it be handled? Can we accept a certain amount of dishonesty on favor of funding? If we can; where is the borderline between researcher´s honesty and funding needs? What about our trustworthiness as researchers? If we consciously allow us to limit our honesty towards respondents, as in the discussed case, how can we promote ourselves and our results as trustworthy?
ReferenterGustafsson, B., Hermerén, G., Petterson B. (2006) Good Research Practice-What is it? Vetenskapsrådet


Good Research Practices - What is it? (89 pages) was published by the Swedish Research Council in 2006. The authors Gustafsson, Hermerén and Pettersson have their background in theoretical astrophysics, medical ethics, and political science respectively. In 2011 a thorough revision Good Research Practices (129 pages) was published with Hermerén and Pettersson as authors.

The authors´ approach is to discuss good research practices as a matter of ethics where the term ´ethics´ is used as a type of theory on the area of morals [1]. While morals manifest themselves in a person´s behaviour, and not necessarily reflected upon, ethics refer to precisely formulated norms. Another distinction is made between internal and external research ethics, where `internal´ refers to `professional´ ethics (Sw. Forskaretik); that is, issues related to the task, to co-workers, fellow researchers and funding agencies. By `external´ ethics is meant relations to participants, informants, subjects and others affected by the research. The corresponding Swedish term is Forskningsetik [1], [2].

The books give a systematic overview of the research scientist´s typical activities in conjunction with examples of situations where conflicting interests might appear and where the reader is encouraged to reflect upon possible actions. One observation I made is that a disproportional number of the examples refer to the field of medical research, often where important commercial interests are indicated in a more or less direct way. For the ordinary researcher in social science or arts and letters, similar temptations to unethical behaviour are regrettably absent most often.

The second observation is that the majority of those conflicting situations is not confined to the field of research activities but are likely to occur in most contexts of professional life. In particular this is the case in the earlier version [2], which to a high degree resembles any of those guides to enhanced corporate behaviour which at least some decades ago were considered a `must´ in any major organisation, private or public, of which few of the employees were aware, and still less had read.

What I consider specific for the academic environment is its claim for `disinterestedness´ (the Swedish Jäv), in situations of peer review or assessing applications and proposal. In this respect I consider the revised version [1] an improvement, with a stronger focus on what is particular for academic research, and less of accumulated trivialities. In any case I find it a sign of our time, that the Swedish Research Council is publishing handbooks on how to behave for educational purpose to a social category that at least some decades ago was regarded as an intellectual elite.

A third observation is that the text transpires a positivistic world view although the authors claim that the same considerations of what constitutes good research practices - and thus what is ethical or not - are to be applied independently of philosophy of knowledge.This is exactly the core idea of positivism, that all scientific endeavours should be subject to the same quality criteria. What is here included is the disregard of contextual matters as critical for what kind of validity claims should be addressed.

Finally, what I find most interesting from an practical-ethical point of view is how to protect the integrity of those individuals who are providing their personlised data for the empirical research; what is termed external research ethics. This topic is discussed on 4 of the 129 pages, in general terms and with references to other documents for the researcher´s further reading. And of course, with the discussion in terms of medical research. This could be compared with the Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning (2002) from 1990, with 17 short pages with clear and concise instructions how to do. Published by the Swedish Research Council as well. Many things do not improve with time.

[1] G. Hermerén and B. Petersson, Good Research Practice. Stockholm: The Swedish Research Council, 2011.
[2] B. Gustafsson, G. Hermerén, and B. Petersson, Good Research Practice - What Is It?: Views, guidelines and examples. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet, 2006.
[3] Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet, 2002.



Professional Ethics in Academic Research
The here presented documents are illustrating the challenges of applying professional ethics in the field of academic research. These professional ethics have to been seen separately from research ethics, as it is also described in the two central documents that are published by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskaprådet).
While both texts of the Swedish Research Council deal with the researcher on a more individual level (illustrated by example cases that can occur in everyday life) another text by the International research council puts the more general demands in the focus.
Further examples, such as the case of the scientists that were held responsible for the damage of the L´Aquila earthquake as well as the special conditions under which Sweden crown princess was allowed to take her university degree, exemplify some of the problems of the concept.

As the texts of the Research Council show, professional ethics in research are a lot about balancing out the greater good that the research is supposed to achieve on the one hand and on the other hand the researchers personal goals and motivations.
Even though in the perfect world those two would be identical, the examples from practice show that this is often not the case.
Hereby the motivations of researcher play an important role, in particular when it comes to more extrinsical motivations such as money or reputation. Here the boundaries often get blurred, since some motivations cannot be clearly defined as intrinsically ("I want to solve this problem because I want to bring the research in my field forward") or extrinsically ("I want to solve this problem because I want to get more funding and thereby bring the research in my field forward").
In other cases there is a direct conflict between the greater good and the personal interests of a person: In the case of princess Victoria, the question is for example if her increased need for privacy outweighs the need for making public funded research available to everyone.
Even though it is barely out-spelled in the Research Councils publication, research has a certain obligation towards society, in particular through its terms of funding. In particular in European countries, where funding is mainly provided through the public, the demands towards professional ethics in research institutions are respectively higher.
Which opens up the question if the profession of researchers is in any way different from those of a "normal" profession, for example in industry. The argument that the work of researcher is funded by the public and has therefore be intended for the greater good is one side of it.
The case of the four scientists that were held responsible for the catastrophic effects of the earth quake in l´Aquila because they failed to warn the population shows how the expectations of the public are differing from those to other professions. It also shows that the image of scientists does differ. Scientists are much more perceived as having a certain responsibility but also a certain capacity to do things.
Broken down to a more individual level, scientists have to deal with the challenge of combining these expectations with their own need for financial security as well as private life. In many countries it is expected from researcher (in particular in the early stage of their career) to work not only often overtime but also for a often very low salary.



The principles described in the International Council for Science (ICSU) brochure "Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science" [1] define conditions that are either necessary or sufficient for science and society to coexist. Specifically, freedoms are pre-conditions on societies that are necessary to the practice of science, while responisibilities are post-conditions on scientists that are sufficient for the protection of societies.

A particularly interesting section is the section "On responsibilities to society, which lists two sets of responsibilities.
The first list is comprised of the social responsibilities of the scientific community as a whole
The second list is derived from the first, as indicated by its introduction: "[a]t the level of the individual scientist these communal responsibilities imply..."

'Imply' is a telling choice of words in this context. Indeed, the relationship between the listed responsibilities of the scientific community and those of individual scientists is one of logical implication: the conjunction of individual responsibilities are a necessary condition on the upholding of the communal responsibilities.
The two lists are, however, not logically equivalent: the individual responsibilities are not sufficient to ensure the fulfillment of the communal responsibilities.

For example, consider the communal responsibility to "try to ensure the benefits and minimize the potential dangers of applications of science." Certainly some of the individual responsibilities are critically important to the fulfillment of this communal responsibility, but is the list sufficient?

Consider the possibility of manufacturing DNA to fool forensic testing [2], which is a clear case of a harmful application. Several of the individual responsibilities would appear to prevent scientists from participating in such a fraud, specifically the calls to acknowledge scientific uncertainty (e.g., DNA testing is not foolproof), to communicate honestly (e.g., reporting fraudulent results is lying), and placing society above personal profit (e.g., by not getting paid to be an expert witness).

On the other hand, the individual responsibilities of scientists are less clear in the case of voice stress analysis (VSA), popularly considered as "lie detection". As the authors of [3] are quick to point out, the individuals promoting VSA are *not* scientists; instead, they are shady individuals who are purposefully misrepresenting prior scientific work in order to provide an air of respectability to a, apparently wholly unscientific, system. None of the listed individual responsibilities appears to apply here. The problem is that all the individual responsibilities are centered on scientists own work; what is lacking is a sense of responsibility for the actions of *others* (either non-scientists, or fellow scientists) who make use of scientific works.

It seems that what is required is some intermediate level of responsibility between the communal and the individual. Surely it cannot be the individual responsibility of every scientist to patrol every attempt to use science as a justification for an application; however, the scientific community as a whole surely has responsibility for vetting the scientific claims that underlie those applications.

Scientists implicitly claim the role of gatekeeper of scientific knowledge.
The scientific community decides what is or is not science, which results will stand and which results will fall; science is a social process by which we strive towards the truth.
By asserting that only scientists are empowered to make these distinctions, the scientific community has claimed a territory, and hence taken upon itself the responsibility for patrolling the borders of that territory.




In this abstract, I wanted to discuss three articles suggested for this seminar and focus on whether they illustrate good research practice according to the rules stated in [2], p. 8.

In general, students who are awarded a BA degree have completed an essay of some sort, in which they have contributed in a small way to research and to science: they have done a small literature study, a small research project, etc. Thus, the purpose of the essay or project is not only personal development of the student's skills, but also to make a small contribution to the scientific community. The essay is typically made publicly accessible. In general, this practice can be considered good according to VR's definitions, since results are being openly disseminated.

In [1] however we are told that the Crown Princess was awarded a BA in peace and conflict studies, but without her essay or project having been made public. I do not believe that this represents good research practice, for the following reasons. Firstly, we do not know whether she actually did any research, since the results are not public. Secondly, since no part of the alleged research is made public, there is no way to determine whether she has followed good practice -- for example, the above mentioned rules cannot even be applied.

The authors of [3] have analyzed lie detectors and found that they are no better at detecting liars than a randomly flipped coin. Based on this article, we can consider two aspects of research: that conducted by the authors, and that conducted by the researchers whose work they analyze. The authors, I believe, have been following good research practice in general. However, it is hard to tell whether they have been fair in assessing the lie detector research: they could, conceivably, be biased in some way that would lead them to dismiss lie detectors entirely. On the other hand, if we believe that the authors are open and truthful, then we can perhaps double-check their assessments, thereby finding out whether they have been fair or not.

According to the authors of [3], the assessed researchers have not been following good research practice. A main point that they immediately note is that there is no theoretical principle or method that would explain how lie detection could possibly work. This would indicate that the assessed researchers have not examined or presented the basic assumptions for their studies.
It might also indicate that they have simply not been telling the truth. Thus, given that we believe the authors of [3], lie detector researchers have not been following good research practice.

Finally, six scientists were convicted of manslaughter after not being truthful about earthquake risks [4]. Disregarding the moral aspects of this issue, I wanted to reason about whether the scientists had followed good research practice. If we trust Italian media reporting from the trial, it would seem that they had not followed good research practice: they were not truthful about their research results. However, since earthquakes are unpredictable, it might also be that they were not being intentionally untruthful but simply giving the best and most truthful answer that they could at that time. The VR rules do not distinguish between 'actual' truth and 'perceived' truth, so it is difficult to judge this one.




Good research? Bad research?
When I start thinking what is a good research, the first thing comes to my mind is the good output of the research, which is indicated to maybe lots of published papers or shocked scientific results. What else then? A good research should be a moral research. In this abstract, I will summarize the book "Good Research Practice- What is it?" from VR[1], and try to relate some examples to the issues. The book mentioned "Merton's CUDOS norms", which corresponds to communism, universalism, disinterestedness and organized scepticism. Although it´s quite obvious and clear, but personally I think it could be quite hard to adapt it into real-life research, for one thing, there are different types of researches. There´s a news from uppsala university about the fired professor in Math department[2]. Although it´s still unclear for me about all the details in the news, but I think the conflicts reflected to the difficulties of CUDOS.
Regarding to the paper publishing problems, the book notes that "Researchers are generally considered to have a duty to publish their results ... Researchers must be careful therefore make no undertakings to refrain from publishing their results, to restrict their publication..." Here is an example of bad publishing, a Dutch professor called Diederik Stapel in social psychologist faked data for years, he said he had succumbed to competitive pressures and the need to publish. So the number of papers couldn´t be the only measurement of a research.
I don´t do any animal experiments, all things I deal with are from computers. In section data handling and archiving, it declared that there are several things to consider about the data. Verification of data, secondary use of data, investigating allegations of research misconduct. I am thinking about issues in publishing data together with paper. It could be nice to have the data, while reading the papers and it´s easy to reconstruct and test the methods, but whether publish the data or not should depend on what kind of data is. There are also problems with publishing paper and share source codes. I have one friend works also with computers. It´s traditional that they shared their codes in internet. The thing is he shared the code before he wrote the paper, then he could not publish any more, and he complained why they have to share the codes.

The book also talked about research planning, fundings, collaborations and roles in research. It also gave tips (or guidelines) to different types of researches and talked about research misconduct.

Hereby I am thinking about could we taking our environment into account, which I don´t mean to the working environment. For example, personal computers should be shut down when it doesn´t work, or genetically modified plants (animals) should not hybridized with other plants (I am not sure about this).
[1] Good Research Practice- What is it? Views, guidelines and examples
Bengt Gustafsson, Göran hermerén and Bo Petersson



Within the Swedish health sector a move towards electronic access to health services has led to the development and subsequent deployment of systems enabling patients to, among other services, access their personal electronic health record (EHR) through an ordinary web browser.

All patients treated in Uppsala County now have the possibility to read entries in their records virtually as soon as the clinicians involved in their care have entered the information in the hospital's EHR system. The only exception is patient records containing sensitive information that could potentially be harmful for the patient to read. Presently this exception is applied on a whole health care unit or department basis, where particularly sensitive information is frequently handled (e.g. psychiatric care units, women's clinics, and units concerned with genetics or gene therapy). Assessment of whether an individual patient should be allowed access to his/her own patient record through the online service is not possible. If a patient requests a copy of the health record on paper, which was the only option before the online service was introduced, the health records from the particular units above are first screened and potentially censored by the treating physician and a department of the hospital dedicated to serving these requests.
What can be construed as potentially harmful for a patient to read on his/her own, as opposed to having the same information relayed orally by the treating physician, is not as easily defined as it might seem. As no clear-cut line can be drawn between which patients should be allowed to view their health records and which should not, the decision to nonetheless attempt to draw one becomes complex.

Given the political pressure on Swedish health care providers to implement eHealth services, the question is basically "when and how" to implement rather than "whether or not". In the present case the eHealth implementation project was under the impression that they had given the health care organization ample time to respond to the decision to commence the implementation of the eHealth services. Nonetheless, immediately prior to the implementation of the first services during the fall of 2012 representatives from the university hospital and physician unions expressed that the implementation project was moving too fast and that insufficient considerations had been made regarding the impact of the services on the health care professionals work environment and the safety of their patients. The project team argued that this was not the case, that the services were ready to be implemented, and that if something went wrong there was always the option to shut down the services. The implementation of the services continued, unhindered by the health care professionals' objections.

This difference of perspective can for the physicians part be traced back to their professional ethics, which is akin to general research ethics due to the medical profession and medical practice being so closely related to clinical research. This close relation becomes quite evident when you look at the forms required to be filled out when applying to the Swedish Central Board of Ethics for an ethical evaluation of proposals for research studies. These forms are practically tailored for clinical research purposes, e.g. with fields requesting you to specify the amount and substance you intend to inject into the research subject(s) and requiring that you specify the name of the person who will be responsible for the subjects' safety during the study. Within the medical community one simply does not subject a human being to anything that has not been thoroughly tested beforehand. In the light of this, the health care professionals' loud objections to the eHealth implementation project leader's statement that they can always pull the plug if something goes wrong were perhaps to be expected. A trial and error approach in the midst of a profession devoted to evidence-based practice was not a successful mix, regardless of whether the act of implementing the service was in and of itself ethically sound or not.

Good research, bad research, and the ethics of research in general can be divided into two major areas: good/bad/ethical in the context of 1) what is OK to subject a human being to (or other being we believe to be sentient) within the confines of a research study, and 2) what is considered appropriate behavior within the research community and in the relation between a researcher and the "outside world". While the formal code of ethics as compiled by the Swedish Research Council provides a solid foundation, and while formal documents such as those required when applying for an ethical evaluation of your research proposals provide a scaffolding and serves to reinforce that foundation, the ultimate responsibility to evaluate and decide on what is ethical or not remains with the individual researcher, which is also made explicit in VR's Codex.

Benny Avelin,


In this abstract I will concentrate on ethics not involving what the research is about, but about the way we do research.

Quite interestingly it is noted in a book from VR [1], that "Merton's CUDOS norms provide the cornerstones for the present-day discussion about research misconduct". Even though CUDOS seems slightly obsolete, I am in general in sympathy with what it claims, however as examples show it is not always the best route to take in todays research climate. In the best of worlds (Merton's) one would always follow these guidelines, this would perhaps lead you to act disloyally against the department, as shown in the recent "scandal" at the Mathematics department in Uppsala [2]. Since in a sense, reading what the "fired" professors coworkers wrote about this one gets the picture that they where working for "the good of the community".
From a different side, one could say that the "publish or perish" mentality is hardly helping us researchers follow the CUDOS norms. It is a "not often talked about truth" that many of the published papers (in mathematics at least) contains serious errors, and that the level of most papers published is perhaps not as high as they could be. I am not claiming that people wilfully commit to publishing results with errors, I am merely stating that since we need to write papers all the time, it must reflect on the overall error-level and on the level of papers. Also one part of ones work as a researcher is of course to work as a reviewer, however this is not credited in any way, and it is supposed that everybody follows the CUDOS norms. This is not always the case, and one could wonder under how much scrutiny the paper under review actually is. However as it is stated in [3] the responsibility is always on the individual researcher.
In closing I would like to direct some attention towards the resent dispute agains Elsevier, "The cost of knowledge" [4], New york times [5], The guardian [6]. This shines the light on the responsibilities of publishing houses, now to drive a "profit machine" on research papers. Moreover it shows that we as researchers have a collective responsibility to address issues like this, since profit impedes dissemination of knowledge. It is not a surprise that the ERC (European Research Council) guidelines state that "The ERC requires that all peer-reviewed publications from ERC-funded research projects be deposited on publication into an appropriate research repository where available, such as PubMed Central, ArXiv or an institutional repository, and subsequently made Open Access within 6 months of publication.", [7].

[1] Good Research Practice, Vetenskapsrådets Rapportserie.
[3] Codex,
[4] The cost of knowledge,

Ruth Lochan,


Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science
From The International Council for Science (ICSU)

This is a reflection from the publication from the International Council for Science (ICSU) titled Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science. ICSU is a non-governmental organization founded in 1931 with the mission to `strengthen international science for the benefit of society´ . As at 2008 there are 114 members from 134 countries.
Facets and findings of the scientific community have an active and critical role in the society. Often developments have global effects and consequently it is necessary to have some framework and guidelines which could govern ethics and morality within the different scientific domains. This is necessary to avoid biases such as ethnicity, religion, gender, politics or age. The rights of Scientists engaging in research need to be protected as well as they need to honor the responsibility that goes along with their role.
Additionally, many research projects are funded by tax payers therefore any positive scientific discovery should eventually benefit the society and stakeholders as a whole. It is necessary for governing bodies to oversee that public funded projects are not used for commercial gains (profits). The same is true that discoveries such as cures for prevalent diseases should be readily distributed to those in need. Alternatively, it is important to have safeguards against the misuse of science which can result in dire consequences for example experimenting with humans or distribution of nuclear materials. It is not clear-cut where the scientists´ freedoms and rights end and responsibility begins and sometimes this can be controversial. As such, having an established and recognized governing body such as the ICSU is one way of ensuring there will be ethical and moral practices within the scientific community for the overall benefit of the society.

Tao Qin,


Responsibility, conscience and reality
We continuously have to make ethical considerations and decisions, both as researchers and as human beings, when we face choices. As being expressed at the Codex website: "it could be said that the researcher's own ethical responsibility forms the basis for all research ethics, we always are having a personal responsibility for our decisions.
My friend has to make a choice between two projects.
Apparently, he just can get a little money and much more difficult for him to finish the project. Even after his accomplishment, he may publish a lot of articles and own many job opportunities. Compared to project two, project one is really inferior.
He also would like to choose project two, because he can get a lot of money and job opportunity from supervisor. However, he can´t face the truth that the products will pollute his homeland! He can´t sacrifice his homeland for money, but he is eager to pleased his supervisor instead.
One potential way to handle these kind of issues is to focus more on thoughts and reasoning than on the actual decision making. But it is an ethical dilemma. Clearly now, if he wants to pleased my supervisor and department, he should choose project two, because they are very important for his career. Otherwise, he really doesn´t want to pollute the environment, specially my homeland. If he does heteronomy thinking, he will choose project two. If he does autonomy thinking, he has to give up project two. Because the products he will work on will pollute his omeland, I would feel guilt forever. According to autonomy thinking, he will choose project one, no matter how much money I get at present. This issue certainly needs to be further discussed. Is there really a contradiction between honesty and forces in reality? If there is; how should it be handled? Can we accept a certain amount of dishonesty on favor of funding? If we can; where is the borderline between researcher´s honesty and funding needs? What about our trustworthiness as researchers?
Another issue that was discussed was researcher´s honesty and conscience versus needs for funding or money. In this case, the last thing he wants to do is to pollute environment, especially his homeland, so I give this item weighting -10. He cares about his supervisor and the money he gets very much, so I give these items weighting 4. How could we know if something is ethically correct or not if we do not know anything about reasoning, thoughts and ethically related practices during the research process? If we consciously allow us to limit our honesty towards respondents, as in the discussed case, how can we promote ourselves and our results as trustworthy?
These theories may help us to make a decision when we encounter a ethical dilemma, but they can´t make us happy! The method is logical and rational, but people are emotional and vulnerable. Maybe we made decision easily, but we still can´t forget the negative or side effect of the consequence.



Individual scientists have a responsibility to conduct their work with honesty, integrity,
openness and respect, and a collective responsibility to maximize the benefit and
minimize the misuse of science for society as a whole.
ICSU (2008)
What is good research and what is a good researcher, does it equal being an ethical
researcher performing research grounded in ethical considerations? Following the rules does
not have to be the same as being ethical and ethical principles does not equal laws and
regulations. Often they overlap, and they are generally intended to overlap. Sometimes
morality demands more than rules do, sometimes morality demands actions that run counter
to the rules. Rules and ethics change with society, both in theory and practice, with new
policies being formulated or old ones re-interpreted or applied in a new way (Gustafsson et
al., 2006).
There are, roughly, three stages involved in research: before, during and after. Before
involves the planning part, where research questions are formulated, methods chosen and
sample is decided upon. What regulations to follow depend partly on subject or what type of
research will be conducted, but ethical considerations regarding e.g. purpose should remain
the same. If a researcher concludes that the results would “cause more harm than good”, they
should adhere to the Uppsala Code and “discontinue the work and publish their assessment”
(Gustafsson et al., 2006, p.25). During involves applying a critical mind during analysis and
to use methods in a competent way. After is about documenting and presenting the results in
a transparent and honest account, such as it is possible to reproduce and/or verify the results
(ICSU, 2008).
Throughout the whole project, the ethics lies within how a researcher handles and act upon
the data and how they present and represent it with the methods available. Some general
rules could be summarised with Honesty, Openness, Orderliness, Consideration and
Impartiality (Gustafsson et al., 2006, p.8). Honesty as in the integrity to be truthful about
both the research conducted as well as about one's contribution. To demonstrate the width of
research, both sources that validate and contrarian results in order to contribute to the field
corpus. Openness as in transparency regarding methods, results, eventual conflicting
interests or dependencies and one’s basic assumptions - all regardless of outcomes (ISI,
2010). Orderliness as in conducting the research in an orderly manner, to handle and retain
source data in a manner that it can be shared with other researchers (or to be available for
verification purposes). Consideration as in respect for human values and rights. Impartiality
as in fairness in assessment and evaluation of other people’s research.
Ethical considerations are largely about finding a reasonable balance between the different
interests that follows the general rules listed above. There might arise need for trade-offs (e.g.
between consideration and openness), but the trade-off should be based in awareness and
respect (ICSU, 2008).
Gustafsson, B., Hermerén, G. & Petersson, B. (2006). Good Research Practice – What Is It?
Views, guidelines and examples. Vetenskapsrådets (The Swedish Research Council)
Rapportserie 1:2006.
International Council for Science (ICSU) (2008). Freedom, Responsibility and Universality
of Science.
ISI (2010). Declaration on Professional Ethics.



The International Council for Sciences (ICSU) is a NGO, which published a booklet which aims to explain the ?Principles of Universality of Science? and to give a ?brief overview of issues relating to the freedom to conduct science and the responsibilities of scientists? [1].
As mentioned on the second page of the report ?Good research practice? [2], it is based on the report by Gustafsson et al. 2006 [3], where Göran Herméren was also a co-author. Both reports have been published by the The Swedish Research Council?s expert group on ethics. The aim of the first report was to discuss what ?can be considered to constitute good research practice? [3], while the last report is a revision of the previous one and ?gives a brief, summary account of the are of research ethics? [2].

Important concepts are discussed and discerned; for instance the difference between ethics and morals / law and morals / research ethics and professional ethics. This is an important issue, since these terms are often used synonymously.

Nowadays the problems researchers face and try to solve can have huge impact on many differ- ent areas, which might not be apparent. Therefore it?s important, that researchers take different consequences into account. This is something, the German Informatics Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik e. V.) put in their ethical guidelines and which was recently claimed by the president of the GI, who also suggested that ?Informatics and Society? should be a mandatory course in informatics education at universities [4].

Ethics codes are introduced, which were mainly developed after World War II and describe in a collection of ethical rules, how a research should be conducted in an ethically sound way with regard to the research subjects [2, p. 18]. Some of these codes are for example the medical Declaration of Helsinki, the Uppsala Code or the previous mentioned ethical guidelines by GI [4]. Those codes or rules can help a researcher to consider ethical issues and determine how to act on it during his work. Some issues which can occur or should be considered in the course of the research process are discussed, for instance how to conduct research, who is responsible for what, the general principles of quality and reliability and so on.

Different types of research are introduced [2, p. 29]
? hypothesis-generating and hypothesis-testing research
? Research using qualitative methods / quantitative methods
? Research explaining phenomena by means of natural law
? Research increasing and deepening knowledge about events processes or texts
? Basic research / applied or commissioned research

Throughout the report, important issues are described, which a researcher should bare in mind, when conducting a research.

Before conducting
? choose and precisely define the research questions [2, p. 24, 32], clearly formulate the aim and highlight certain interesting questions [2, p. 40]
? choose subjects nonarbitrary, provide them detailed information information, obtain their consent, [2, p. 18, 21, 42ff]
? clarify and motivate different conditions and focuses in a study [2, p. 40]
? plan the study so that it allows for the research question to be answered [2, p. 25]
? choose methods with the fewest imaginable harmful consequences on the people and/or animals involved, if the methods are otherwise somewhat equal [2, p. 31]
? choose methods that allows you to answer the research question [2, p. 40]
? explain the methods and handle them correctly and competently [2, p. 40]. Quantitative (based on measurements) and qualitative methods (for instance to interpret people?s views) differ from each other; the latter may challenge the generalizability and objectivity, but supports the interest and depths of the scientific claims [2, cf p. 42]
? be aware of insurance coverage of the research subjects [2, p. 33]

During conducting
? avoidance of risk, design issues [2, p. 18] ? use correct methods and apply them accurately, observations should be performed system-
atically [2, p. 24, 43] ? analyse empirical material systematically and critically [2, p. 40f] ? don?t exclude observations that don?t support the hypothesis ? handle dropouts statistically accurately [2, p. 25] ? evaluate the reliability of the results [2, p. 45] ? identify and discuss possible sources of errors [2, p. 41, 45] ? formulate the argument clearly and relevant to the intended conclusion [2, p. 41] ? keep record about the progressing work [3, p. 26]
After conducting
? exhibit clarity, order and structure within the whole project, the documentation and the report [2, p. 41]
? publication, retention and archiving of material [2, p. 18]

Throughout the whole project
? observe the ethical criteria and reflect on the project [2, p. 21] ? comply with basic research ethics principles: research providing new knowledge, reveals new
conditions or sheds new light on already known phenomena and relationships [2, p. 24]
? evaluate total quality of research based on the collective qualities of originality, external and internal validity, precision and ethics [2, p. 21]
? take into consideration the determination of the research, when dangerous consequences have been noticed or the research leads nowhere [2, p. 34]. Abide to the so-called Uppsala Code.

The researchers face many challenges, for example to choose the right method, that on one hand allows the researcher to answer the initial question and on the other hand has the fewest imaginable harmful consequences. The benefit of the research and the scientific value of its expected results must be weight against its harmful consequences [2, p. 25]. The researcher has to find a way to ?optimize the possibilities to use the positive effects of research and minimize the negative ones.? [2, p. 30].

[1] International Council for Science. Freedom, responsibility and universality of science. 2008.
[2] Göran Herméren. Good research practice. 2011
[3] Bengt Petersson, Göran Herméren, and Bo Gustafsson. Good research practice - what is it? views, guidelines and examples. 2006.
[4], access 17.01.2013
[5], access 17.01.2013)



The International Council of Science (ICSU) and the Swedish Research Council´s expert group on ethics [1] have set some norms and prerequisites of good research. A respectable number of 134 countries are members of ICSU, which means that they formally approve the `Freedom, Responsibility and Universality´ document [2].
But formally accepting and applying these guidelines are two different things. Selling knowledge (or access to knowledge, which basically is the same); harsh completion between researchers´ groups for research grants and hindering each other´s progress; following and not criticizing a `scientific authority´ just out of the fear that one´s research career will be over if not playing according to some unwritten rules; conducting politically motivated research; these are just a few sad facts about the actual worldwide research environment.
There are also several guidelines introduced regarding the concept of a good researcher, independent of their pure contribution to science. These are characteristics referring to virtues that can be found in all people; it seems that a scientist is not `good´ unless he /she bears these virtues also. For example the virtue of honesty is usually used in order to identify `good´ and `evil´ scientists.
The tendency to fanatically support and idea, to blindly trust others´ opinion and research (e.g. because they are great and knowledgeable), to unquestionably reject other´s ideas because they belong to the `other´ stream are actions that resemble religion practice. To push research towards the direction of the most financial profit in the name of profit is closer to business. Consider as a small example the genetically modified plants and animals, that are designed to grow fast with the least production cost, and with the greatest net profit, whereas there are other plausible solutions in order to solve real hunger problems.
I think all of us would agree on two things: research is not religion and research is not business (although it can well be used for both purposes). Therefore the main habitual characteristics of both are to be avoided to achieve good quality research.

[1] The Swedish Research Council´s expert on ethics, Head: Göran Hermén (2011) Good research practice; ISBN 978-91-7307-194-9
[2] International Council for Science (2008) Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science; ISBN 978-0-930357-68-9

Uppdaterad  2016-11-14 10:58:53 av Iordanis Kavathatzopoulos.