While we hope our research benefits society, the process of knowledge generation can entail risks and consequences for the environment, human participants and animal subjects involved.
Reflect on your own
What ethics training did you complete before you began your research?
What processes are in place to protect the safety of yourself, others and the environment?
How might you promote the ethical use of human participants and animal subjects in research?
The public’s trust and confidence in the research community to regulate itself to the highest ethical and moral standards is central to our continued acceptance and operation within society. Government laws and regulations, and the university policies that support them, are designed to help protect the public interest and vulnerable parties involved in research, to hold researchers and research institutions accountable, and to support a culture of research integrity and innovation. Failure to obtain and maintain necessary approvals, permits and/or certifications related to ethics constitutes a serious form of research misconduct.
Each of us has the responsibility to critically evaluate every decision to involve research subjects, to consider potential impacts of the research on the environment, and to minimize risks throughout the project.
Complete and seek available training
UBC offers numerous research training opportunities throughout the year, some of which are mandatory for research compliance. Following through on our training not only helps to minimize the impact on human participants, animal research subjects and the environment but can also help you to anticipate common challenges and reduce costs during the research process. Moreover, you may wish to seek additional resources or workshops on ethical decision-making that can support you to navigate the increasingly complex research environment.
When in doubt, seek clarification
While guiding principles and established processes can help ensure that research is conducted ethically, how you apply them will depend on the nature and context of the research. If you’re unsure how these principles and processes apply in your work, seek support and clarification from a mentor, peers or the Office of Research Services before you embark on a project that could put yourself, others, or the environment at risk.
Share in and promote the responsible involvement of research subjects
As individuals invested in the success of our research and others’, we have the responsibility to justify decisions to involve human participants and animal subjects, to engage in open discussions on moral and ethical dilemmas with our peers and to hold each other accountable for conducting research ethically and responsibly.
Confusion over different research regulations and policies
Depending on the nature and scope of the research, different regulations and policies may apply to you. It’s possible to inadvertently overlook some regulations and then fail to obtain the corresponding approvals, permits or certifications that are relevant to your work. Before embarking on a new project, or when changing any major aspect of an existing one, seek clarification from mentors and/or the relevant UBC research support services available to you.
Complacency as the research unfolds
Once the necessary approvals, permits and certifications have been obtained, you are responsible to ensure that the research is conducted ethically throughout the study and that the research adheres to the plans that were approved at the outset. This is especially true for supervisors, who may be found liable for the misconduct of trainees. Therefore, maintaining an open dialogue with colleagues about safe, ethical research practices helps to keep everyone accountable for the responsible conduct of research.
- CORE: Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2 2018) Online Tutorial
- Guidance Notes, UBC Office of Research Ethics
- Planning Your Research, UBC Animal Care and Use Program
- Research Safety Training, UBC Safety & Risk Services
- UBC Indigenous Research Support Services
The developed content is adapted from the following:
- Steneck, N.H. (2007) Chapter 3. The Protection of Human Subjects. In ORI Introductions to the Responsible Conduct of Research. (pp. 34-49) Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
- Steneck, N.H. (2007) Chapter 4. The Welfare of Laboratory Animals. In ORI Introductions to the Responsible Conduct of Research. (pp. 50-65) Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.