Section 6: Specialised Forms of Ethical Assessment And Guidance

In this section, we present recommendations for specialised forms of ethics assessment and guidance. Specifically, we outline standards, tools and best practices for (1) policy-oriented assessment and guidance of new developments and practices in R&I; (2) guiding, assessing and supporting ethical professional behaviour by scientists and innovators; and (3) the ethics assessment of innovation and technology development plans.

Standards, Tools And Best Practices For Policy Oriented Assessment And Guidance Of New Developments And Practices In R&I

In this subsection, we analyse how policy-oriented guidance, assessment and expertise is organised. We focus on policy-oriented assessment and guidance of three different types of stakeholders and formulate the following central recommendations:

  1. 1. Governmental organisations

    • Recommendations for guidance:
      • Directly involve Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the ethics guidance (EG) process
      • Include community members and lay persons in the EG processes
      • Create greater public visibility of EG
    • Recommendations for assessment:
      • Include non-ethicists in EA committees
      • Transparently align different legal regimes
    • Recommendations for the role of experts:
      • Taking into account the value of democracy in the composition of EG and assessment bodies
    • Voting of committee members amongst peers
    • Allotment of lay people as representatives1
  2. 2. National ethics committees

    • Recommendations for guidance:
      • National Ethics Committees (NECs) should develop reference principles according to the topic under scrutiny and should be transparent about the ethics framework applied.
      • NECs should aim at providing recommendations for the political level and at fostering public debate, education and public awareness of ethical impacts of R&I
    • Recommendations for the role of experts:
      • NECs should be established as independent, multidisciplinary and pluralist (representing different ethical traditions) ethics bodies
    • Recommendations for procedures:
      • NECs should, after the publication of an opinion, inform the responsible authority about their views and should actively disseminate their opinion to the public. Dissenting opinions should be published in the same document as the majority opinion.
      • In order to foster international debate, NECs should try to provide their opinions in a language understood by the international community
  3. 3. Civil society organisations

    • Strengthen the CSOs mandate to have representatives in research ethics committees (RECs); encourage CSOs to participate in RECs (group of people formally appointed to review research proposals or initiatives to assess if the research is ethical)
    • Ensure the participation of CSOs ininstitutionalised forms of EA or guidance and formal advisory panels; it would allow CSOs to develop expertise in the area of assessment and guidance. At the same time it is necessary to make sure the functioning of any mechanisms is transparent and remains open to interested parties.
    • Strengthen the CSOs right to participate in decision-making – CSOs should be able to comment on policies, plans, programmes and proposals for R&I projects affecting the society; they should receive feedback

Standards, Tools And Best Practices For Guiding, Assessing And Supporting Ethical Professional Behaviour By Scientists And Innovators

The aim of this subsection is to summarise the recommendations regarding standards for guiding, assessing and supporting ethical professional behaviour by scientists and innovators. Ethical professional behaviour is defined as a part of research ethics, specifically aimed at ethical principles, applicable to the conduct of individual scientists and innovators (engineers). Proposals are made based on literature review and codes of ethics discussed in SATORI deliverables.

  1. 1. A proposal of ethical standards:

    • for professional researchers:
      • Objectivity & impartiality
      • Truthfulness & transparency
      • Honesty & openness
      • Respect & fairness
      • Conformity to regulation, guidelines and good practices
      • Integrity in international cooperation
      • Social responsibility
    • for professional engineers:
      • Honesty & integrity
      • Accuracy & rigour
      • Holding paramount safety, health and welfare of the public
      • Objectivity, impartiality and verifiability
      • Transparency & fairness
      • Promoting collaboration
      • Promoting engagement with the public and social responsibility
      • Continuing learning and professional development
      • Conformity to regulations and good practices
  2. 2. Recommendations for good ethical guidance of professional behaviour of researchers:

    • Recommendations for the research community:
      1. The responsibility for ethical professional behaviour should be acknowledged by individual institutions that conduct research and employ researchers (universities, research institutes, companies), but also by other stakeholders in the research process, such as RFOs, academic journals, governmental organisations responsible for research policies, integrity boards, science academies and professional organisations.
      2. Stakeholders should strive to cooperate to achieve a research environment that encourages ethical professional behaviour on all levels (national-international, funding, research process, publishing) by creating international guidelines, national governance systems, forums for discussion and exchange of information, etc.
      3. The initiative to raise awareness on ethical professional behaviour and develop guidelines in a particular country or scientific field should be taken up by independent and representative institutions, such as science academies, professional associations, university associations, science foundations, etc.
      4. In order to embed ethical professional behaviour in the research cultures, institutions should review the ways in which they evaluate researchers’ work, e.g. preferring quality over quantity, etc.
    • Recommendations for individual institutions:
      1. Individual institutions should establish a body (e.g.committee, office) with a mandate and resources to:

        • develop a coherent and integral institutional research integrity policy, including the development of guidance, assessment procedures and strategies,
        • provide information services, awareness raising and other activities, aimed at encouraging the acceptance of developed guidelines and procedures and their integration into the research culture (if this is not possible due to the size of the institution or limited resources, institutions may refer to frameworks by professional associations, science academies or other institutions).
      2. In order to encourage ethical professional behaviour and prevent misconduct, universities should include ethics in curriculums and offer ethics classes and training sessions. Research institutions should offer training and organise workshops and conferences to raise awareness and discuss research integrity issues.
  3. 3. Recommendations for good ethical assessment of professional behaviour of researchers

    • Recommendations for the research community:
      1. A national system of assessment of professional behaviour is advisable since it reduces the risks of internal institutional assessments (e.g. conflict of interest, misconduct) and allows for the development of more efficient assessment procedures and practices
    • Recommendations for individual institutions:
      1. Institutions that conduct research should establish fair and transparent procedures for assessment of ethical behaviour of scientists and innovators.
      2. Research institutions should take measures so that researchers and innovators are aware of what constitutes misconduct and are well informed of the assessment procedures.
      3. Each research institution should have a contact person for professional research behaviour whose contact details are publically available, easily accessible and who could be contacted concerning any suspicions of misconduct.

Standards, Tools And Best Practices For Ethics Assessment Of Innovation And Technology Development Plans

This subsection outlines our proposals for the specific adaptation of the SATORI ethical impact assessment approach to ethics assessment of innovation and technology development plans.

In innovation and technology development, three main stages can be distinguished: 1) basic research, 2) applied research, 3) innovation and development. While research is understood as “the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems”, development is a “systematic use of knowledge or understanding gained from research.” However, taking recourse to the chain-linked model of technological innovation (CLM) by Kline & Rosenberg (1986), it should be emphasised that the innovation process has a non-linear character, as “science is part of the process, but not necessarily the initiating step.”

In the first main stage of the innovation and technology development plans, the basic research, research is conducted as an end in itself; without any plans of application. EA, in this stage, should contain a significantly expanded foresight stage as the possible (later) applications are not yet determined and hence even more applications are to be considered.

In contrast, the second main stage, applied research, is conducted to gain knowledge or understanding necessary for meeting a specific need. EIA at this stage is similar to the one in the third stage, innovation and development. However, EIA in applied research should focus more on the foresight stage and therefore also resembles the EIA of the first stage. This is an indicator of the blurring line between basic and applied research.

The end product of the third main stage, innovation and development, can be categorised as (1) structures and spaces, (2) products and (3) applied systems and processes. Every category benefits from a different focus in the EIA. EIA of structures and spaces benefits from an increased stakeholder participation, as structures and spaces have a large impact on communities. For products, the EIA can be principle-driven, as it is more cost and time-efficient. Finally, as product-type goods are produced by commercial businesses, EIA should be incorporated in strategies for corporate responsibility tools (CR).

  1. See also Seyfang, Gill, and Adrian Smith, “Grassroots innovations for sustainable development: Towards a new research and policy agenda”, Environmental Politics, 16(4), 584–603. 2007.