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851-0180-00L  Research Ethics

SemesterAutumn Semester 2016
LecturersG. Achermann
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentParticularly suitable for students of D-BIOL, D-CHAB, D-HEST


AbstractThis course has its focus on the responsible conduct of research (RCR) and the ethical dimensions of the biological and biomedical sciences.
ObjectiveThe main goal of this course is to enhance the student's ability to:
- recognize and identify ethical issues and conflicts,
- analyze and develop well-reasoned responses to the kinds of ethical problems a scientist is likely to encounter.

Additionally, students will become familiar with regulations and ethical guidelines relevant for their research field on the international, governmental, institutional and professional level.

To achieve these objectives, teaching methods will include lectures, discussions, case study work (alone and in groups), moral games, paper work and exercises.
ContentI. Ethics & the Process of Ethical Inquiry
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Introduction in Ethics and Research Ethics
- What is ethics? What ethics is not...;
- Awareness: what constitutes an ethical question? Distinguishing ethical questions from other kinds of questions; Science & ethics: a comparison;
- The ethics movement in the biological and health sciences;
- What is research ethics and why is it important?
- Values (personal, cultural & ethical) in science & principles for ethical conduct in research;
- Professional codes of conduct: functions and limitations

Ethical approaches in the conduct of research (Normative Ethics)
- Overview over important theories for research ethics: virtue theories, duty-based theories (rights theory, categorical imperative, prima facie duties), consequentialist theories, other theories);
- The plurality of ethical theories and its consequences;
- The concept of dignity

Moral reasoning I: Arguments
- Why arguments? What is a good argument? The structure of (moral) arguments;
- Deductive and inductive arguments; Validity and soundness;
- Assessing moral arguments

Moral reasoning II: Decision-making
- How (not) to approach ethical issues...; Is there a correct method for answering moral questions?
- Models of method in Applied Ethics: a) Top-down approaches; b) the reflective equilibrium; c) a bottom-up approach: casuistry (or reasoning-by-analogy);
- Is there a right answer?


II. Research Ethics / Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
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Integrity in Research & Research Misconduct
- What is "integrity" in scientific research? What is research misconduct (falsification, fabrication, plagiarism - FFP) and questionable research practices (QRP)?
- Factors leading to misconduct; Procedure for responding to allegations of research misconduct;
- The confidant of ETH Zurich

Data Management
- Data collection and recordkeeping; Analysis and selection of data;
- Ownership of data; retention and sharing of data;
- Falsification and fabrication of data

Research involving animals
- The moral status of animals; Ethical approaches to animal experimentation: Animal welfare (Peter Singer) and Animal rights (Tom Regan);
- The 3 R's (replacement, reduction, refinement);
- Ethical assessment of conflicting issues in animal experimentation;
- The dignity of animals in the Swiss constitution;

Research involving human subjects
- History & guidelines (Nuremberg Code; Declaration of Helsinki; Belmont Report; International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (CIOMS Guidelines); Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (Oviedo Convention);
- Informed consent; confidentiality and anonymity; research risks and benefits; vulnerable subjects;
- Clinical trials;
- Biobanks
- Ethics Committees / Institutional Review Boards (IRB)

Authorship & Peer review
- Criteria for authorship;
- Plagiarism;
- Challenges to openness and freedom in scientific publication;
- Open access
- Peer review

Social responsibility
- What is social responsibility? Social responsibility: whose obligation?
- Public advocacy by researchers
Lecture notesCourse material (handouts, case studies, exercises, surveys and papers) will be available during the lectures and on the course homepage.
LiteratureRecommended literature:

- Bulger R.E., Heitman E. & Reiser S.J. (2002) "The Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health Sciences" 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press
- Shamoo A.E. & Resnik D.B. (2003) "Responsible Conduct of Research", New York, Oxford University Press
- "On Being a Scientist. Responsible Conduct in Research (2009)" 3rd ed., http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12192;
- "Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research" (http://ori.dhhs.gov/education/products/RCRintro/)

Detailed literature lists for the different topics of the course will be provided in the script/handout or on the course work space.