The goal of the OLBIOS Advisory Group is to help you ask the right questions, raise awareness and inform you on the ethical issues you are confronted with, using ethics not as a constraint machine but as a basis for a stronger, deeper, more conscious and creative approach to your field.

The changing notions of what constitutes research, as requiring a formal, urgent review in the light of ethics. Is the idea of validity a sufficient premise to judge the quality of the conclusions reached in a research project?

What are the aims of research? On knowledge, truth and avoidance of errors. How can we achieve the understanding of why and what is needed to assure research quality? Has science moved-on in its thinking into an era of post-positivism, where many of the stereotypes of the scientist no longer hold-up?

Can the purpose of science be simply to limit oneself to what one can observe and measure? Is knowledge of anything beyond that impossible? On predicting reality. Should we recognize that all observation and measurement is fallible and prone to error and that all theory is revisable?

Profound change in the key ethical principles of research endeavour. Do all observations possess different types of error, and do we therefore need to apply triangulation across these multiple error-full sources? Are all observations theory-laden and scientists inherently biased by their cultural experiences and world views?

What is objectivity? The characteristic of an individual, or an inherently social phenomenon? Human subjects as “guinea pigs” in scientific research. Is the existence of a broader contentious community of scientists criticizing each other necessary?

Plagiarism and misuse of privileged information. Data and Information: Integrity / Use & Misuse / Ownership & Access / Storage & Retention. Authorship and publication issues 1990s AIDS and cancer patients, and their demands against the “go-slow” mentality.

Risk of harming the innocent. What about those who want, and ask, to be test subjects and take the risk? Are we moving towards a new consensus in research ethics, with stakeholder groups participating more actively in defining the guidelines for research?

Discussing voluntary participation / fully informed consent / risk of harm / confidentiality. Is the system of ethical protections applied in contemporary research solid? Anonymity and a person’s right to service.

The importance, role and structure of IRBs (Institutional Review Boards). Supervision and monitoring of their work at the federal / provincial level. Jurisdiction of IRBs in academic, clinical and corporate settings. Increasing multi-disciplinarity of research collaboration.

Responsibility of a research investigator and responsibilities to funding agencies. Special obligations in Human Subject Research. The appropriate governance mechanism for research involving humans.

Legal, social and political issues of research. What is Protection? What is serving the interest of X, what is “management of risk”? Laboratory animals in research.

How to deal with children, persons with developmental/cognitive disabilities, institutionalized individuals, the homeless, persons without legal status? Research in developing countries. Intentional und unintentional falsification.

Governments and research. Limitations in research involving genetic material. Protection of privacy in the light of Internet-enabled capabilities.

How to define in advance how adverse events will be handled? Who will provide/pay in the case of an accident? Reasons to not publish some of the research data.

Discussing the three principles of the Belmont Report: autonomy, beneficence, justice. On the five components of an ethically valid informed consent: Disclosure/ Understanding / Voluntary Action /Competence / Consent.

What is deception in research? Right to confidentiality: Who has access to the data? Aspects of scientific misconduct: fraud, fabrication of data, plagiarism, whistle-blowing, regulation of research.

Different set of issues for research in the social sciences and in medical research. The foundation of trust that the scientific research is based on (scientists / society / stakeholders).

The duties of reciprocity; the duties of medical doctors. Critics of the principalism approach. Importance of the peer-review process. The question of the right to authorship.

Data-sharing policies. Copyright and patenting policies. Prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying, misrepresenting research data. Co-operation and Co-ordination: ethical standards promoting values as essential to collaborative work.

On trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness. Accountability of the researchers to the public / Projects funded by public money. Examination of the following principles/terms: Honesty in research / Objectivity / Integrity / Diligence / Openness /

Respect of Intellectual Property. Non-discrimination issues. Defining Competence. Absence of a reliable system of ethical governance and review in Social Research : why sanctions are limited.

Absence of a comprehensive system of registration/licensing confirming the credentials and quality of a researcher. Complexity of character of social research: – inter-sectoral (governmental, academic, commercial, voluntary and non-profit); – interdisciplinary (sociology, psychology, economics, politics, marketing, social work); – international; – multi-problem based.

Changing society with its ever-changing constituent individuals and institutions; new methods posing new problems. Ethical guidelines of the SRA (Social Research Association). Obligations to society and the funding entities and the employees and the colleagues and the subjects.

Institutional protection vs. over-protective and bureaucratic procedures. Medical models vs. social settings. The reality of absence of legal sanctions for failing to submit applications for ethical approval or failing to meet the requirements of the ethics committee.

Why most social research is interventionist (not only medical experiments or pharmaceutical trials). How interviews and surveys are interventions in the life of the population studied, and as such subject to ethical approval. Project audit as a key function of ethics committees.

Ethical decision-making throughout the life-cycle of a project – not merely at the outset. Dissemination of Findings International Resources / Institutions / Organisations / Key documents / Cases worldwide.