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Gothenburg EUA workshop and focus group discussion 19th of March 2015 on teaching research ethics in doctoral education


Gothenburg EUA workshop and focus group discussion 19th of March 2015 on teaching research ethics in doctoral education

Ana Borovečki


On the 19th of March 2015 EUA decided to hold workshop and focus group discussion on teaching research ethics in doctoral education at University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Swedish lecturers were Professor Claudia Falke from Gothenburg University , Professor Steffan Eden, member of Central Board of Ethics in Stockholm and Thomas Jurgenson from EUA.



Thomas Jurgenson pointed out that EUA has no expertise in ethics so far so they decided to organize this workshop and focus group discussion. He pointed out that nowadays big money is involved in research and that universities are under scrutiny where performance, innovation and research conduct are of importance. Data protection is also these days focus of discussions. EUA is currently lobbying for changes in the new EU directive on data protection in order to prevent changes that could hamper research efforts in the future. International collaboration can also present problems especially when it comes to informed consent, respect for individuals, and understanding of plagiarism, co-authorship and citation. There is also performance pressure-temptation to go for smaller publishable unit. However, little incentive for replication, leads to less credible results.

The participants in the focus groups had to answer the following questions: Is research ethics part of good research practice and vice versa? Who is drafting ethics guidelines and codes at your institution? How is research ethics regulated at your institution? How does your institution ensure that doctoral graduates are able to do research in an ethically responsible way (and does it work?)

The institutions that participated in the discussions were: University of Zagreb, School of Medicine (Croatia), ORPHEUS, University of Vienna (Austria), Open University of Catalonia (Spain,) University of Liege (Belgium), University of Aalto (Finland), University of Barcelona ( Spain), University of Iasi (Romania), Conference of Western Swiss Universities, University of Basel (Switzerland), University of Gent (Belgium), Wageningen University (the Netherlands), Humboldt University (Germany),University of Gothenburg ( Sweden), Uppsala University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden) and Anglia Ruskin University, (UK).

After focus groups discussions participants were divided into groups which had to give answers to different questions.

Here are the questions and participants answers:


What does the new generation need to know?

-Basics ( plagiarism, fabrication falsification etc.); coping with new technologies and using it in research, self-plagiarism; why training is important in ethics of research; recognize, reflect, navigate grey areas; many tensions and interests threatening integrity ( pressure on science, sponsor interests); changing conceptions of private, vulnerability of “truth” ;,interpreting regulations; where to find help and support; getting way from qualitative to quantitative research paradigms ; why ethics is fundamental to research and part of transferable skills ; they need to know about accountability of their research; getting reliable support , knowledge of self-consciousness and communicational skills; awareness of stakeholders of what you are doing


How should they prove it?

-Show ethics wariness; have critical mind; not taking routine practices for granted; debating the issues; discussing things with colleagues and supervisors; reflect on the issues of ethics in their thesis; be aware of authorship issues; be able to apply things that they have learnt about ethics in research in everyday practice; feeling confident; writing ethical guidelines


Who has the responsibility that research conducted by doctoral candidates is done ethically?

-The candidate, supervisors, supervising committee, head of department, faculty, university leaders, ministry of science and education , reviewers of manuscripts, scientific community, society, practitioners, researcher, good teachers, legal experts


What institutional structures are needed to ensure research ethics in doctoral education?

-for mandatory ethics training for PhD students and supervisors; for creating and open-minded and critical environment and ombudsman or ad –hoc body or standing committee to address ethics issues; for having clear procedures, for institution of ethics ambassadors (senior managers and researchers); they need to be connection between inter- institutional procedures, regional level and national level procedures and guidelines; for sharing the importance of ethics training in an attractive way



The outcomes of the workshop will be further discussed at EUA conferences in Munich.