Research ethics

The reliability and credibility of the results of scientific research require that research complies with good scientific practice. The responsibility for abiding by good scientific practice rests with the research community as a whole and with each individual researcher. The University of Helsinki is committed to observing the guidelines by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity on the responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland.

The University of Helsinki abides by the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity on the responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct as well as on ethical review in human sciences. The responsibility for abiding by good scientific practice rests with the research community as a whole and with each individual researcher.

The premises for the responsible conduct of research are the following:

  • The researcher follows the principles that are endorsed by the research community, that is, integrity, meticulousness and accuracy in conducting research, in recording and presenting results, and in evaluating the research and its results;
  • The researcher takes due account of other researchers' work and achievements and cites their work appropriately;
  • The researcher complies with the standards set for scientific knowledge when planning, conducting and reporting the research;
  • The researcher acquires the necessary research permits and ensures that the preliminary ethical review is conducted (according to field- and research-specific requirements);
  • The research group defines and documents the status, rights, obligations and responsibilities of researchers, as well as questions concerning the ownership of research results and the archiving of research materials;
  • The researchers announces his or her sources of financing and conflicts of interest to all the participants in the research and reports them when the research results are published;
  • The researchers apply ethically sustainable methods for data acquisition, research and evaluation and publish the results in an open and responsible fashion;
  • The research organisation adheres to good administrative practices in human resources and financial management and takes into account regulations on disqualification as well as legislation on data protection.

The ethical review of research serves two purposes: it protects the research subjects and safeguards the researcher’s legal protection. Many research funding agencies and publishers require that an ethical review be conducted.

The ethics of non-medical research is assessed by the University’s own research ethics committees. The University of Helsinki has two committees dealing with research ethics: the Ethics Review Board in the Humanities and Social and Behavioural Sciences and the Viikki Campus Research Ethics Committee. Besides conducting reviews, the committees offer guidance in questions concerning research ethics and assist in resolving problem situations involving research ethics.

The research ethics of medical studies is evaluated by the ethics committees of hospital districts. Approval from such a committee is a prerequisite for research, which may not be launched before the committee has submitted its statement. To acquire such statements, researchers should apply to the ethics committee of the hospital district that governs the area where the principal investigator works or where the research will primarily be conducted. The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) accommodates four regional ethics committees.

Violation of the responsible conduct of research refers to the disregard of responsible conduct in research and documentation of research results, as well as misconduct in research. Research misconduct includes the fabrication, falsification, plagiarism and misappropriation of research results.

At the University of Helsinki, the chancellor is in charge of inquiries concerning alleged violations of the responsible conduct of research. Allegations of such violations must be communicated in writing to the chancellor. This notification, which cannot be made anonymously, must specify the type of the alleged violation of responsible conduct of research, as well as the grounds for the allegation. The chancellor can also initiate an investigation of allegations that have come to his/her attention through other channels. The notification must be handled in accordance with the process for handling alleged violations of the responsible conduct of science, as described in detail in the guidelines issued by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity.

On the national level, there are several committees and boards whose mission is to coordinate and promote research ethics, harmonise practices and monitor the advancement of science. Most of these expert bodies dealing with research ethics operate under the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The research integrity adviser system was launched in 2017 at the initiative of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity TENK. The adviser activities are targeted at promoting the responsible conduct of research, identifying research misconduct and improving preventive measures, as well as lowering the threshold for making notifications of alleged RCR (responsible conduct of research) misconduct.

The advisers will provide negotiation support in the University community, as well as approachable and confidential guidance on how to proceed in investigating issues of research integrity and alleged RCR violations. The advisers will be available to all members of the University community, even though they do represent different campuses and disciplines.

The advisers will have no authority or any role in any RCR-related processes.

Research integrity coordinator: Senior Advisor in Research Administration Riikka Palonkorpi (riikka.palonkorpi@helsinki.fi)