Research ethics is commonly associated with life sciences and in particular medical and biomedical research. The focus of the attention concerns interventions on humans, the involvement of children and vulnerable population. Because of the nature of the research and the lower risk attributed to the possible consequences of misconduct, non-medical research areas (such as social sciences) are less commonly associated with ethical concerns although researchers are regularly involved in protocols that have a direct impact on the wellbeing of people and as experts in policy making, provide evidence nurturing the decision process. In this context, ethical principles are of high importance. In case of breaches of these principles, the economic, social and environmental impact can be significant. Relevant principles are e.g. to only provide policy advise in fields related to one’s expertise, to distinguish ideology from science, to state clearly limitations to one’s scientific results, and be transparent on potential conflicts-of-interests.
In the current economic environment, the use of expertise in the definition of solutions and action plans constitutes a major challenge due to the high repercussions of related decisions on innovation capacities, jobs and well-being.
It is of paramount importance, especially when there are different schools of thought, to ensure that the channelling and processing of expertise is adequately organised so as to enable optimal policy decisions. When the principles of responsible conduct of research are not followed, the socio-economic impact can be significant.
In order to support the Commission’s policy on boosting innovation, growth and high quality job and in the context of the post-2007 crisis, the action proposed shall aim at building an operational ethics and methodological framework facilitating that decision makers at national and EU level are provided with reliable evidence originating from cutting edge research. The conditions to maximise the Commission's policy outcomes and impact shall be studied, taking into account the necessity to comply with the highest standards of research ethics and integrity. Particular attention will be paid to the ethics of innovation and the enabling conditions for making innovation more relevant to the needs of society and more effectively meeting the Europe 2020 socioeconomic targets.
The proposed work shall also examine and analyse the relationship between science based policy advice, responsible conduct of research and research ethics. To this end an Oviedo/Helsinki type framework for non-medical research shall be proposed based on a wide consultation with all relevant stakeholders including industry and civil society. Such a framework shall discuss areas such as: a) covert research, b) working in dangerous areas/conflict zones and c) behavioral research collecting data from social media/internet sources.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of the order of EUR 4.2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
This action allows for the provision of financial support to third parties in line with the conditions set out in Part K of the General Annexes.
The proposed action will promote a more responsible and effective use of scientific information, originating from non-medical research areas, in support to EU policy making by increasing the understanding of the ethical challenges and proposing in response adequate ethical standards and normative framework for evidence based policy.