Go back

Commission official: Help us change culture of research ethics

Image: Craig Nicholson for Research Professional News


Earma 2024: Ethics chief says researchers must be convinced to “do good”

A European Commission official has called on research managers and administrators to help his institution bring about a culture change in research ethics.

Dorian Karatzas (pictured), head of the sector for research ethics and integrity in the Commission R&D department, said at the annual conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators on 24 April that Earma’s input on the issue, and by extension that of RMAs, is “necessary and important”.

He said at the conference in Odense, Denmark, that the Commission does not want researchers “to think that ethics is there to stop good research, [or is] an additional hurdle that they have to overcome when they are preparing research proposals and when they do the actual research”.

“With the help of the ethics network in Earma…we want to move from ‘do no harm’, which was the traditional research ethics take so far, to ‘do good’—move to be a reinforcer of research impact and good research,” he explained.

Rising to the challenge

Challenged by criticism from an attendee that Commission ethics guidance is based too much on medical research, Karatzas pushed back.

“I don’t think it’s true anymore that the ethics guidelines are produced only on the biomedical model,” he said. “We have presented guidelines specific to social sciences…Let’s dispel the myth that ethics is only about biomedical research—it’s not.”

Pushed by another attendee to comment on the pressure that researchers feel when writing grant proposals, and that for some this causes them to not want to engage with ethics, Karatzas suggested that institutional support is needed to overcome this.

“The institutions that have the best performance in getting [EU] and national money are those that have built adequate support systems for their researchers…Unless you have the support mechanisms, everything else becomes just a guideline on a piece of paper,” he said.

Concluding, he stressed in a line he credited to another source: “You might not be interested in ethics and integrity, but ethics and integrity is interested in you.”

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe