Background 2019-06-16T11:39:55+00:00

Background to the Pro-Res Project

MAIN GOAL: PRO-RES aimed to use the full range of stakeholders, to devise and build a supported guidance framework for all non-medical sciences and humanities disciplines adopting social science methodologies. The framework is intended to meet the highest standards of research ethics and scientific integrity and to be comprehensive, covering the full range of issues and concerns – such as dealing with innovative technologies and the novel research possibilities of big data, the challenges of social media research and balancing public interest concerns with cherished rights to privacy. It will be of practical help in guiding interested parties to ways of achieving reliable and trustworthy research. The targeted stakeholders include researchers, reviewers, regulators, research managers and policymakers and, not least, a representative range of research subjects/participants. It will not duplicate existing work – merely guide stakeholders in the direction of established existing good practices.

WHY IS SUCH A PROJECT NECESSARY? Trying to behave ethically and with integrity when conducting research can prove to be complicated given the wide range of codes, guidelines and frameworks. Regulations are diverse and inconsistent, and review practices vary considerably – between countries, institutions, disciplines and professions. As multinational and interdisciplinary research grow, it is vital that the confusion arising out of such disparate approaches should be reduced as far as possible.

THE FOCUS: Decision takers and policymakers should be seeking evidence to support their work from the range of expertise on offer. Although the concept of ‘expertise’ has come under significant challenge it is clear that any errors, fraud or corrupt practices by researchers can lead to serious damage to the social, economic and cultural structure of society, as well as impacting the physical environment. But sound, reliable, transparent research, not driven by ideology or subservient to it and undeclared vested interests, produces robust evidence that can benefit social wellbeing and societal progress. It is in the interests of the scientific community to ensure the evidence produced is reliable and trustworthy and ethically generated. It is in the interests of those who make policy to be able to assure the decision takers (and the general public) that evidence has been generated in the best possible way.

THE CHALLENGE:

Being a ‘good’ scientist in both the moral and methodological sense is not as easy as it might seem. All researchers have to compromise, make choices and balance potential conflicts and contradictions. Conducting research requires a balance between many political, institutional and professional contradictions and constraints: How should a scientist balance professional responsibilities with obligations to whoever funded their research? How can the safety of both researchers and participants in studies on highly sensitive and controversial political and social issues (such as social unrest, organised crime, or terrorism) and/or in conflict areas or with authoritarian regimes, be assured or at least have their risks minimised? How is the ethic of benefit sharing with participants to be addressed? When should privately commissioned research be shared in the public interest? When should intellectual property be kept private – or owned and sold? Ideology defeats expertise if the evidence is flawed. Responsible researchers cannot allow that to happen. Robust evidence helps to defend expertise against blind ideology. Vested interests, or those that conflict with the values of scientific integrity, must be challenged by virtuous researchers acting with integrity. The PRO-RES Guidance Framework aims to help them do just that.

THE FRAMEWORK is… under construction… so we need your help to make sure it achieves the intended aims.

SEND YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT TO: info@prores-project.eu

BEFORE GOING ANY FURTHER… IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND…

…the underlying assumptions of the PRO-RES Framework:

There are many common elements to be found in existing codes, guidelines and frameworks. These have been researched thoroughly to provide the basic assumptions of the PRO-RES framework and inform the resources provided here. All values, virtues, vices, principles and standards considered relevant to a statement of ethical research practice have been incorporated. The background literature that was consulted in this process is to be found in an ‘Annotated Bibliography’annexed to the PRO-RES Framework. Further clarifications of concepts and careful definitions of terms are to be found in the ‘Glossary of Terms and Concepts’.
It is difficult to separate ‘values’ from overlapping ‘virtues’. Our discussion led to the need to ensure that both need to be declared in concert.

VALUES and VIRTUES: Throughout most existing codes and guidelines there is a commonly held understanding that the virtuous researcher must hold to certain values. These include a concern for honesty, cooperation with other scientists and showing respect for their subjects. They should demonstrate qualities of care, kindness and compassion and take responsibility for all their actions. That includes a responsibility to think through what the consequences of their work might be for society, communities, individuals and even specific groups.

Maintaining these values requires that certain VICES are avoided. These include incompetence, deceit, the misrepresentation of facts and findings, fraudulent use of data, plagiarism and other forms of corrupt practices – such as harassment, bullying and nepotism.

By combining the values and virtues to be sought and the vices to be avoided, most codes and guidelines advocate the applications of certain PRINCIPLES: scientists must participate in open and democratic processes and be accountable for their actions. They need to operate in a collaborative manner, apply their data collection, findings and research outcomes proportionately and fairly. The larger community should benefit from and not be harmed by their activities. Reliable research will depend upon a fair treatment of subjects, participants, or respondents.

The STANDARDS to ensure that research is conducted ethically and with integrity are contained within rules for good governance. These include standard operating procedures for the evaluation of proposals and systems of ethics oversight. Equally important are the regulated means for safeguarding scientists, their research participants, their findings and their intellectual property. Sanctions must be available for researchers that fail to fulfil their obligations without good reason.

IF YOU WISH TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE FOUNDATIONAL VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS ON WHICH THE PRO-RES FRAMEWORK IS BASED GO TO: “THE FOUNDATIONAL STATEMENTS FOR ETHICAL RESEARCH PRACTICE”

TO BE CLEAR ABOUT THE TERMS AND CONCEPTS WE ARE USING GO TO: ‘‘GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND CONCEPTS’’

TO BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT WE MEAN BY RESEARCH MISCONDUCT GO TO: ‘‘MISCONDUCT’’

YOU MIGHT FIND IT USEFUL TO RETURN TO CHECK ON THESE TERMS AS YOU USE THE FRAMEWORK.

NOW ENTER THE FRAMEWORK BY CHOOSING YOUR ROUTE: ‘‘FRAMEWORK PORTAL’’