Purpose ethical review

Information on this website is derived from Ethics in Social Science and Humanities, October 2018 (EU), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

As a researcher, you have an overriding obligation to protect participants’ welfare and safety and ensure they are treated fairly and respectfully. Research participants’ rights are anchored in fundamental human rights and the fundamental ethical principles that govern all scientific research. In addition, you are obliged to follow the national legislation of the jurisdiction/country where you plan to conduct your research and when your project is funded by the EU, the overall principles of EU-funded research.

Academic freedom has its limits. A researcher has considerable responsibility to: 

  • the people involved in the research and their rights, safety, well-being and interests (or dignity, integrity, rights, and autonomy);
  • communities that are engaged and involved in the research; and 
  • society at large, in terms of the contributions research can make in effecting socially useful and valued development and change, but also in terms of avoiding potential misuse or unintended consequences of research results.

Ethics review of all scientific projects starts with whether the research objectives raise any ethical questions. From the scientific point of view, every research proposal must address the following questions:  

  • why the planned research needs to be conducted; 
  • whether there is any new knowledge to be gained;   
  • and whether it is worth spending the time and money to obtain it.   

Justifying the conduct of any proposed research project means demonstrating that it will offer benefits to:  

  • scientific understanding; 
  • to policy and/or to practice; 
  • or to social actors in general, thus making the resources spent on research worthwhile. 

Extension problematic areas in SSH research 

Rapid technological development and political upheavals in recent years have raised new research ethics concerns, requiring sensitivity to identify ethically problematic areas in SSH research.  

  • Increasing the use of the internet and social media data in research methodology is a case in point. More info on this topic is here available. 
  • Crises outside the European Union (EU), coupled with migration, have given rise to new, socially important issues, requiring the involvement of new, potentially vulnerable groups of people in research, but also calling for social science research in crisis areas.

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