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What is Research Ethics?

What is Research Ethics?

Ethical Research can be defined as a refined and internationally recognized process that ensures that researchers are engaged in good practices for research involving human or animal subjects.  Ethics can be defined as the morally right thing to do and in the context of research ethics this involves the protection of humans and animals in research. This means that researchers have a duty of care for their human or animal subjects and researchers are responsible for how they manage their research.  Although Research Ethics in UCD strives to safeguard the participants, the researcher, the research, and the university, the essential prerequisite for ethical research is the integrity of the researcher. 

The University maintains and requires the highest standards of integrity in all research activity conducted by all UCD researchers, which includes:

  • honesty;
  • openness;
  • leadership and cooperation;
  • supervision and training;
  • guidance from professional bodies;
  • best practice in managing research & conflict of interest;
  • documenting research results and storing primary data samples;
  • best practice in publication.

UCD’s existing structures promote and increase awareness of best practice in ethical research emphasising integrity and rigour, and seek to sustain a culture in which the general principles are understood and observed.  Such structures include:

  • UCD’s Research Ethics Committee (and its sub-committees dealing respectively with Human and Animal Research, the Human Research sub-committee drawing on the long-standing expertise of the Research Ethics Committees of UCD’s associated teaching hospitals);
  • UCD’s Animal Welfare Bodies;
  • UCD’s policy and procedures for investigating and resolving allegations of misconduct.

These are underpinned by UCD’s Human Resources/contractual policies and procedures. In addition, any member of UCD staff who is subject to ethical guidance from their professional bodies or external agencies should familiarise themselves with those requirements and ensure their compliance with them.

Human Research: The University requires that researchers will be familiar with, and adhere to all of the Human Research Ethics Committee Guidelines, and requirements for research and teaching with human subjects.

The basic ethical principles of respect for persons – beneficence, justice and competence are clearly defined in a number of important historical documents: The Nuremberg Code[1] (1947), (opens in a new window)the Declaration of Helsinki (1964), and (opens in a new window)The Belmont Report (1979).

Animal Research: The University actively supports the implementation of the three R's - Reduction, Refinement and Replacement – on which much of the legislation is based.

Reduction, Refinement and Replacement: all research and teaching involving animals should be conducted with the same rigour as research involving human subjects. Researchers are expected to implement the 3Rs principles (Russell and Burch, 1959), which are a widely accepted ethical framework for conducting scientific experiments using animals humanely. 

Further details about what Research Ethics means for all researchers in UCD can be found in the UCD Code of Good Practice in Research

 The Office of Research Ethics is not responsible for the content of external sites 

[1] Evelyne Shuster, "Fifty Years Later: The Significance of the Nuremberg Code," New England J. Med., 1997, 337: 1436-40. (opens in a new window)https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199711133372006

Contact UCD Office of Research Ethics

UCD Research, Tierney Building, Belfield, Dublin 4.
E: research.ethics@ucd.ie