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The course that teaches researcher’s ethical awareness

a scientist holding a test tube
The new research ethics course consists mainly of videos, short texts, tools and links to more information. "It is a self-study course but it can be used as part of a university course with teachers if you add examination tasks and discussion points," says research ethics advisor Fredrik Karlsson. Photo: Elias Sado
Published Dec 05, 2023

It is comprehensive and broad with the aim of bringing everyone up to a minimum level. This is how KTH's research ethics advisor Fredrik Karlsson describes the new course in research ethics.
“Sometimes you see gaps in knowledge regarding the legal requirements in the ethics review.”

Research Ethics and good research practice  is available in Canvas, is in English and the course is about two hours long.

“It is based on the most important questions about ethical aspects that should be asked when planning your research. Some of KTH's researchers share how ethical issues come up in their work and how they deal with them. There are also tools to help structure risk management,” says Fredrik Karlsson.

Legal requirements

The course provides an overview of how to assess research activities, funders and new collaborators. It also recognises the importance of considering ethical aspects of research results. Furthermore, it describes the legal requirements for ethical review and how it works in Sweden.

“It is a self-study course but it can be used as part of a university course with a teacher if you add examination tasks and discussion points. The course consists mainly of videos, short texts, tools and some links to more information.”

Are there any knowledge gaps among KTH researchers on the ethics issue?
“In certain environments. Everyone has their convictions, but there is not always a willingness to highlight or change them. Entering into a dialogue about publication culture, for example, has proven to be difficult. Sometimes you see gaps in knowledge regarding the legal requirements of ethical review. If technology is developed, there is a greater need to know about other legislation. But it is becoming increasingly common for technology researchers to want to interview people about how the technology is perceived. This puts them in a new legal situation where knowledge of ethical assessment is required.”

Portrait photo of Fredrik Karlsson
Fredrik Karlsson. Foto: KTH

Why is it valuable to take the course?
“For doctoral students, it can serve as a first insight into research ethics. For more senior researchers, it helps to remember to check off various aspects that are so much easier to deal with if you take it at the planning stage. If you haven't budgeted for the cost of ethical review or planned for the waiting time to get a response for ethical approval, it can create unpleasant surprises.”

Underlying interests

Another example is if you neglect to research a funder and accept money without reflecting on the context. If problems arise, you end up with a contract with someone who may not be trustworthy.

“Or that you are going to cooperate with someone who does not have the right expertise, or with someone where you do not really know what the underlying interests of the partner are.”

Can you identify the most important content of the course?
“Throughout the course, I emphasise the importance of being transparent, seeking support from colleagues or us at the research support service and trying to keep a general overview. If you engage in pure technology research, it becomes more relevant to think about the research results. What can they be used for and is it important technology to develop? If you have people as participants, you have to focus on how the methods are carried out.”

Some researchers and teachers have tested the course. It emerged that they would like to use the course for doctoral students.

“To bring everyone up to a kind of minimum level.”

Text: Lars Öhman

Digital courses in Canvas

– Data Management and Open Science.
– IP Management.
– Research communication.
– Research Ethics and good research practice.
Upcoming: JML (Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Conditions) and sustainability.

Links:
* Courses and seminars  for researchers
* Do you have questions about research ethics? Here are contact details  and more information
* Here you can read more about research ethics  at KTH

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Last changed: Dec 05, 2023