Non-medical research can have an effect on the subjects’ well-being: taking part in a research can sometimes cause physical, mental, social or economic injury.
The researcher is primarily responsible for conducting the research according to good scientific practice and ensuring that the subjects’ dignity and rights are respected.
Before commencing the research, the researcher has to assess if the research might cause injury to the subjects and compare the risks of the research with its benefits.
In addition, the researcher has to make sure that the subjects have volunteered for the research, have been fully informed about the research and have given their consent in an appropriate manner (usually in writing) and based on sufficient information.
If the researcher is unable to demonstrate that the research will not cause any injury to the subjects, he or she has to contact the Ethics Committee and request for comment. This is usually carried out by filling in a request for comment form.
The committee assesses the research on the basis of the research plan and the attachments to the request for comment form. The committee recommends the commencement of the research if it is ethically acceptable.
In addition, the committee can make suggestions on how to reduce the risk of injury or how to use research methods that are less harmful to the research subjects. The committee does not authorise the research: the decision for commencing and conducting the research is made according to the established practice of the scientific community.
An unfavourable comment from the Ethics Committee does not prevent the commencement of the research, but it is a signal from the scientific community to the researcher.
The committee and the university management expect that researchers and the managers of research units take the comment of the Ethics Committee into account and validate their decision on the commencement of the research. The primary objective of the committee is to ensure the freedom of science within the boundaries of ethical research.
If the publisher or sponsor requires a statement from the Ethics Committee, the researcher can request a comment even if it is not necessary by the Finnish research ethics criteria to assess the research.