Ethical review in human sciences research
Ethical review in research serves two purposes: it protects the research subjects and endures the researcher’s legal protection. It is an important part in maintaining the public’s trust in scientific research and researchers.
Ethical review in human sciences
Ethical principles of research with human participants serve as a starting point for ethical review in human sciences. These principles are described in the guidelines for The ethical principles of research with human participants and ethical review in the human sciences in Finland by Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK).
The guidelines are intended for research designs where ethical review is not regulated separately in the Medical Research Act (488/1999). These research designs include humanities and social sciences, research with human participants in natural sciences and technology, in artistic research, and in some cases also in non-invasive health or medical research. For information on ethical review in medical research, please refer to page Ethical review in medical research. These research designs include humanities and social sciences, research with human participants in natural sciences and technology, in artistic research, and in some cases also in non-invasive health or medical research. For information on ethical review in medical research, please refer to page Ethical review in medical research.
Responsible conduct of research provides that research designs containing given elements must undergo ethical review prior to the commencement of the research. The ethical review must be carried out before data is collected. An ethical review statement cannot be issued afterwards.
- The research design must undergo ethical review, if it contains any of the following elements:
- Participation in the research deviates from the principle of informed consent
- The research involves intervening in the physical integrity of research participants
- The focus of the research is on minors under the age of 15, without separate consent from a parent or carer or without informing a parent or carer in a way that would enable them to prevent the child’s participation in the research
- Research exposes participants to exceptionally strong stimuli
- Research involves a risk of causing mental harm that exceeds the limits of normal daily life to the research participants or their family members or other closest to them
- Conducting the research could involve a threat to the safety of participants or researchers or their family members or others closest to them
If the research design contains any of the elements mentioned above and it has not undergone ethical review, this may constitute a violation of responsible conduct of research.
An ethical review statement may also be requested if a funding body, collaborative partner, research object or publisher requires it. If some of the aforementioned parties require an ethical review statement for a commenced study, the ethics committee may provide a description of the ethical review practice in Finland instead of a review statement.
Ethical review assesses the following elements in the research design:
- Potential risks and harm that may be caused to research participants, their families and the researchers themselves due to the research or its results
- Sufficiency of the information given to the participants about the content of research, their participation in the research and processing of their personal data
- Data management plan containing a description of the processing of personal data throughout the lifespan of the research
- Research participant’s written or electronic consent to participate
- The way in which the consent of participants is requested and documented if written or electronic consent is not used
- The significance of the new information that the research aims to obtain in relation to potential harms and risks
Theses supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their supervees are familiar with ethical principles. However, the writer of the thesis is responsible for the ethicality of the work. If ethical review is necessary, the student / doctoral candidate requests it jointly with the supervisor.
At the bachelor's and master's degree level, however, it is recommended to use research designs which do not require ethical review.
Research based solely on register data does not need to undergo ethical review.
The use of national registers for research purposes is regulated by:
- EU General Data Protection Regulation
- Data Protection Act
- Act on the Openness of Government Activities
Register-based research that involves delicate information can be conducted if the researcher has been given permission to use the register by the authority controlling it (e.g. National Institute for Health and Welfare, Population Register Centre, Legal Register Centre, Stakes or Ministry of Social Affairs and Health).
Participants’ informed consent or informing the participants about the use of register data are usually not required in research based solely on register data. However, if some of the research data is collected from the participants themselves, the participants must be informed about the use of register data. If the research involves combining data containing delicate information, participants’ informed consent is required.
An ethical review statement may be positive, conditionally positive (requiring changes) or negative (requiring changes).
If the Ethics Committee gives a negative review statement, the research plan must be changed according to the quidance in the statement. The revised research plan must be presented to the committee by filling in a new request for comment form. The researcher must append a cover letter in which the changes to the research plan are explained and described. Additionally, all changes are to be marked clearly in the documents (e.g. different font color, strikethrough).
If the guidance in the statement is not complied with, this may constitute a violation of responsible conduct of research.
If the person who has requested an ethical review statement does not accept the decision by the Ethics Committee, the changes proposed in the statement, the changes proposed before a statement is issued, or the procedure followed in the ethical review process, they may request a statement on the matter from Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK). The right to appeal is also stated in the Ethics Committee’s ethical review statement.
If the researcher wants to request for statement on an ongoing ethical review process from TENK, they must inform the Ethics Committee that they do not accept the changes proposed by the Ethics Committee and do not continue the ethical review process in the Committee. TENK does not issue a statement if the ethical review process of the Ethics Committee is unfinished. The same request cannot be processed in the Ethics Committee and TENK simultaneously.
TENK issues statements on the decisions by the ethics committees, the ethical review statements issued by them, and the procedure followed by them in the ethical review process. TENK may also issue its own statement on the ethicality of the research.
The request must be submitted to TENK within two months of the Ethics Committee’s decision.
Requesting for an ethical review statement
The request for ethical review is submitted electronically at https://eettinen.utu.fi/. Read the instructions for filling out the request for ethical review before filling out the form, and prepare all the necessary appendices in PDF format. The request must be submitted not later than two weeks before the meeting in which you wish to have your research plan reviewed. The upcoming meetings of the committee divisions are listed below.
The statements issued by the Ethics Committee for Human Sciences at the University of Turku are free of charge for the researchers and doctoral students of the University of Turku and the Hospital District of Southwest Finland. Statements to other parties are subject to a charge.
Support & further information
For support, please contact:
Health Care Division issues ethical review statements on non-medical research related to health care.
NB: The Health Care Division is on summer break in July 2021. Please find the meeting schedule for autumn 2021 below.
Humanities and Social Sciences Division issues ethical review statements on research that uses methods in the fields of humanities, social sciences and behavioural sciences.
NB: The Humanities and Social Sciences Division is on summer break in July 2021. Please find the meeting schedule for autumn 2021 below.
All appendices are mandatory. Please include a title in each appendix.
1. Signature of the thesis supervisor
2. Summary of the research plan
3. Research plan
4. Assessment of the ethical nature of the research by the person responsible for the study
5. Documents delivered to the research participants
6. Data management plan
7. Data protection statement for scientific research, or justification for why it is not needed
8. Data protection impact assessment (DPIA), or justification for why it is not needed
- Prior to carrying out an impact assessment, please contact the Data Protection Officer (email@example.com) to determine whether your study needs an impact assessment
- Data protection impact assessment (DPIA) - template
9. Other possible attachments
An ethical review statements is requested by the person who is in charge of the research and selected by the research team. The person in charge of the research is usually the main researcher of the study or the leader of the research project.
Regarding theses, the student / doctoral candidate requests an ethical review statement jointly with the supervisor.
The Ethics Committee for Human Sciences at the University of Turku issues ethical review statements to researchers and research organisations outside of the University of Turku and the Hospital District of Southwest Finland for a fee.
Fee rates for ethical review:
- Ethical review of a research plan 2,850.00 € (incl. VAT)
- Changes to a research plan 900.00 € (incl. VAT)
For more information, please contact the secretary of the Ethics Committee for Human Sciences.
Ethics Committee for Human Sciences at the University of Turku
The Ethics Committee for Human Sciences at the University of Turku issues ethical review statements on the ethics of non-medical research conducted on human subjects. In addition, the committee initiates and upholds discussion on research ethics in the university, and acts as on expert body in problematical situations concerning research ethics, apart from alleged violations of responsible conduct of research.
The committee is divided into two divisions:
- Health Care Division issues ethical review statements on non-medical research related to health care
- Humanities and Social Sciences Division issues ethical review statements on research that uses methods in the fields of humanities, social sciences and behavioural sciences
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Term of office: 1 Oct 2019 - 30 Sep 2022
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