Research ethics – why do PhD students need to learn about it?

TutkuvienePhD students of the Faculty of Medicine at Vilnius University (VU) participated in a course of lectures “Research Ethics & Research Integrity: Basics and recent developments”, led by prof. Stefan Eriksson from Uppsala University (Sweden), who is a famous expert in this field.  

This visit was organized by prof. dr.  Janina Tutkuvienė (Chair of the Doctoral Committee for PhD studies in Medicine at Vilnius University) with the help of the Department for Doctoral and postdoctoral studies at Vilnius University and Aistė Kielaitė-Gulla. The Doctoral Committee for PhD studies in Medicine is responsible for strategic coordination, maintenance of high academic standards and continuous improvement of the student experience for all doctoral studies, including taught components of doctoral programmes and general competencies.

During his visit, prof. Stefan Eriksson also had a special meeting with the University’s academic community, where they discussed the elective and mandatory courses of the PhD studies that deal with the issues of research ethics, research integrity and bioethics.

Stefan Eriksson introduced the history and cases of research ethics (including work on informed consent), promotion of good research practice, the importance of moral argumentation. He shared his academic experience, related to fraud in research (he recently served as an expert in the Swedish public inquiry on how to investigate misconduct), autonomy and informed consent, regulation of research, and publication ethics. The students also had practise classes.

Stefan Eriksson is the professor of research ethics, a senior lecturer at The Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics in Sweden, and has been named an Excellent Teacher by Uppsala University. He serves as editor at the Swedish Research Council’s website CODEX and as Director of Doctoral Studies and Deputy Institutional Board member at the Department of Public Health & Caring Sciences. In February 2018, he was appointed Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor for good research practice.

“The purpose of my lectures is to give basic knowledge and understanding that apart from learning the rules and regulations of ethics, you need to think about what kind of attitude is expected from an eager researcher”, said prof. Stefan Eriksson. He stated, that it is important for a researcher to know, what the strive for. If a PhD student seeks not only success in their research, but also quality and excellence, a big part of it is research ethics and integrity.

Professor Janina Tutkuvienė explained that the course “Research Ethics” at Uppsala University in Sweden is mandatory. At Vilnius University lectures on bioethics are given to undergraduate students. “Now we are thinking about having a mandatory Research Ethics course for PhD students”, said prof. Janina Tutkuvienė.

Prof. Stefan Eriksson added, that there are three topics especially important to all students (not only those who study medicine): ethical review, research misconducting and publication ethics.

“I strongly believe, that I will come back to Vilnius sooner or later”, stated the professor, as similar general competence training is expected to continue at Vilnius University.

 

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