Every project will present a vast array of ethical challenges and dilemmas. It was clear from our workshops that a handbook or ‘check list’ will never address all possible challenges. However, our workshop participants identified key principles that can be a compass to help us respond to new and unique situations when we don’t have a map to guide us.
Principles to guide us
- Research impacts lives. Ethical global research is compassionate and accountable in equal measure.
- Ethical challenges are not always obvious and finding solutions can be challenging. Partnerships can be strengthened when this work is undertaken together.
- There is often more than one ethical solution to the same problem. Sometimes it is a question of choosing ‘the most ethical, albeit, imperfect, option, for now’.
- Both challenges and solutions exist in a dynamic interplay – what works this time may not work next time – our solutions need to be responsive to unfolding circumstances.
- Openness to new ideas can drive innovation at unexpected moments. Often creative solutions can be ethical solutions.
The Big Picture: Being Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals
We all want our global challenges research to enable impact for society.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can provide us with some clear direction about how to achieve this – both in the way we do this work as well as in the outcomes and transformation our research can enable.
A Researcher's Pledge
Our researchers felt that the following commitment can help to guide us:
|Do no harm*||Recognise the gravity and ethical implications of doing harm. We are interconnected. Harm to people, animals, plants and the environment – even unintended – affects individuals, communities and planetary wellbeing.|
|Enable flourishing||Enable necessary and urgently needed change.|
|Connect: People and planet first||Invest in relationships – recognise they are the heart of research – listen carefully, be trustworthy, transparent and accountable, and behave honourably, including in relation to the earth’s resources.|
|Be aware. Be brave. Be safe||Identify and respond vigilantly to ethical challenges, being alert to safety considerations.|
|Invest in our own learning||Be self-aware and actively strengthen interpersonal skills and reflective practice.|
|Prioritise context and compassion||Work in a contextually appropriate compassionate way.|
|Maintain Commitment||Be reflective, accountable and persistent, particularly when faced with challenges.|
* All Research is subject to country specific national regulation. Where scientific and clinical research involves animals, rigorous regulatory controls must be adhered to to examine likely harms and benefits before proceeding. For instance, in the UK, research on animals is governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. This requires ethical review of proposed research, including weighing any harm that may be caused to experimental animals against the potential benefits to other animals or society (e.g. from the discovery of new medicines, or other discoveries).
What ethical solutions do (and don’t) look like
|Ethics in global challenges research is not|