Some funding agencies have specific requirements when it comes to research ethics. A general minimal requirement (not always explicitly stated) is that the research must be conducted in accordance with relevant legislation and good research practice. The more specific requirements vary among different agencies, as does the procedures for monitoring and reporting.

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) is one of several Swedish funding agencies which already at the application stage ask for a presentation of the ethical issues that the project raises. They also ask for an account of how these issues will be addressed, and how the expected benefits of the proposed research can motivate its being conducted, bearing the ethical issues in mind. Approval from ethical vetting is required before commencing the research, but one is not required to send the approval to the Swedish Research Council. The researcher and the representative of the administrating organization are responsible for ensuring that all required permits are obtained and that the project is conducted in accordance with good research practice, which they confirm by signing the grant agreement. (More information is available here.)

Some funding agencies have more elaborate procedures for ensuring that funded projects live up the ethical requirements. The European Commission is a case in point. In order to complete one´s application for funding within Horizon 2020, one must fill out an extensive ethics self-assessment. All projects that qualify for funding are subject to an ethics review procedure. The extent of this procedure depends on the results in different steps, from “pre-screeening” to evaluation by a programme committee, and final decision by the commission. If the ethics issues are judged to be particularly severe or complex, certain monitoring procedures may be required, such as engaging an ethics advisor or an ethics board within the project.

As these two examples illustrate, funding agencies differ regarding the degree of involvement in ensuring that the funded research is conducted in accordance with relevant laws and good research practice. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is always the researcher who bears the ultimate responsibility with respect to these matters.

If you have any questions about funding agencies’ ethics requirements, or if you need help with the ethics section of your application, please do not hesitate to contact Jonas Åkerman at the Research Support Office.