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Research Ethics

Penn State is committed to educating about and promoting research ethics within the University community. The need for research integrity crosses all disciplines and areas of focus. Regulations range from federal laws governing the conduct of scientific research to University and professional policies prohibiting falsification and plagiarism.

As research has become more complex, more collaborative, and more costly, issues of research ethics have become similarly complex, extensive, and important. Issues in research ethics now extend to appropriate methods for data "cleaning" in statistical analysis, management of professional collaborations "gone awry," and monitoring of conflict of interest issues among administrators, faculty, and graduate researchers.

The most immediate objectives of education and training in research ethics are to ensure compliance with legislation and regulations and to increase understanding of specific legislative guidelines among university faculty, graduate students, and staff. Yet beyond compliance, there are a number of other objectives that are also important, including:

  • Increasing understanding and judgment in applying the guidelines across a wide range of situations and a wider range of potential participants, such as administrative staff and graduate assistants;
  • Promoting best practices in the conduct of research and scientific investigation;
  • Establishing a university culture focused on what it means to be an ethical researcher, so that this shared ideal is supported in ways that are explicit (i.e., regulatory) and tacit (i.e., cultural, such as "the way we do things around here").

Penn State Policies

General Standards of Professional Ethics
Handling Inquiries/Investigations into Questions of Ethics in Research and in other Scholarly Activities

The following websites provide additional information about specific university programs, professional organizations, and regulatory institutions and policies on research ethics:

University Programs

Research and Scholarly Integrity
The Graduate School at the Michigan State University maintains a guide to resources for teaching responsible conduct of research, scholarship, and creative activities.

Professional Organizations

Applied Research Ethics National Association (ARENA)
ARENA is a national organization for professionals concerned with issues relating to the protection of human subjects, the humane care and treatment of animals, scientific misconduct, ethical decision-making in healthcare, and other ethical issues pertaining to biomedical and behavioral research.

Regulatory Institutions and Policies

Office of Research Integrity (ORI)
The ORI, located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes honesty in biomedical and behavior research at 4,000 institutions worldwide. They monitor institutional investigations of research misconduct and facilitate the responsible conduct of research through educational, preventive, and regulatory activities.

Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP)
OHRP is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides human subjects policy guidelines, compliance oversight, workshops, and educational materials.

The Belmont Report on Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects Research
The Belmont Report summarizes the policies of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. This report presents the basic ethical principles that should underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects and the guidelines that should be followed to assure that such research is conducted in accordance with those principles.

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