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Research ethics

Recommendations for the observance of ethical principles in empirical research.

Research may inflict harm on individuals (the researched as well as the researchers), groups and even entire societies. Research ethical norms and regulations aim to guide research practice in a way that avoids harm while safeguarding the freedom of research. A central tenet of research ethics is reflexivity with regard to the principles and values that guide research practice and the researcher-researched relationship.

There is an increasing awareness of research ethical issues in the social and economic sciences and researchers are more often expected to present proof of ethical approval, for example, in order to obtain research funding or publish in journals on a European and international level. To foster a common understanding in the social and economic sciences and the scientific community as a whole, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) has developed a harmonised comprehensive concept for principles and review procedures of research ethics in the social and economic sciences, which is the result of a broad consultation process in the scientific community.

Overview of the German Data Forum's activities, resources and work results on the topic of research ethics:

Overview of local ethics commissions in Germany

A regularly updated list of the German local ethics commissions landscape in the social and economic sciences

Recommendations of the German Data Forum

Teaching and training materials for use in higher education
Fundamentals of research ethics in social and economic research [German]

RatSWD Output Paper 9
Principles and Review Procedures of Research Ethics in the Social and Economic Sciences

Principles and Review Procedures
Executive Summary of the German Data Forum’s recommendations on principles and review procedures of research ethics in the social and economic sciences

Press release
Institutionalising Research Ethics – Recommendations of the German Data Forum (11.07.2017)

Forum Research Ethics at the 7|KSWD

forum on research ethics at the 7th Conference for Social and Economic Data (7|KSWD) in February 2017 looked at research ethical principles and infrastructures. It was headed by Prof. Dr. Hella von Unger.

Working Group (2014-2017)

The Working Group (WG) Research Ethics of the German Data Forum RatSWD aimed at fostering a common understanding of research ethical principles and review procedures in the social and economic sciences in Germany. It developed recommendations to guide the emergence of a new infrastructure.

Articles in the RatSWD Working Paper Series on Research Ethics

Working Paper #265/2017
Gert G. Wagner: “Anmerkungen zu den vielfältigen Dimensionen einer Forschungsethik in den Sozial-, Verhaltens- und Sozialwissenschaften”

Working Paper #259/2017
Hella von Unger, Hansjörg Dilger & Michael Schönhuth: “Ethikbegutachtung in der sozial- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Forschung? Ein Debattenbeitrag aus soziologischer und ethnologischer Sicht”

Working Paper #255/2016
Eckard Kämper: “Risiken sozialwissenschaftlicher Forschung? Forschungsethik, Datenschutz und Schutz von Persönlichkeitsrechten in den Sozial- und Verhaltenswissenschaften”

Working Paper #253/2016
Hella von Unger und Dagmar Simon: “Ethikkommissionen in den Sozialwissenschaften ‒ Historische Entwicklungen und internationale Kontroversen”