Docent A considered that interviews implemented in a project in the field of humanities had been partly carried out in a manner that could cause emotional harm to the participants. A had worked as a researcher in the project. In addition, A suspected that professor B had misled the investigator conducting the preliminary inquiry by submitting a modified questionnaire for the inquiry.
In its statement 2018:9, TENK concluded that the university should carry out an investigation proper to find out whether the project should have undergone an ethical review in human sciences prior to the data collection. It was also necessary to establish which version of the questionnaire was used in the study and whether the criteria for an RCR violation were met in this context.
Based on the material submitted to TENK, the versions of the questionnaire were indisputably different. However, it was not possible to conclude that B’s actions were deliberate or flagrantly careless.
Based on the material submitted to TENK, it was possible that the principle of informed consent was not fully realised in the study and that the study should have been subjected to an ethical review before the data collection. However, it was not possible to establish such gross negligence or carelessness in B’s activities during the various stages of the study that the conditions for disregard for the responsible conduct of research would have been fulfilled.
In its statement, TENK pointed out on a general level that, in Finland, ethical review in the human sciences is a central part of the system of self-regulation in science. Whenever research involves human participants, the researcher is responsible for ensuring that the ethical risks and intended research methods of the study are addressed already in the research plan, regardless of the field of science. In the role of an employer, an organisation committed to TENK’s guidelines is responsible for ensuring that researchers belonging to its scientific community are familiar and comply with the guidelines and recommendations related to research ethics and the ethical review.