Commission on Ethics in Research Involving Humans
The Ethics Commission of the Institute for Research in the Psychological Sciences promotes and enforces ethics in research practices. This Ethics Commission is competent for research problems within the Institute and is therefore not concerned with problems of internships, examinations, courses, etc.
Ethics is the branch of philosophy that seeks to establish the foundations of conduct that should be promoted or discouraged. It is situated on the ill-defined fringes of questions that cannot be answered by law and codes of ethics, and which require reflection weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a particular decision, in a given context.
The Institute for Research in Psychological Sciences sets up an Ethics Commission to promote and enforce ethics in research practices. The PSYI Ethics Commission is competent for research issues within the Institute and is therefore not concerned with issues of internships, examinations, courses, etc.Ethics is the branch of philosophy that seeks to establish the basis for conduct that is to be promoted or discouraged. It lies on the ill-defined fringes of questions that cannot be answered by law and codes of conduct, and which require reflection weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of a particular decision, in a given context.
In this context, the Ethics Commission does not replace the Ethics Commission of the Belgian Federation of Psychologists, which proposes a general reference code for the practice of the profession of psychologist. Commission des Tests | Bfp Fbp (bfp-fbp.be)
After identification, UCLouvain students can consult the notes of the course, Deontology of psychological practice (Jean-Marc Hausman), available on Moodle: Moodle UCLouvain
The Ethics Commission does not replace the Ethics Commission of the Belgian Federation of Psychologists, which proposes a general reference code for the practice of the profession of psychology. Commission des Tests | Bfp Fbp (bfp-fbp.be)
After identification, UCLouvain students can consult the course notes, Ethics of Psychological Practice (Jean-Marc Hausman), available on Moodle: Moodle UCLouvain
Missions of the commission
- Elaboration of a list of RECOMMENDATIONS
- Advice on research projects and possible problems encountered
Instructions for use
Requests for research projects and opinions are made electronically through documents under the section "Tools ans references".
Different forms are available depending on the nature of the request.
- If the research involves patients or healthy persons for investigations that require the collaboration of health care personnel (doctor, nurse, specialized technicians, etc.), the request must be sent to the Cliniques Saint-Luc Hospital-Facultaire Ethics Committee. The same applies to projects in the field of clinical psychology. See the "Procedures" section.
- If the research project is in its preliminary phase, not allowing the procedures used to be defined and the free and informed consent of participants to be sought, the application must use the commitment forms for thesis or dissertation projects. This is typically the case for requests addressed to the F.R.S-FNRS for the financing of scholarships, mandates or equipment several months before the possible obtaining of this financing.
- If the project is successful and the research is almost ready to begin with a favourable opinion from the ethics commission, the documents intended for the commission are proposed under the heading "Application for approval of a research programme". This project may involve a series of experiments related to the same theme.
- Other requests for opinions may be sent by ordinary mail (electronic version for confidential distribution within the committee).
How to use it
Requests concerning research projects and opinions are made electronically using documents grouped under the "Forms" tab.
Different forms are available depending on the nature of the request.
- If the research involves patients or healthy people for investigations that require the collaboration of health care personnel (doctor, nurse, specialised technicians, etc.), the opinion must be requested from the Cliniques Saint-Luc Hospital-Faculty Ethics Committee. The same applies to projects in the field of clinical psychology. See the "Procedures" section.
- If the research project is in its preliminary phase, which does not allow the procedures used to be defined and the free and informed consent of the participants to be requested, the application must use the commitment forms for commissioned studies, theses or dissertations. This is typically the case for applications to the F.R.S-FNRS for funding of grants, mandates or equipment several months before the funding is eventually obtained.
- If the project has been completed and the research is almost ready to begin, subject to a favourable opinion from the ethics committee, the documents intended for the committee are proposed under the heading "Application for approval of a research programme". This project may concern a series of experiments related to the same theme.
- Other requests for advice can be sent by ordinary mail (electronic version for confidential distribution within the commission).
Rights of participants in psychological research
Like all psychologists, the researchers of the Institute for Research in the Psychological Sciences are bound to respect the ethical rules of their profession: respect for the dignity of the person and his or her private life, responsibility, competence, integrity, etc. For more information on this subject, see the page created by the Belgian Federation of Psychologists.
These general principles guide more specific provisions concerning voluntary participation in research aimed at the advancement of knowledge. The researcher's primary aim in carrying out the study is not to help people or to respond to their requests. Instead, the researcher asks for a service in the form of time and effort, and this requires him or her to follow a defined code of conduct for human experimentation.
By analogy with research in the biomedical sciences, and even if participation in psychological research does not involve risks comparable to those of medical treatment in the experimental phase, this code follows the recommendations initially formulated in the field of health sciences: respect for the autonomy and integrity of persons, beneficence ("first, do no harm") and justice (not favouring or disadvantaging any category of persons).
In concrete terms, these principles are translated into rules defined by the scientific community:
- Researchers undertake to seek the free and informed consent of participants, explaining in understandable language what participation will entail: purpose, duration, possible distress, known risks, etc. By signing the proposed form, participants do not give up any rights. They are simply providing the researcher with proof that they have not been coerced into the study, nor left in the dark about what was really in store for them.
- Researchers undertake to respect the confidentiality of data and the privacy of participants by maintaining their anonymity in all communications relating to the research.
- Researchers should inform participants of their right to withdraw from the study at any time without giving reasons.
- Wherever possible, at the end of the study, researchers should provide participants with a brief report of the main findings. Where appropriate, they should disclose information that was purposely withheld in the presentation of the research so as not to distort its results by steering participants' behaviour too clearly in the expected direction.
In short, researchers must be accountable and able to justify themselves in the face of any criticism of the validity of their approach. Researchers who are members of the Institute for Research in the Psychological Sciences have in principle submitted their project to an Ethics Commission in order to obtain a favourable opinion on the planned study. Participants who have ethical questions about the procedures to which they have been subjected or who have doubts about the researcher's compliance with the rules may send a letter to this Commission at the following address: email@example.com
General works available in BPSP
Bourguignon O. (2007). Ethics and psychological practice. Wavre: Mardaga
Caverni J.P. (1998). Ethics in the behavioural sciences. Paris: PUF (Que sais-je ?)
Fischer C.L. (2009). Decoding the ethics code, 2d edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Kimmel A.J. (1996) Ethical issues in behavioral research. Oxford: Blackwell
Loue S. (2000). Textbook of research ethics: Theory and practice. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Criticisms of the functioning of ethics committees
Dingwall R. (2008) "To arms, citizens! Resisting the challenge of ethical regulations in the humanities and social sciences. Mouvements 3/2008 (n° 55-56), 142-154
Heimer C.A. & Petty J. (2010). Bureaucratic ethics: IRBs and the legal regulation of human subject research. Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, 6, 601-626
UCL Libraries database: Annual Reviews
The signature of publications
Fine, M.A., & Kurdek, L.A. (1993). Reflections on determining authorship credit and authorship order on faculty-student collaborations. American Psychologist, 48 (11), 1141-1147. Access via PsycArticles
Other references in the document available under the tab Author(s) of publications, guidelines
Research on the Internet
Barchard K.A. & Williams J. (2008). Practical advice for conducting ethical online experiments and questionnaires for United States psychologists. Behavior Research Methods, 40(4), 1111-1128.
UCL electronic resources: SpringerLink
Kraut R. et al (2004). Psychological research online: Report of Board of Scientific Affairs' Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet. American Psychologist, 59(2), 105-117.
UCL electronic resources: PsycArticles
Pittenger D.J. (2003). Internet Research: An opportunity to revisit classic ethical problems in behavioral research. Ethics & Behavior, 13(1), 45-60.
UCL electronic resources: Academic Search Premier
Skitka L.J. & Sargis E.G. (2006). The Internet as psychological laboratory. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 529-555.
UCL Libraries database
Piloter l'éthique de la recherche avec des êtres humains (Canada)
Douglas, B. D., McGorray, E. L., & Ewell, P. J. (2020). Some researchers wear yellow trousers, but even fewer participants read consent forms: Exploring and improving consent form reading in human subjects research. Psychological Methods, 2(999). https://doi.org/10.1037/met0000267
Nicolas Vermeulen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadine Fraselle: email@example.com