All MWK-FELLOWS research activities have to respect fundamental ethics principles, including those reflected in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the relevant Ethics Rules of Horizon 2020. Ethical compliance is seen as pivotal to achieve true excellence in research. These principles include the requisite to ensure the freedom of research and the need to protect the physical and moral integrity of individuals and the welfare of animals. The research projects of MWK-FELLOWS are not known in advance, but may concern ethical issues related to human beings. One such example is research on the Human Rights of Adivasis in India (a current research project at the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt).
In order to identify any ethics issues that could be raised by MWK-FELLOWS’ potential research projects, various measures are taken:
All applicants have to complete an Ethical Issue Form which deals with the ethical and social impact of their research. The form includes an Ethical Issue Table (based on the Ethical Issue Table (EIT) provided by the EU). Applicants who indicate potential ethical concerns in the table are strictly required to provide an in depth ethics self-assessment in the specified field of the Ethical Issue Form. Applications without a completed Ethical Issue Form, applications that indicate an ethical issue in the Ethical Issue Table, but do not complete the ethic self-assessment as well as applications that are not in accord with the ethical guidelines will be rejected within the eligibility check and thus excluded from the selection process.
All committees involved in the selection process have to check whether ethical issues may arise by consulting the Ethical Issue Form and the research proposal. They have to pay particular attention to research objectives (e. g. study of vulnerable populations like elderly people, cooperation with a Third Country etc.), research methodology (consent procedures for questionnaires, data protection and privacy issues related to data collected etc.) and the impact of the research (e. g. stigmatisation of particular social groups, political or cultural retaliation etc.). In cases of ambiguous problems concerning personal data the Data Protection Commissioner of the University of Erfurt will be called upon.
If necessary the Advisory Council on Ethical Issues in Research of the University of Erfurt who is responsible for good scientific practice) will be involved.
Standards of Good Scientific Practice and Ethical Conduct
The Higher Education Law of the Federal State of Thuringia (ThürHG) sets high standards for observing good scientific practice and for ethical conduct. Within the University of Erfurt the standing Ethics Committee is responsible for the observance of good scientific practice and can be appealed to at any time by any member of the university. Its guidelines are outlined in a code of procedures, following the recommendations of the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Part of these guidelines are the rules concerning potential conflicts of interest. The governing boards of the Max-Weber-Kolleg and the committee chairs will pay careful attention to any potential conflict of interest that could be encountered by those involved in the selection process. Reviewers and members of involved committees will be requested to declare any potential conflicts of interest beforehand. Reviewers are selected on the basis of strict criteria for the appointment of reviewers.
In case of serious violations of the standards of good scientific practice or of the code of ethics dismissal is possible according to the legal regulations of German employment law.
In case of ethical problems concerning research projects MWK-Fellows can contact the board for ethical issues in research of the University of Erfurt (Ethikbeirat). In case of ethical problems concerning good scientific practice MWK-Fellows can contact the commission of inquiry or the trusted person for good scientific practice of the University of Erfurt(Untersuchungskommission und Vertrauensperson).
Additionally MWK-Fellows have to observe data protection regulations according to the legislation of Thuringia (ThürDSG), national legislation (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz) and European legislation (GDPR).