A map of trainings in research ethics and integrity

December 2023

Carly Seedall-Vasic is a research analyst at EUREC European Network of Research Ethics Committees

In an ever-changing research landscape marked by increasingly complex challenges, training in research ethics and integrity becomes all the more crucial. Effective training equips the research community to tackle the unexpected, fostering a culture of preparedness.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers, funders, non-governmental organisations, publishers, and ethics reviewers collectively emphasised a common need—training. They called for targeted materials addressing the unique ethical dimensions of research during crises.

The consensus is clear – the aim of effective training should not only be to learn from the past but also to actively prepare for future crises through materials tailored to different stakeholders. Researchers need to learn how to uphold ethical standards under high pressure, funders need to know how to allocate scarce resources, research ethics reviewers need to be well-versed in fast-track procedures and decision-making, and the media and scientists need expertise in reporting on crisis-relevant research.

PREPARED is developing training materials attuned to these multifaceted needs. Recognising the wealth of innovative training resources on research ethics and integrity from various projects, we do not want to reinvent the wheel. The Synergy Map serves as our guide in this endeavour.

Figure 1: The Prepared Synergy Map

Our Synergy Map analysed 30 diverse sets of training materials, ranging from a manual for Liberian ethics reviewers of clinical trials to bite-sized lectures from ethics experts during the COVID-19 pandemic and an app presenting dilemmas on research integrity. These were ranked in terms of  usefulness of both the materials and formats. However, this map went beyond plotting projects on a graph to reveal actionable insights. 

We observed that actively updated materials, like those from the ENERI project, hold tremendous value, ensuring relevance and adaptability. Materials that incorporate storytelling, role-playing, and multimedia, such as those developed within the INTEGRITY project, keep learners engaged, while initiatives like TRREE contribute essential insights for localising materials for a global audience. Incentives, including certificates from programmes like VIR2TUE, play a pivotal role in motivating learners. 

Many of these resources aren’t gathering dust – they’re dynamically evolving. The Synergy Map revealed the need to foster dialogue with ongoing initiatives like iRECS – which addresses the research community’s adjustments to technological and international research challenges – ensuring our learning outcomes stay in sync.

Drawing from this knowledge, PREPARED aims to deliver materials that stand the test of time and ensure crisis readiness.

Interested in learning more? The PREPARED Synergy Map can be accessed upon request to seedall@eurecnet.eu or tambornino@eurecnet.eu