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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Case Study Non-Mandatory Ethics Bodies at Austrian Universities (Papers: Erich Griessler 2015)


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Abstract: This case study analyses all together nine non-mandatory organizations and sub-units of the Austrian university landscape that deal with questions of research ethics or – some of them, more broadly – with ethical questions of research. The paper studies these organizations’ tasks, organizational set-ups, modes of operation and the extent to which they are doing well in terms of “managing contestation” and “responsibilisation” of research. Moreover, the paper looks into factors that promote and inhibit their work.

The case study is based on document analysis (see Annex) and nine interviews with chairpersons or senior employees of ethics bodies. The interviews were conducted between April and June 2014; eight of them face to face at people’s workplaces and one via telephone. The interviews lasted between 60 and 90 minutes, were fully transcribed, paraphrased and analysed by thematic analysis. The sample includes six comprehensive and one technical university; one university specialized in veterinary medicine and one university specialized in agriculture and life sciences. It comprises different institutional responses to address the question of ethics in research and innovation. In five cases these universities established ethics commissions, other institutions are called “ethics platform”, “agency for scientific integrity”, “university commission for scientific integrity and ethics” and “advisory board for ethical questions in scientific research”. With the exception of one organization, which is a joint establishment of several member organizations comprising university and non-university research organizations, all other bodies are located within the university. This study concerns basic and applied research by Austrian publicly funded universities. However, it also touches upon issues of contract research from industry and the public sector which is carried out at public universities.

Griessler E (2015) Case Study Non-Mandatory Ethics Bodies at Austrian Universities. ResAGorA
Publisher (Open access):
This paper will be presented at the 4S/EASST conference, Barcelona August 31-September 3 2016

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