“United in Diversity”: Research Ethics in European Political Science
by Daniela R. Piccio, Università degli Studi di Torino
In a recent article reviewing how national policies define research misconduct in the top forty countries for Research and Development (R&D) funding, Resnik, Rasmussen, and Kissling (2015) come to two main conclusions. First, only half the countries under consideration (22 out of 40) have a policy for national misconduct. Second, among the countries that have established such policies, there is little common understanding on what actually qualifies as misconduct in scientific research. Considering the geographical distribution of the countries examined in their study, which are spread across all the continents of the world and include Australia, Mexico, Iran, Malaysia, South Africa, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, and the United States, these results do not appear particularly surprising. It is more surprising, however, to discover that a similar heterogeneity of approaches exists in Europe, among neighboring countries that are united at the supranational level by the European Union. Indeed, a study of research integrity guidance in the 31 countries of the European Economic Area has shown that only 19 have established national research integrity guidelines and that, as regards their content, “not one list of principles or one definition is identical in any two guidelines” (Godecharle, Nemery, and Dierickx 2013, 1097).
Based on the analysis of the regulations, the practices, and the codes of professional conduct in the region, this article seeks to develop a reasonably comprehensive picture of ethics assessment governance for the social sciences. It will show that European countries are still very diverse in the way and in the extent to which they address and regulate matters relevant to research ethics in the social sciences, and that, for the time being, a major dividing line still exists between the European and the American approaches to research ethics.