Ethical principles of research

In Finland, researchers in all scientific fields are guided by general ethical principles:

  • the researcher must respect the human dignity and right to self-determination of the research participants
  • the researcher must respect material and intellectual cultural heritage and natural diversity
  • the researcher must conduct their research without causing significant risks, damage or harm to human participants, the community or other research objects

In addition, researchers in Finland must comply with the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK) concerning responsible conduct of research.

See the website of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (tenk.fi)

Ethical recommendations for research conducted on humans

In addition to the general ethical principles guiding researchers, the ethical principles concerning research on humans and human activity provide guidelines on:

  • the treatment and rights of the research participants, especially their informed consent to participate in research or to refuse to participate
  • situations where the research participants are underage or people with limited capacity
  • processing of personal data in research
  • privacy protection in research publications
  • the openness of research data

Researchers are advised to read the ethical principles during the planning stage of their research.

Ethical review

Before research can be conducted, it may have to be submitted to an ethical review.

Ethical reviews of research are conducted by ethics committees. The relevant ethics committee is determined by the place where the researcher conducts their research and by the type of research.

The Human Sciences Ethics Committee of the Helsinki Region Universities of Applied Sciences and HUCHs have devised an instruction paper When and where do I apply for an ethical review to help with determining which committee the appraisal should be asked from. The guide offers examples of research settings evaluated in committees.

Medical research

When research involves intervention in the integrity of a person for the purpose of increasing knowledge about health, the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases, or the nature of diseases in general, including scientific research on treatment and health, and research on exercise or diet, the research is covered by the scope of the Medical Research Act (488/1999, and amendments 295/2004, 794/2010).

The Medical Research Act refers to intervention in the physical or psychological integrity of a person.

Intervention in the physical integrity of a person includes, for example, taking blood samples, biopsies or similar, research involving physical strain and research which seeks to influence health or the risk or symptoms of a disease.

Intervention in the psychological integrity of a person is when the research may cause a risk to the mental wellbeing of the research participant.

Before commencing research covered by the scope of the Medical Research Act, the researcher must obtain a favourable opinion from the regional medical ethics committee.

Link to the website of the National Committee on Medical Research Ethics TUKIJA, where you can find the regional medical ethics committees.

Other research with human participants

In some cases, other research than the medical research mentioned above may also require an ethical review before it can be started. If your research subject is a person but your research is not medical, you must request an ethical review if:

  1. participation in the research deviates from the principle of informed consent,
  2. the research involves intervention in the physical integrity of the research participants,
  3. the research involves minors under the age of 15 who participate without the separate consent of their guardian or without the guardian being informed, based on which the guardian would have the opportunity to forbid the child from participating,
  4. the research participants will be subjected to exceptionally strong stimuli,
  5. the research involves the risk of causing mental harm that exceeds the limits of normal daily life to the research participants or their family members or others closest to them, or
  6. the research could pose a threat to the safety of the research participants or the researchers, or their family members or others closest to them.

An ethical review of non-medical research with human participants is conducted by the human sciences ethics committee at the researcher’s workplace.

Ethical review guidelines of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity TENK

TENK's ethical principles of research with human participants and guidelines for ethical review in the human sciences are followed by nearly all the higher education institutions and research institutes operating in these scientific fields as well as by archives in Finland.

An organisation that has committed to these guidelines is responsible, as an employer, for making sure that researchers belonging to its scientific community are familiar with research ethics and the guidelines and recommendations related to ethical review, and that they comply with them. The researchers must also follow the guidelines when they work in international joint projects in Finland or abroad. The guidelines must also be partially adhered to when working in national or international research collaboration with businesses and other parties. The researchers must follow the ethical principles described in the guidelines and promote their application also when teaching at higher education institutions and supervising theses.

Download the guidelines for ethical review in the human sciences as a PDF. (2nd, revised edition.)

Teaching video about ethical review in the human sciences

The Finnish National Board on Research Integrity TENK has published a short cartoon video about ethical review in the human sciences.

The video is available in Finnish, in Swedish, in English, in French and in Russian.

The video is an introduction to the principles included in the revised guidelines for ethical review that entered into force on 1 October 2019, and it includes examples of research designs where the researcher should turn to the human sciences ethics committee.

The video can be used in teaching and communications and it is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence (read more about the CC BY 4.0 licence on the Creative Commons website).

Read more about ethical review in Finland on the website of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity TENK.

The Human Sciences Ethics Committee of the Helsinki Region Universities of Applied Sciences

An ethical review of non-medical research with human participants is conducted by the human sciences ethics committee of the researcher’s workplace.

The committee conducts advance reviews and provides statements on research with human participants that does not need to be reviewed by the regional medical ethics committee on the basis of the Medical Research Act. Besides humanities and social sciences, such research includes research with human participants in the natural sciences and technology, in artistic research, and in some cases also in non-invasive health or medical research.

In this context, research refers to research, development and innovation activities. The committee provides statements upon request to the staff and students of its member organisations. The committee does not issue statements on research that has already been completed. Additionally, the committee’s purpose is to promote training in research integrity, contribute towards maintaining and enhancing the quality of research and serve as an expert body on research integrity in its member organisations.

The statement is free of charge.

The following Universities of Applied Sciences are members of the Committee:

Arcada, DiakHumak, LaureaHAMKMetropoliaHaaga-Helia 

When do you need a statement from the ethics committee?

The ethical acceptability of research must always be assessed in advance if:

  1. participation in the research deviates from the principle of informed consent,
  2. the research involves intervention in the physical integrity of the research participants,
  3. the research involves minors under the age of 15 who participate without the separate consent of their guardian or without the guardian being informed, based on which the guardian would have the opportunity to forbid the child from participating,
  4. the research participants will be subjected to exceptionally strong stimuli,
  5. the research involves the risk of causing mental harm that exceeds the limits of normal daily life to the research participants or their family members or others closest to them, or
  6. the research could pose a threat to the safety of the research participants or the researchers, or their family members or others closest to them.

Sometimes the funder or publisher of the research or the organisation granting the research permit etc. may require an ethical review. In cases when the Finnish system does not require a statement, the committee may provide the requester with a description of the Finnish system rather than a statement. 

The human sciences ethical review is intended for post-Bachelor’s degree research. While thesis supervisors are responsible for making sure that the students they are supervising familiarise themselves with the ethical principles, ultimately the author of a thesis is personally responsible for the ethics of their work.

If a postgraduate thesis (e.g. for a UAS Master’s degree) is designed to be implemented in a manner that requires an ethical review, the student must request one from the ethics committee together with their supervisor.

An ethical review does not shift the researcher’s responsibility of their research and its moral solutions to the ethics committee.

It should be noted that a statement from the ethics committee is not a research permit. A permit to conduct research is always issued by the organisation in which the research will be conducted. In addition, the individual research participants must give their consent to be involved in the research.

What does the ethics committee assess?

The ethics committee assesses the potential risks and harm caused by participation in research in relation to the desired informative value of the research. Based on TENK's ethical principles, the review by the ethics committee examines the planned method of research and the data collection plan from the perspective of preventing risks and damage. Moreover, the committee reviews documents concerning informing and obtaining consent from the research participants.

Ethical reviews place a particular emphasis on:

  • The potential risks and harm caused to the research participants and those closest to them and possibly also to the researcher, as described in the request for a statement, as well as their probability in relation to the plans for preventing them.
  • Whether the research participants will be informed clearly enough of the content of the research, their participation and the processing of their personal data.
  • The data management plan, which also includes a description of the processing of personal data over the life cycle of the research.
  • The appropriateness of the printed or electronic consent forms to be given to the research participants.
  • The method with which consent from the research participants will be requested and documented if no printed or electronic consent forms are used.
  • The importance of the new information which the researcher aims to obtain with their research in relation to the potential harm or risks. In order to avoid harms and damages, ethical risks and means of targeting that risk must be considered in the research plan.

The ethical principles dictate, that research must be conducted in a way in which it does not cause significant risks, damages or harm to research participants, communities or other research objects. The research plan must always at least recognize the possible risks and harms and the research must be executed in a way so they can be avoided, regardless of whether or not an ethical requirement is needed.  

Request a statement from the committee

Submit the request for a statement at least 2 weeks before the date of the meeting at which you would like your request to be processed. Please send the Statement request form and appendices as one PDF-file through Funet File Sender at https://filesender.funet.fi/Enter the email address of the committee as recipient: eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi. When submitting your application, please select the longest possible expiry date from the calendar to ensure we have the chance to upload it.

Once the application has been received, you should get a confirmation email. If you do not, please contact eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi

For more information, see the Funet File Sender website (link to website).This is a system available to the staff and students of all higher education institutions. 

Required attachments

Attachments to request for a statement: 

The Committee's Decision

The committee will announce its decision within two weeks of the processing of the request. The ethical review statement provided may be either positive or conditionally positive (requiring changes). The statement may also be negative (requiring changes). Any corrections by the committee that are marked clearly on the request for a statement must be delivered to the committee within three months of the request for these corrections. Otherwise, a new request for a statement must be submitted to the committee.

If the researcher fails to comply with the guidance in the statement received, this may constitute a violation of responsible conduct of research (RCR).

If the person who has requested an ethical review statement does not accept the changes proposed in the statement or the decision of the ethics committee, they may request a statement on the matter from TENK. The request for a statement, including the grounds for requesting a statement, must be submitted within two months of the ethics committee’s decision.

If you would like further information on the work of the committee and on the possible need for an ethical review, please contact the expert secretary of the committee at eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi ">eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi

 

Meetings of the committee

The committee will convene in the Fall 2022 term: 

  • Tue 23rd Aug (deadline for submitting material 9.8.)
  • Tue 20th Sep (deadline for submitting material 6.9.)
  • Tue 18th Oct (deadline for submitting material 4.10.)
  • Wed 16th Nov (deadline for submitting material 2.11.)
  • Fri 16th Dec (deadline for submitting material 2.12.)

Members of the committee

Members of the committee 1.8.2022-31.7.2024 

Susanna Näreaho, Chair, Doctor of Philosophy (Environmental Technology), Senior Advisor, Metropolia

Deputy, Anna-Maria Vilkuna, Anna-Maria Vilkuna, Doctor of Philosophy, Docent (History of Finland), Director, RDI, Metropolia

Merja Kylmäkoski, Vice Chair, Doctor of Philosophy (Political Science), Principal Lecturer, Humak

Deputy, Katri Kaalikoski, D. Soc. Sc, Education manager

Jyrki Kettunen, Doctor of Health Sciences, Docent (Physical activity and Musculoskeletal Health), Senior Researcher, Arcada

Deputy, Michael von Boguslawski, Ph.D. (philosophy, Strategy specialist  

Arja Suikkala, Doctor of Health Sciences, Principal lecturer, DIAK

Deputy, Satu Kajander-Unkuri, Doctor of Health Sciences, Principal lecturer 

Pekka Lahti, M.Sc. (Econ.), RDI Specialist, Haaga-Helia

Deputy, Elsi Ahonen, Specialist  

Jaana-Maija Koivisto, Principal Research Scientist, HAMK

Deputy, Raija Koskinen, Master of Social Sciences (Sociology), Doctoral researcher (Social Work), Senior Lecturer

Soile Juujärvi, Doctor of Social Sciences, Docent (Social Psychology), Principal Lecturer, Laurea

Deputy, Teija-Kaisa Aholaakko, Doctor of Philosophy (Health Sciences, Population Health, Prevention of Infections), Licentiate degree (Higher Vocational Education), Principal Lecturer

Iira Lankinen, Doctor of Health Sciences (Nursing science), Principal Lecturer, Metropolia

Deputy, Pekka Paalasmaa, Doctor of Science, Docent (Neurobiology), Principal Lecturer, Metropolia