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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.

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 University of Applied Sciences

Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak)

Humak University of Applied Sciences

Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK)

Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences

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 when it is not needed under the Finnish system. In such cases, the committee may provide the requester with a description of the Finnish system instead of 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 ethicality 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 for 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.

Request for a statement from the committee

Submit the request for a statement to the secretary of the committee 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 to email: eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi.

Statement request form (doc, updated 21.4.21)

Appendices to the request for a statement: 

  • Research plan
  • Data management plan (may be included in the research plan)
  • Information document for the research participants (You may use this template Participant Information Sheet - template 2020.docx)
  • Consent form for the research participants (You may use this template Participant Consent Form - template 2020.docx)
  • Privacy notice (more information at Data Protection Ombudsman’s Office website (tietosuoja.fi)  if a personal data register will be created in your research. (The Participant Information Sheet template above also includes a model for a privacy notice.)
  • Other material to be given to the research participants (e.g. questionnaire, interview outline)
  • Possible recruitment notices to be given to the research participants
  • Copy of an earlier statement (does not apply to new research)

NOTE! If the size of file containing the request for a statement is larger than 3 megabytes, we recommend sending the document through Funet File Sender at https://filesender.funet.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. Enter the email address of the committee as the recipient: eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi.

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: 

Read the data protection statement of the Ethics Committee for Human Sciences, 10 February 2020 (link to pdf file). (in Finnish.)

The committee will convene as follows in the spring term in 2021:

  • Tue 26 January (deadline for submitting data 12 January)
  • Tue 16 February (deadline for submitting data 2 February)
  • Tue 16 March (deadline for submitting data 2 March)
  • Tue 13 April (deadline for submitting data 30 March)
  • Tue 11 May (deadline for submitting data 27 April)
  • if necessary, Tue 8 June (deadline for submitting data 25 May)

Members of the committee during the term 1 August 2020–31 July 2022

Jyrki Kettunen, Doctor of Health Sciences, Docent (Physical activity and Musculoskeletal Health), Senior Researcher, Arcada, Chair
Deputy: Pamela Gray, Doctor of Philosophy (Public Health and Wellbeing), Principal Lecturer and Degree Programme Director, Arcada

Anna Härmä, Master of Laws, Legal Counsel, Arcada
Deputy: Åsa Rosengren, Licentiate of Social Sciences, Principal Lecturer, Arcada

Mervi Friman, Doctor of Philosophy (Education), Research Manager (higher education research), HAMK  
Deputy: Jaana-Maija Koivisto, Doctor of Philosophy (Education), Principal Research Scientist, HAMK

Merja Kylmäkoski, Doctor of Philosophy (Political Science), Principal Lecturer, Humak 
Deputy: Katri Kaalikoski, Doctor of Social Sciences (Practical Philosophy), Education Manager, Humak

Teija-Kaisa Aholaakko, Doctor of Philosophy (Health Sciences, Population Health, Prevention of Infections), Licentiate degree (Higher Vocational Education), Principal Lecturer, Laurea
Deputy: Soile Juujärvi, Doctor of Social Sciences, Docent (Social Psychology), Principal Lecturer, Laurea

Susanna Näreaho, Doctor of Philosophy (Environmental Technology), Senior Advisor, Metropolia, Vice Chair
Deputy: Anna-Maria Vilkuna, Doctor of Philosophy, Docent (History of Finland), Director, RDI, Metropolia

Leena Rekola, Doctor of Philosophy (Health Sciences), Principal Lecturer, RDI, Metropolia
Deputy: Pekka Paalasmaa, Doctor of Science, Docent (Neurobiology), Principal Lecturer, Metropolia

Mikko Malkavaara, Doctor of Theology, Docent (General Church History), Principal Lecturer in Diaconia and Education, Diak
Deputy: Jouko Porkka, Doctor of Theology (Pedagogy of Religion), Senior Lecturer, Diak

Pekka Lahti, Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration, RDI Specialist, Haaga-Helia
Deputy: Iris Humala, Doctor of Science in Economics and Business Administration, Doctor of Philosophy (Education), Specialist, Research Services, Haaga-Helia

Contact the expert secretary of the committee at: eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi.

For further information, please contact

Contact the expert secretary of the committee at: eettinentoimikunta [at] arcada.fi.