Centre for Ethics held PRINTEGER projects' local dissemination seminar | University of Tartu Centre of Ethics

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Centre for Ethics held PRINTEGER projects' local dissemination seminar

Legal regulations and codes of conduct influence the research culture as well as forming practices that observe and take into account research integrity. In 2017 Estonian universities, research institutions, the Estonian Research Council and the Ministry of Education and Research signed the Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity Agreement to follow values and principles of action stated in that document. The creation of the document of research integrity was initiated by the Estonian Research Council early in 2016 by forming a work group that included representatives from the Estonian Academy, the Ministry of Education and Research and the Estonian Research Council. The Estonian Research Council entrusted the drafting of the text to the Centre for Ethics at University of Tartu, which had already done the comparative analysis of all the existing codes and guidelines for task 2.1 in the PRINTEGER project and therefore had a deep understanding of what should be included in the code.

The Estonian Code of Conduct requires a researcher to comply with the principles and regulations of personal data protection. It also stipulates that those involved in the study should be treated with respect and care and researchers should protect the subjects' autonomy and privacy by asking the informed consent for processing personal data and maintaining personal information only as long as necessary.

At the moment Estonian researchers are in the peculiar situation – the knowledge about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is lacking. Moreover, although GDPR is allegedly very generous to the research community, the accompanying Estonian Personal Data Protection Act is still not adopted, which means that Estonian researchers do not know to which extent and how these exemptions will be adopted into Estonian law.

The seminar “Why and from whom do we need to protect personal data? The causes and consequences of the EU data protection reform” was organised by the Centre for Ethics at the University of Tartu to contribute to the promotion of research culture in which integrity is part and to raise awareness of the ethical requirements of data processing. In the beginning prof. Margit Sutrop gave an overview of the outcomes of the PRINTEGER project and the process of drafting the “Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. The lectures were given by the invited speaker Tobias Schulte in den Baeumen (adviser to the European Research Council Executive Agency and the Innovative Medicine Initiative) and Prof. Marju Lauristin (former Member of the European Parliament and shadow rapporteur of data protection regulation).

Programme of the seminar can be found here.

The questions discussed in the seminar ranged from the philosophical ones (what are the ethical principle behind the GDPR and why observing data protection laws is part of the research integrity) to the practical and juridical (what is the proper way of obtaining informed consent and what are the issues that are related to processing of personal data in different types of research and in different cultural and legal contexts). Prof. Marju Lauristin gave the general background of the options, dilemmas and disagreements that came up during the preparation of the new data protection regulation in the European Parliament and in the European Commission.

Seminar was open and advertised to the wide audience, although mainly keeping in mind the early stage researchers (doctoral student and postdocs). Invitations were sent also to the doctoral schools, to the researchers and administrators of the main Estonian research universities, to the Estonian Research Council, to the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, to the local research and clinical Ethics Committees, to all the signatories of Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity Agreement and to the work group of the „Estonian Code of Conduct for Research Integrity“.

Altogether 44 people registered to the event and 40 participated.

Participants were mostly doctoral students from the University of Tartu, but also academic and research staff from the University of Tartu, Tallinn University, Estonian Academy of Arts, and Aalto University (Finland). There were as well research administrators from the University of Tartu and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, and some people with no academic affiliation. As the whole seminar was video recorded and will be available on Tartu University website (here, here, and here) and at the Ethicsweb managed by the Centre of Ethics of Tartu University, the dissemination will be very wide.

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