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Research ethics

Many of the medical research studies that are planned and implemented involve various ethical issues and dilemmas. These may apply to aspects such as patient safety, animal experiments or the use of sensitive personal information.

Therefore various laws and regulations are in place to ensure that research is medically justified and that the risk of damage is minimised.

Sensitive personal information

Research involving data connected to people alive today is subject to particular rules and laws. If sensitive personal information is processed (such as ethnicity or sexual orientation) the research must undergo additional ethical review by an ethical review authority in Sweden, Etikprövningsmyndigheten.

Participating patients and volunteers - informed consent

In addition to any necessary approval for the research study as a whole to proceed, other types of permission are also often required. If the research is a patient or population study, consent from the participants will be required in most cases. This means that the participants must have been informed and must have understood the purpose of the study as well as any risks and benefits involved in participation, and they must have subsequently agreed to participate.

Animal experiments

Researchers who need to conduct animal experiments require special permission; read more about this on the page about animal experiments.

Samples and registers

Research on human blood, tissue etc. normally requires ethical approval. This applies regardless of whether the material is from a living person or a deceased person. If the sample is to be stored in a biobank, the sample provider must have consented to this.

In case of major register studies based on previously collected personal data (which is available in quality registers and population registers, for example) it is not always a requirement that participants renew their consent to a researcher using the material. Such cases are usually dealt with through a simplified procedure in which information is disseminated via websites and daily media. The information is to contain details of how to proceed if one does not wish to be included in the study.

Research misconduct

As in all other activities, cheating sometimes takes place at universities. Lund University has special regulations for dealing with suspected cheating and research misconduct.

Research misconduct comprises actions or omissions related to research that

  • lead to false or distorted research results
  • provide misleading information about a person’s contributions to research

Examples of research misconduct are falsification and fabrication of data, plagiarism, unauthorised use of information provided in confidence, unjustified claims to authorship, omission to follow ethical regulations or equivalent rules.

Ethical review authority

The Swedish ethical review authority, Etikprövningsmyndigheten, operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Research. The authority processes applications for permission from Swedish universities and higher education institutions.

Etikprövningsmyndigheten was launched on 1 January 2019 and it replaces six regional ethic review boards which before has handled the applications.

The head office of Etikprövningsmyndigheten is situated in Uppsala.

Etikprövningsmyndigheten's website (information in Swedish)