EGE - Opinion 24

The EU Charter of Researchers

AgreenSkills programmes commitment to Ethics

AgreenSkills and AgreenSkills+ programmes were strongly committed to Ethics. Ethics and integrity in research comfort scientific approaches in terms of reliability, relevance and sustainability and help improve the quality of knowledge in relation to societal concerns, values and goals. AgreenSkills+ partners’ research focuses on issues regarding agricultural performance and food security, environmental and climate change that make ethical issues even more crucial.

AgreenSkills+ Ethics Commission mission was to raise fellows' awareness of ethical issues and ensure that these issues were properly addressed in their research projects. The Ethics Commission has also been instrumental in setting up training sessions on Ethics and developing ethical reflection at AgreenSkills+ annual meetings.

AgreenSkills+ Ethics Commission, which has also been AgreenSkills Ethics Commission, was composed of five members chosen for their expertise in scientific ethics and their varied international and professional experiences:

•         Professor Magda Giordano (Chair of the Ethics Commission): Investigador Titular, Instituto de Neurobiología-UNAM, Juriquilla, Queretaro, Mexico;

•         Professor Bernadette Bensaude Vincent: CETCOPRA Université Paris 1, Paris, France;

•         Dr Matthias Kaiser: Director of the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway (2012-2015): Dr M Kaiser resigned in 2015 for professional reasons (overcrowding);

•         Professor Darryl Macer: American University of Sovereign Nations, Arizona, USA; Director, Eubios Ethics Institute, New Zealand, Japan and Thailand;

•         Professor Marie-Hélène Parizeau : Faculty of Philosophy, Université Laval, Québec, Canada, President of World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology COMEST (UNESCO).

The Ethics Commission mission and main goals were:

- to ensure that ethical issues and research integrity were considered in all selected mobility research projects;

- to increase awareness of young experienced researchers and help them to integrate ethics considerations within their research practices.

The AgreenSkills Ethics Commission statement

"Ethics is an essential component of good science. Ethics is not an external constraint, rather it promotes research freedom and helps improve the quality of knowledge in relation to societal concerns, values and goals.  Ethics makes science better, also in terms of reliability, relevance and sustainability.

In our view, ethics includes integrity, compliance with international regulations about animal welfare and human rights, as well as reflection about the goals of science. We believe that science is not an end in itself, and that a sole focus on truth is an ethical choice, which leaves out other important and desirable functions of science. In fact, there are numerous non-epistemic values embedded in scientific practices, agendas and results which are crucial for a satisfactory science-society interaction.

The AgreenSkills mobility programme focuses on issues of global agricultural performance and innovation, global environmental change, food security, human nutrition and health, and animal welfare. Therefore, we consider it important to promote the reflection about how nature, artefacts, research objects, life, and welfare are perceived, and ought to be protected. Our goal is to incorporate ethical reflection in the research itself, and thus to make science better."

Ethics in the implementation of AgreenSkills programme

AgreenSkills and AgreenSkills+ programmes followed an equal opportunity policy with respect to full gender parity, equal geographical distribution and balance in topics. It also ensured respect for equality of treatment among applicants.

In full compliance with the General Principles and Requirements applicable to employers in the European Charter for Researchers and in the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers , AgreenSkills programmes intended to attract promising and confirmed talents while avoiding human capital flight from developing countries.

Ethics sessions were key components of AgreenSkills annual meetings agenda. At each meeting, Ethics sessions were organized that addressed very broad and various aspects of Ethical issues in research and ethical dilemmas that may be faced by scientific researchers. They aimed at providing references in knowledge and guidelines to young researchers that might help them in their reflection on ethical issues associated to their research.

These Ethics sessions were built on key talks and sequences of free discussions with a consistent period for Q&A and discussion in small groups between the fellows and the Ethics commission members and /or speakers. They sessions have been made possible thanks to the unflinching involvement of the members of the Ethics Commission, and notably its chair, Magda Giordano, who chaired and moderate most of them.

All ethics conferences and training sessions given at the annual meetings have been recorded and can be found on the program's website here .

European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity