APS/SPR Code of Ethics

Adopted by the APS/SPR Joint Council October, 1997

Members of the APS/SPR should be guided by the fundamental principles of ethical research. These include a responsibility to use their knowledge and skills to promote the general welfare of humankind, with particular emphasis on the special needs of children; to share their results with others through discussion, presentations, and publications; to be honest and impartial in their interactions with trainees, patients and colleagues and when engaged in peer review activities; to recognize the role of collaborators, trainees and other personnel who have made contributions to the research; and to give proper attribution to the work of others.

Creating and Maintaining a Positive Research Environment.

Creating a positive research environment that promotes responsible and ethical research conduct is one of the fundamental ways in which scientists can prevent unacceptable behavior. The research environment includes not only the laboratory or clinic, but encompasses broadly the realm in which members accomplish their scientific endeavors: the classroom, clinical sites, scientific meetings, scientific, academic and peer review committees, and journals. The research environment should not only respect the scientific process but also those who participate, including subjects of research (both human and animal), laboratory workers and students, regardless of gender, ethnic origin or rank. Systems governing academic advancement should be encouraged to develop standards that value scientific quality and originality above quantity as a way of further encouraging ethical scientific behavior.

Mentoring of Trainees.

Effective mentorship of trainees and young investigators is important to guarantee the transfer of the ideals of a productive and ethical research environment to future generations of researchers. It is the responsibility of the mentor to plan for the transition to independence of the trainee. This includes removal of the mentor's name from publications at an appropriate time during this transition.

Applying for Research Support.

Science is a cumulative endeavor and our current base of knowledge almost always has been built on the previous insights of others. Researchers should strive to uncover the prior work of others, provide accurate attribution of this work, and to recognize the contributions of trainees and collaborators for their intellectual contributions. Applications for research support should honestly state the scope of the proposed work, its relevance, the degree to which part of the work has already been completed, the research budget, and the level of effort devoted by the principal investigator and others to the project.

Participation in Scientific or Editorial Peer Review.

Members participating in peer review, whether of research grants or manuscripts, should possess the scientific qualifications to evaluate the merit of the work and be able to provide timely, fair and impartial consideration of the material. They should ask to be recused if they cannot do so or if they possess a conflict of interest. Grant applications, manuscripts and similar material and the ideas contained therein should be kept confidential and the ideas or data contained within should not be used to further the reviewer's own research.

Conducting Research.

Ethical research should be accomplished with a formal research design in which appropriate controls are employed to protect against investigator bias. The potential complications and risks of the research should be considered and appropriate use of consultants, particularly those with statistical expertise, should be encouraged. Data should be accurately recorded and archived in a manner which retains its originally defining characteristics so as to allow analysis by others. Sharing of data and of biological or other materials or techniques is part of good research practice and should be encouraged as far as practicable.

Research on human subjects must be performed with informed consent, by which participants (or, if a minor, their parents) have been notified of the risks and benefits of their participation. Participants must not be coerced in any way to participate. Human subjects should be treated with beneficence, justice and respect for their autonomy. All human research must meet with approval by an Institutional Review Board and should follow all institutional and federal regulations.

Animal research should be conducted to advance knowledge. Alternatives should be sought when possible. Animals should be treated with respect and concern for their health and welfare. Laboratory personnel should be adequately trained in animal care and experimental procedures. Institutional and federal guidelines should be followed and research must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Research in human genetics and molecular biology should be conducted so as to protect the confidentiality of those individuals who supply genetic material, help avoid discrimination in health care, insurance, or employment based on genetic information, and provide counseling to patients about diagnoses of genetically-based diseases. Researchers should understand the potential legal, ethical and social implications of genetic research.

Reporting of Research.

Authorship of a scientific publication or presentation implies participation in the research, the author's ability to defend all or part of the data, methods, and conclusions, and responsibility for the work of their collaborator(s). The first and/or senior author has the special responsibility to maintain records of the primary data and for stewardship of potentially sharable resources. In all circumstances, the use of other's words or ideas must be accompanied by appropriate attribution.

Publication of research should provide sufficient methodological detail to allow confirmation of research results and use of methods by others. Research should be published in meaningful, complete units that maximize contribution to the literature and justify their publication. Dividing research results into multiple small units that diminish the full scope of a project is undesirable as is multiple publication of the same results in different journals.

Avoiding and Correcting Violations of Good Conduct.

Misconduct in research undermines the scientific process, threatens the base of knowledge upon which others may build, and threatens the loss of public support of the research enterprise as a whole. Researchers have an obligation to take appropriate action when they become aware of violations of good research practice. Initial challenges to research results should be able to take place in an open environment and should be performed constructively and without suggestion of deliberate misrepresentation. If this cannot be accomplished successfully, then suspicions should be reported to the appropriate institutional official. Individuals who honestly and responsibly report research misconduct should be treated fairly and not be subject to reprisal.

Researchers must avoid conflict of interest, which occurs when personal considerations have the potential to compromise professional judgment. Commercial or other support which could lead to the perception of such a conflict must be acknowledged at the time of presentation or publication of research results. Researchers should contribute to the responsible conduct of research by actively educating their students and trainees to all elements of responsible research practice.

We wish to acknowledge a major resource used in the preparation of this statement, the AAMC publication "Developing a Code of Ethics in Research: A Guide for Scientific Societies", Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, D.C., 1997. This guide can be obtained from the AAMC, Section for Publication Orders, 2450 N Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20037.

Bibliography

  1. American College of Physicians. "American College of Physicians Ethics Manual." Annals of Internal Medicine 117:947-960, 1996.
  2. American Federation for Clinical Research. "AFCR Guidelines for the Responsible Conduct of Research." Clinical Research 37:510-511, 1989.
  3. American Association of Medical Colleges. "Developing a Code of Ethics in Research: A Guide for Scientific Societies", AAMC, Washington, D.C., 1997.