Why is ethics important in research

Research on Covid-19: A Question of Ethics

The corona crisis challenges: decision-makers in politics and health care, but also every individual and science. There are important considerations to be made - from a medical and economic, but also from a social and ethical point of view. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic also raises questions about appropriate reactions and coping strategies for scientific research. Ethics researchers help initiate the necessary debates on relevant moral issues and provide guidance for concrete action. The PRECOPE project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) analyzes what is important here.

"The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has given the international research community the responsible task of directing its efforts towards rapid research into therapeutic, diagnostic and prevention approaches according to the best scientific standards," explains Professor Daniel Strech, head of the project. His team at the QUEST Center of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) analyzes the ethics of this clinical research, which is planned, funded, appraised, carried out and published in the shortest possible time.

  • What specific challenges do researchers, ethics committees, sponsors and study participants see themselves confronted with in Covid 19 studies and how do they deal with them?
  • How can ethical research standards be implemented in this particular situation?

In April 2020, the working group first sent an inquiry to all 52 German ethics committees that participate in the legally required evaluation of clinical trials and at the same time belong to the working group of the medical ethics commissions (AKEK). 42 percent of the ethics committee contacted took part in the survey; Based on this information, a literature search and additional interviews, practical recommendations for ethics committees and applicants are to be developed in the course of the research project. External experts will be involved in this process and the PRECOPE working group will work closely with the AKEK as a cooperation partner.

A first report shows the particular challenges in the assessment and approval of clinical studies in connection with Covid-19: "The key points include the scientific validity of the studies and the informed consent of the study participants," describes Strech. "Due to time pressure and a lack of national coordination at the beginning of the pandemic, many applications had methodological weaknesses and it was difficult to guarantee a consistently high quality of advice and testing." In addition, the study participants - in many cases patients, who are going through a severe course of Covid 19 disease - a particularly vulnerable group of people. Here it is important to weigh up the risks and benefits, to observe special standards in data management and data protection and at the same time to promote medical research as an important means of fighting pandemics.

At the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research opened the rapid response module of the "Guideline for the Funding of a National Research Network for Zoonotic Infectious Diseases" for a call for funding for research into Covid-19. From March 3, 2020, researchers were able to submit applications to contribute to the understanding of the virus and its spread, to develop therapeutic and diagnostic approaches against Covid-19 and to investigate ethical, legal and socio-economic implications (ELSA) in connection with the pandemic to explore.

Back to the project overview for the research of Covid-19