For employees at the DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATICS
On this page you can find ethical guidelines for research staff at the Department of Informatics. Before any research data collection, please inform the Head of department to assess the need for ethical review.
This site aims to guide in the process of establishing and using ethical
principles of research at the Department of informatics, Lund University School of
Economics and Management (LUSEM). The information on the site concerns
research within the social science of informatics, which is socio-technical in its
nature. As a result, research ethics directly derived from medical research on
humans and animals do not apply. The site is a compilation of information
about different aspects of research ethics from other sources, which are mentioned in the text. The guidelines have been established by the research and research
education committee (FoKom) at the department.
Research ethics builds on both legislation and rules of what is ethical research
principles. The following text describes both general principles and research ethics
based on legislation.
- Research ethics: General principles
- Informed consent and information to research persons
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Research ethics built on legislation
- Deviations from good research practice: misconduct
- Privacy law
- Sensitive personal data
- Research data management
- Ethical review by the Swedish Ethical Review Authority
The general principles of what is good research ethics are mainly based on the
Helsinki declaration (World Medical Association, 2013) and includes four basic
pillars for ethical research:
- Information: The participants in a research project must achieve
information about the research and why they are asked to participate.
- Consent: The participants should actively give consent to participation in
the research. They have the right to cancel their participation at any time.
- Confidentiality: The privacy of the participants must be protected.
- Principles for use of the results from research: The results from a research
project can only be used for the purposes originally stated in the research
project plan. In particular, it cannot be used for commercial purposes.
Participation in a research project must be voluntary. The interviewee, respondents
of a survey or the persons that are being observed (which are in this document
labelled “research persons” according to the terminology of the Swedish Ethical
Review Authority) shall be informed about the following aspects of the research
- What the project is about and why the research person should participate?
- How long will the participation take (for example expected length of interviews)?
- What does it mean to participate in the research project (for example being interviewed, observed or answering a survey questionnaire)?
- Possible consequences of participating in the project.
- What happens to the empirical data that the research person submits to the research project?
- How will the research person achieve information about the results of the research project?
- A clear and concise information about the voluntariness of participating in the project and the right to cancel the participation in the project at any time or at a specifical withdrawal date which is set by the researcher.
- Contact information to the responsible researcher of the project.
This information is generally conveyed to the participant using a participant
information sheet (PIS). In connection to interviews and observations, a written
consent form should be signed by the interviewee. In connection to survey
questionnaires, the information (see the bullet points above) should be presented in the introduction to the questionnaire. To fill in the written questionnaire is regarded as equivalent to giving consent to participate in the study by the respondent.
The department expects every researcher to give a participant information sheet
(PIS) and to obtain informed consent from the research persons. An example of a
PIS and an informed consent form is presented here1 Research participants might
have different needs regarding the PIS and consent form. The director of PhD
studies can give advice on tailoring the PIS to the needs of the research
It is essential to protect the privacy of interviewees and respondents. Means to do
that is to provide either anonymity, confidentiality, or pseudonymity.
Confidentiality and anonymity are ethical practices designed to protect the
privacy of human subjects while collecting, analysing, and reporting data.
Confidentiality refers to separating or modifying any personal, identifying
information provided by participants from the data. By contrast, anonymity refers to collecting data without obtaining any personal, identifying information.
Typically, anonymity is the procedure followed in quantitative studies, and
confidentiality is maintained in qualitative studies. (Coffelt, n.d.)
Pseudonymity means that the research person has a pseudonym which is tied to
their identity. When research is presented, only the pseudonym of the research
person is used.
The Act on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and the Examination of
Research Misconduct (2019:504) applies as of 1 January 2020. The act prescribes
that the researcher is responsible for compliance with good research practice in
their research. The University has overarching responsibility for research being
conducted in accordance with good research practice.
The act defines research misconduct as fabrication, falsification or plagiarism
(FFP) that is committed intentionally or through gross negligence when planning,
conducting or reporting research.
In the act, FFP is referred to as serious deviation from good research practice.
Suspected serious deviation from good research practice (FFP) is to be investigated by a special national board. Other deviations from good research practice are to be handled by Lund University. (Lund University, 2023).
The use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) in reporting research can result in
e.g., fabrication and falsification. Researchers should carefully follow the rules of
use of generative AI, which are decided by each journal and conference.
When performing research in Sweden, the project must comply with Swedish
privacy law (Sv. sekretesslagstiftningen). According to this law, certain
information is confidential, for example trade secrets (Sv. affärshemligheter) and
information about a person’s health status. The latter also falls into the category of
sensitive personal data (see next section).
The handling of personal data within the research project must comply with the
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If the research handles sensitive
personal data, an ethical review must be performed by the Swedish Ethical Review
Authority. Sensitive personal data includes:
- racial or ethnic origin
- political opinions
- religious or philosophical beliefs
- membership of a trade union
- a person's sex life or sexual orientation
- genetic data
- biometric data that is being used to uniquely identify a person.
Also, the handling of data on criminal convictions and offenses requires an ethical
review to be performed by the Swedish Ethical Review Authority.
Guidelines for research data management is given on these web pages:
- Research Data Management: https://www.staff.lu.se/research-and-education/research-support/support-research-process/research-data-management
- Data storage: https://www.it.lu.se/it-tjanster/lagring/
When is an ethical review by the Swedish Ethical Review Authority needed? The
following text is a quotation from the Swedish Ethical Review Authority website,
which describes what research needs an ethical review:
The first question to decide is whether what is planned constitutes research
according to the definition of the term found in Section 2 of the Ethics Review Act
[Sv. Etikprövningslagen], i.e., whether it is scientific experimental or theoretical
work or scientific studies through observation, whether the work or studies are
carried out to gather new knowledge, or if it involves development work on a
scientific basis. If the project falls outside this, it is not covered by the law. But if it
concerns research, ethical review of the research is required if it:
- includes the processing of sensitive personal data or personal data about violations of the law,
- involves a physical intervention, on both the living and the deceased,
- takes place with a method that aims to affect a person physically or psychologically or that involves an obvious risk of harming the research subject or
- is performed on biological material from a living or deceased person and is traceable.
Note that according to the definition of research used by the Swedish Ethical
Review Authority above, bachelor and master theses are not regarded as research.
The law only applies to research to be carried out in Sweden …[(Section 5)], but
ethics review is also required when not all but parts of the research are to be carried out here. These parts can and must be examined by the authority, not the parts that must take place in another country. (The Swedish Ethical Review Authority).
Detailed instructions on how to apply for ethical review can be found on the web
site of the Swedish Ethical Review Authority. The application must be submitted
by a responsible researcher, which is a PhD in collaboration with the head of
- Christina Keller, 2023-09-04
Coffelt, T. A. (n.d.) Confidentiality and anonymity of participants. The Sage
Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods.
Lund University. (2023). Deviations from good research practice.
Swedish Authority for Integrity Protection. (2021). Sensitive personal data.
The Ethical National Review Board. Ethics review – that’s how it works.
World Medical Association. (2013). WMA Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical
Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects.