Team picture of Marjo Rauhala and Bettina Enzenhofer, between them is a big question mark

© Carolina Frank

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, as of Octobers 2023 TU Wien has a Research Ethics Committee (TUW REC), which conducts ethical peer reviews. A review results in a confirmation or statement that can be submitted to funding bodies or journals. The TUW REC was preceded by a pilot phase of several years (“Pilot Research Ethics Committee”).

Congratulations! The Research Ethics Committee (TUW REC) is happy to assist you. Meetings are held on the third Friday of every month during the semester.

If your research involves people as study participants and personal data are processed in the study, you must obtain their informed consent to the study participation and processing of their personal data. The TU internal guidance document Informed Consent: Good practice recommendations, opens an external URL in a new window outlines all relevant aspects to consider. Note that the informed consent for processing personal data (GDPR) alone does not cover the research participation (an aspect of research ethics).

Yes, do identify any ethics issues that your work raises in the relevant Ethics Issues Table and write an Ethics Self-Assessment. All proposals that are considered for funding in Horizon Europe go through an ethics review procedure. Not identifying the ethics issues does not make your proposal pass faster or with less effort through the evaluation – it may be quite the opposite. Remember, the time you save by not addressing ethics in your Horizon Europe proposal may result in much more time spent in the Grant Agreement phase or in the project itself. Your project funding does not cover that effort unless you have considered it in the proposal phase. If you have considerable ethics issues, consider embedding them into the design of your research, into a work package, or establishing an internal ethics board, or engaging a mentor or an advisor. In very challenging proposals, setting up an independent ethics advisory board can be helpful. If you need any tips, contact the Service Unit of Responsible Research Practices.

Please contact the Service Unit of Responsible Research Practices as soon as your research problem and methodology can be explained in lay terms to another person. As addressing your ethics issues sufficiently may take some writing effort, do not leave your consultation until the last minute. Plan ahead and get in touch for an appointment well in time before your deadline. We are happy to support you.

The legal questions concerning data protection are best answered by our TU legal experts. Please consider the information on the website of the Data Protection Organisation and contact the Data Protection Officer of TU Wien (Christina Thirsfeld, or the Research and Transfer Support.

Authors of a master’s/doctoral thesis need support in questions of research ethics just as much as more experienced researchers. For master’s theses, the thesis supervisor should contact the Service Unit of Responsible Research Practices. For master’s theses at the Faculty of Informatics students can get support from the Mentors of Responsible Research Practices. Soon this will also be possible for students of the Faculties of Technical Chemistry and Physics. PhD students can submit their work for review by the TUW Research Ethics Committee. Please contact the Service Unit of Responsible Research Practices for more information.

In principle, the involvement of students in research can be beneficial. Through their own research participation students can see how research is conducted and can learn a lot for their own research projects. However, involving students in research can also be research ethically problematic. This is due to the fact that all research involving human subjects is based on voluntary, free, and informed consent. If students in your course are asked to participate in your research, they may not feel entirely free to decline. This would be especially true if study participation were to be part of your course work.
If you intend to make research a part of your course, you need to ensure that the research participation is only one of several meaningful options from which students can choose. Also, make it clear that study participation or non-participation does not affect grading. Your students should be able to receive full credit in the course even without participating in the study. Only extra or “bonus” points should be available for participation in the study. To make things fair, you should also offer a meaningful alternative to receiving extra points for those who do not wish to participate in your study. Be sure to obtain and document informed consent. Describe the risk of harm to your participants and make sure they can withdraw from your study at any time without any consequences.
In general, if your research involves people who are in a dependent relationship with you (such as the students in your course), they may be considered vulnerable, making your work more ethically sensitive.
Note that international journals and/or conferences are likely to require proof of formal ethical review (ethics vote) by a research ethics committee when publishing work that involves students as participants in the research. You may have your work peer reviewed by the Research Ethics Committee (TUW REC). Please contact Service Unit of Responsible Research Practices if you have further questions, we will be happy to assist you.

Depending on the research question and design, different aspect of research ethics may be relevant - or not. Involving human participants in your research (e.g. study participants, data from social media etc.), you are expected to address at least the risks related to participation, recruitment and informed consent. If your research is purely technical, posing no risks for human participants, animals, the environment or society as well as researchers themselves, and the research also does not take place in third countries, it is possible that there are no research ethically relevant aspects to address. You can make an initial assessment yourself using our check lists. A guidance from the European Commission, opens an external URL in a new window gives you a good overview of what you need to consider. If you are unsure whether your research is relevant in terms of research ethics, please feel free to contact us.