What is this about?

Funding for research comes from many sources. The responsibility for ensuring that the funds and resources are utilized optimally without any misconduct lies with researchers, the institute’s ethics committee, and the funding organizations. This calls for the development of a code for appropriate utilization of funds, and to ensure academic autonomy, academic integrity, academic freedom and the rights of scholars in academic–industry relationships.

Why is this important?

Financial support for research is often obtained from intramural or extramural grants. Funders also have some responsibility for ensuring that the research they fund is conducted in accordance with relevant laws and good research practices. However, funders’ oversight and reporting standards differ greatly.

Collaborations, particularly those related to funding, also have the potential to influence the way research questions are defined and the results presented. A particular concern involves collaborations between academia and industry-sponsors. Many studies have shown that industry-sponsored studies tend to favor the sponsor. Therefore, the veracity of the funders must be proven, academic autonomy must be ensured, and researchers must be aware that funders can potentially influence research.

For whom is this important?

Ethics committee members, Principal investigators, Researchers, Research institutions, Policy makers, Funders

What are the best practices?

Reporting standards and ethics regulations vary between funding organizations. The European Commission is an example of a more elaborate procedure for ensuring that funded projects live up the ethical requirements. In order to complete one´s application for funding within Horizon 2020, one must fill out an extensive ethics self-assessment. All projects that qualify for funding are subject to an ethics review procedure. The extent of this procedure depends on the results in different steps, from “pre-screening” to ethics assessment by a committee, and final decision by the commission. If the ethics issues are judged to be particularly severe or complex, certain monitoring procedures may be required, such as engaging an ethics advisor or an ethics board within the project.

The Missenden Code of Practice for Ethics and Accountability (1) was drawn up to promote ethical research in British universities in the face of growing pressure from industry and private funders. In the Missenden code, they indicate eight of the difficulties that some universities have encountered through collaborating with industry: i) Safeguarding Academic Freedom; ii) Tasking an ‘Ethics Committee’; iii) Defending the Academic’s Right to Publish; iv) Protecting Intellectual Property Rights; v) Meeting the Student Expectation; Preparing for Controversy; vi) Managing the New Model University; vii) Sourcing Alternative Funding. The code addresses each one of the difficulties using case studies, and makes 14 suggestions to help universities respond to the development of commercial funding of university research, and to its culture and goals.


1. The Missenden Code of Practice for Ethics and Accountability: The Commercialisation of Research in Universities: an Ethical Intervention. Available at: June 2019

Anna Catharina Armond contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was July 29, 2019