“Bridge” project training for the academic community in Sweden

Photo from the BRIDGE project archive

On 20-24 March 2023, the partners of the Bridge project organised training in Sweden at Uppsala University. During the training, Dr Julija Umbrasaitė and Dr Birutė Liekė presented the training module “Citizen Science and Ethics” which is being developed by the Office together with the project partners. The 10-hour module consists of 10 topics: citizen science, institutional oversight, power balances, conflict of interest, informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, use of technology, research data management and verification of findings, intellectual property, and ethical publishing. One hour per topic is allocated. The teaching material in the module is based on the Guidelines for Research Ethics and Research Integrity in Citizen Science. It also includes supplementary literature, videos, gamified cases (e.g.vignettes), tests, etc.

During the training, Master students were familiarised with the ethical aspects of citizen science and one of the topics covered in the module, i.e. research data management and verification of findings.


Protection of personal data when the Ombudsperson’s decisions are made public

On 23 March 2023, during the scientific-practical conference “Administrative Law and Personal Data Protection” organised by Mykolas Romeris University and its partners, the Ombudsperson Dr Loreta Tauginienė delivered a presentation on the importance and methods of data depersonalisation in research and the practice of data depersonalisation in the decisions of the Ombudsperson. She pointed out that the Ombudsperson’s decisions published on the website of the Office are depersonalised by anonymisation. This is not an accidental choice as the aim of the Office is to draw attention of the academic community to the unethical behaviour identified in the Ombudsperson’s decisions rather than to the individuals who have committed violations of academic ethics.

The Ombudsperson pointed out that the academic community should contact the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics when issues concerning the protection of personal data for the purposes of academic and artistic expression arise.


High school students showed interest in academic ethics

Photo Birutė Liekė

On 16 March 2023, the Ombudswoman Dr Loreta Tauginienė and the Senior Specialist (Senior Analyst) Dr Birutė Liekė, visited Vilnius Žirmūnai Gymnasium. The lesson included an Office’s presentation on academic ethics, i.e. what is important for every high school student to know before entering a higher education institution. High school students asked whether it is ethical to use artificial intelligence in their studies, whether there are limits on the tolerance of plagiarism, whether it is acceptable to lend your work to a classmate, etc. Around 50 high school attended the lesson.


Ethical challenges of interdisciplinarity in citizen science were presented

On 9 March 2023, the Ombudswoman Dr Loreta Tauginienė participated in the event “Sharing Good Research Practices and Ethical Challenges in Citizen Science-North Macedonia” organised by the University of South-Eastern Europe (North Macedonia) and the Galicica National Park where she gave an invited talk on the ethical fading of interdisciplinarity in citizen science. In her talk on the peculiarities of citizen science, the Ombudswoman highlighted that research using citizen science as a methodological approach not only more effectively contributes to the search for research-based solutions but also changes the established perceptions and practices about the researcher’s scientific activities and their impact on society. In this context, particular attention should be paid to the implementation of researchers’ ethical and social responsibilities. The Ombudswoman stressed the importance of exploring why it is necessary to reconsider the practice of research ethics, the role of leadership of research and higher education institutions, etc., in order to properly assess the possible consequences of inaction or negligence on research activities.


Increased knowledge of the ethical aspects of doctoral supervision

        Photo Eglė Narkevičienė

On 8 March 2023, the Ombudswoman Dr Loreta Tauginienė met with the doctoral supervisors in the fields of sociology, pedagogy, and philology. During the training of doctoral supervisors, the legal regulation of scientific activities in Europe and Lithuania was presented, and the amendments in the legal regulation of doctoral studies and their impact on the scientific supervision were discussed. Doctoral supervisors discussed the dilemmas that arise on a regular basis, such as whether research works co-authored by doctoral students and their supervisors should be published, and what actions are considered to be scientific supervision and research conduct. Doctoral supervisors also explored the violations of unethical authorship and measures to promote compliance with academic ethics.


Meeting with the community of Kazimieras Simonavičius University

On 2 March 2023, the staff of the Office discussed academic ethics issues with the lecturers and students of Kazimieras Simonavičius University. Dr Julija Umbrasaitė presented the specific nature of students’ research activities and related violations of academic ethics. The meeting focused on violations related to research data: fabrication, falsification, suppression, etc. Dr Birutė Liekė discussed the issue of plagiarism and unethical authorship and introduced the types of plagiarism and unethical authorship. The participants of the meeting solved practical tasks on how to recognise plagiarism and infringements related to research data. The participants were interested in how to ethically cite ideas. Participants were also introduced to the informed consent, its forms and situations where it is necessary. The weaknesses and good examples of the informed consent were presented.


Debate on citizen science and research integrity

On 23 February 2023, a remote event “Lay People’s Voice: How to Hear It with Integrity?” was organised by the Research Council of Lithuania and the Office of the Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures of the Republic of Lithuania. During the event, the experiences of the implemented projects in the field of citizen science and research integrity and research ethics were shared by Stefanie Schuerz, PRO-Ethics project coordinator, Dr Eglė Butkevičienė, Professor at Kaunas University of Technology, and Dr Birutė Liekė, Senior Specialist (Senior Analyst) of the Office.

During the event, Ms Schuerz presented the PRO-Ethics project experience in addressing ethical challenges in citizen engagement in research. Prof. Dr E. Butkevičienė shared practical advice based on the experience of the citizen science project and presented the recommendations of the CS4Welfare project funded by the Research Council of Lithuania. Dr B. Liekė presented the Guidelines for Research Ethics and Research Integrity in Citizen Science drawn up by the Bridge project. During the discussion that followed the presentations, the speakers shared their insights on what should be the first consideration in citizen science research in terms of ethics, how to ensure a balance between practical flexibility and research ethics in such research, how the interdisciplinarity which is often typical of citizen science influences research ethics, etc.


Meeting with the community of the SMK University of Applied Sciences

On 27 February 2023, the staff of the Office discussed academic ethics with the lecturers and students at the SMK University of Applied Sciences. The participants of the meeting were interested in how to avoid image plagiarism. Dr Birutė Liekė, the Senior Analyst of the Office, discussed the concept and types of plagiarism, demonstrated the ways and sources to find and properly cite visual material and how to detect and assess possible image plagiarism on the Internet. The ethical use of AI-generated images, how to properly cite images from a PowerPoint bank, and how to assess plagiarism in final thesis were discussed during the meeting too.

The community of the SMK University of Applied Sciences was also familiarised with the ethical challenges of research, business and society cooperation and the guidelines that reflect them. Dr. Julija Umbrasaitė and Dr. Birutė Liekė presented the project “Bridge” project and the Guidelines for Integrity in Research and Business Collaboration and the Guidelines on Research Ethics and Research Integrity in Citizen Science which were drawn up with the project partners. The participants discussed how to conduct various collaborative research activities in a manner consistent with academic integrity.

Almost 80 members of the academic community of the SMK University of Applied Sciences attended the meeting.


Use of artificial intelligence in research

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the education sector has been the subject of considerable debate recently. Ethical challenges are faced when using AI-based information systems as support tools, e.g. for students’ theses, for researchers’ research conduct, for scientific publications.

In 2019, an independent high-level panel of experts on AI published the Ethical Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence which address both legal and ethical issues. The Guidelines point out that researchers should be able to explain the reliability and reproducibility of AI-based information systems and that researchers’ competences in this area should therefore be developed accordingly.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has published its 2021 Recommendations on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. It notes that AI-based technologies affect science in the broadest sense, irrespective of the field of science, as their proper use in research requires new skills and methods. In addition, these technologies are changing scientific concepts and explanations. The Recommendations emphasise that the use of AI as a method in research must be properly justified and rigorously monitored in accordance with scientific principles.

The study of the Council of Europe published in 2022 “Artificial  Intelligence  and  Education: A critical  view  through  the  lens  of  human  rights, democracy  and  the  rule  of  law” discusses AI in education from a legal and ethical perspective. This study notes that in the long run it will not be enough to add provisions on the use of AI to the codes of ethics or integrate knowledge of AI into updated curricula. It is noted that the ethical review in research should also include an assessment of the use of AI-based information systems in planned research (e.g. in the management of research data and the personal data contained in them, with the informed consent). Thus, the measures and procedures applied so far are no longer sufficient.

Legal and ethical aspects of data protection have also received considerable attention in EU-funded projects such as PANELFIT (report “Guidelines  on Data Protection  Ethical  and  Legal  Issues  in ICT Research  and  Innovation. Artificial  Intelligence”), Sherpa (model “Artificial  intelligence  impact  assessment”), SIENNA (column “Artificial  intelligence & Robotics”).

We invite the academic community to take a closer look at the afore-mentioned documents and take a responsible approach to the use of AI-based information systems in research conduct and the publication of research results.


How to hear lay people’s voice with integrity?

We are pleased to invite you to the webinar on how to hear lay people’s voice with integrity in research practice. The webinar will take place on 23 February at 09:00–10:45 (CET) in MS Teams.

On this webinar you will learn about the PRO-Ethics project perspective what ethical challenges emerge when involving participants in research as well as you will find out more about the Guidelines on Research Ethics and Research Integrity in Citizen Science developed by the BRIDGE project team. Additionally, lessons learnt from citizen science projects in Lithuania will be shared.

This event will not be recorded. The webinar programme here.

This event is a joint event of the Research Council of Lithuania and the Office of the Ombudsperson for Academic Ethics and Procedures in Lithuania.

REGISTRATION until 21 of February here.