New ethics framework is available

The first version of the PRO-Ethics framework is now available. The aim is to ensure that citizen and stakeholder participation can be properly designed and implemented.

The framework will be a common standard on how to deal with a diversity of views and how to properly address ethical issues and ethical risks in participatory processes. The PRO-Ethics' partners SciencesPo and TU Delft have the main responsibility to develop the guidelines.

Will give guidance
"With this framework, we hope to give the Research Funding Organisations (RFO) some guidance on how to organize participation without falling into the trap of easy, but from an ethical point of view, problematic participation", says Neelke Doorn, Professor at TU Delft.

"Especially if RFOs work with taxpayers’ money, the participatory process should have democratic legitimacy. If only a very selected group of people can participate, that may be worse than no participation at all from a democratic point of view", adds Doorn.

First version
This is the first version of the PRO-Ethics framework, and it is the first main operational outcome of the PRO-Ethics project. It offers a set of reflections, tools, and criteria to assess the ethical aspects of novel interaction modes in research and innovation activities.

This first version is meant to be empirically tested and further improved over the course of the next two and half years.

Finding a balance
"A challenge has been to design a comprehensive ethical framework that could work for all RFOs and institutions interested in the implementation of ethical participatory practices. We had to search some common denominators. These have been found through a full year of research and analysis of existing practices, regulations, as well as theoretical and practical gaps, explains Kalli Giannelos, Researcher at SciencesPo.

"A challenge has also been to find the balance between detail and abstraction. We want to develop guidelines that are quite generally applicable, but also with a sufficient level of detail so that they really ‘add’ something to the work of the RFOs", says Doorn.

RFOs work with different types of actors and this makes it difficult to come up with a list of relevant stakeholders that all RFOs recognize.

"Making the RFOs aware of ethical issues in participation is already a huge step. We hope the framework will be helpful to think about when and how to organize participation", says Doorn.

Awareness is crucial
After its final development, this framework should hopefully be a tool of interest for any actor interested in the design and implementation of an ethical participatory process.

"We have developed a methodological grid enabling such a process in very simple steps, also clarifying the actions to be undertaken and the feedback mechanisms. It aims to be beneficial both for the actors implementing the participatory processes, as well as the citizens and stakeholders involved", emphasizes Giannelos.

Looking forward to getting feedback
Doorn says that they look forward to getting feedback and to further improve the framework.

"We will have interviews and surveys with the RFOs about the usability of the framework. At the same time, we will also collect feedback from citizens and other stakeholders who participate".

"Ultimately, we could dream of a label for ethical participatory processes, following in the footsteps of this framework", underlines Giannelos.

By Siv Haugan.
Illustration photo: RCN.

Published 26.10.21

Download the Draft Ethics Framework