Achieving equity in international research remains a crucial concern of the 21st century. Despite initiatives by international organisations on governance frameworks and standards to guide research conduct, such efforts remain disparate and lack focus. In an interdisciplinary collaboration between multi-level ethics bodies, policy-advisors, civil society, funders, industry and academic scholars, the TRUST project combines long-standing, highly respected efforts to establish international governance structures along with networking opportunities between Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The goal of TRUST is to catalyse a collaborative effort to improve adherence to high ethical standards in global research. The strategic outputs of the project encompass a set of ethics tools developed through participatory engagement traversing all continents: (i) a global code of conduct for funders, (ii) a fair research contracting web-tool (iii) and a compliance and ethics follow-up tool.
Since project inception in October 2015, the TRUST consortium has a) created an international network on global research ethics governance to identify generic risks of exporting non-ethical practices; b) established funder and industry platforms; c) identified typical case studies of exporting non-ethical practices and reported on lessons learnt; d) developed a global code of conduct that will be used by the European Commission and like-minded funders to foster ethical research and equitable partnerships; e) designed an online Fair Research Contracting tool to empower vulnerable populations under non-ideal conditions; and f) drafted a compliance and ethics follow-up tool, for conditions of high vulnerability.
TRUST envisages to make a tremendous impact on three major issues: a) enhancing the rights of indigenous people who have borne a disproportionate burden of research whilst being potentially highly vulnerable to exploitation; b) increasing civil society engagement and improving uptake of the ethics dimension in research and innovation; and c) improving global awareness of the highest ethical standards along with clear, defined incentives for research competitiveness.
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