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Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Strong ethical values and conduct make research trustworthy

CONSISTENT INTEGRITY: CPUT recently held its first virtual Annual Research Ethics Day via Teams. CONSISTENT INTEGRITY: CPUT recently held its first virtual Annual Research Ethics Day via Teams.

The age of big data, open access, social media, transdisciplinary collaboration, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond, demands additional and even new considerations for what it means to be a responsible researcher.

These were the words of Manager: Research Integrity in the Research Directorate,  Dr Hester-Mari Burger at CPUT’s first virtual Annual Research Ethics Day held via Microsoft Teams recently under the theme, “Responsible Research Practices: old and new challenges”.

. “As researchers we are constantly engaging in decision-making, considering the impact of research, the positive as well as the negative, identifying and managing conflicts of values and interests between stakeholders (other researchers, users of the outputs, research participants, society, and future generations), finding the best solutions to these conflicts and carefully balancing harm and benefit in favour of benefit. We need to ensure strong ethical values and conduct to make research trustworthy, reproducible, and sustainable,” added Burger.

 Dr David Phaho, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research Technology Innovation and Partnerships welcomed attendees to the virtual event.

Burger said the responsible conduct of research in general terms is simply good research citizenship, with actions and behaviour reflecting consistent integrity and compliance to ethical principles, professional standards, and legislation.  “However, it also asks of us as researchers to be responsive to changes and challenges. If society is to continue to benefit from and support research, we as researchers should be informed, reactive as well as participants and promoters of the responsible conduct of research.”

The event was highlighted by an international speaker, Anna Bethke, Principal Data Scientist and Head of AI for Social Good, Intel's Artificial Intelligence Products Group, USA on Artificial intelligence, and Ethics. Bethke’s talk described using FATE of AI Ethics to ensure that AI technologies are Fair, Accountable, Transparent, and Ethical. 

She set the tone for the event and the importance of ethical decision-making was emphasised. Director in Adaptronics in the AMTL Unit of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Prof Oscar Philander, shared his personal journey and experiences of ethical decision-making as a researcher involved in emerging and advanced technologies. 

Meanwhile, Prof Penelope Engel-Hills,  Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences, presented on the impact of the new Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) that came into effect on  1 July 2021 and its impact on research.

Burger added that the event also allowed “us to identify key participants to join us in developing CPUT own Code of Conduct for Researchers during a workshop session hosted by Prof Dina Burger”.

“Overall, the event was a great success with forty-two online participants and created a platform for learning, lively discussions, and engagement regarding research ethics.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce