What is research ethics?

Research ethics broadly refers to questions of right action in science, and encompasses research integrity, research involving animals and research involving human beings. Contemporary health research seeks to understand human disease, develop safe and effective treatments for patients, enhance the health of populations and promote policies for health systems that work at a reasonable cost. At each of these levels, researchers encounter difficult ethical questions. Research ethics seeks to identify these questions, clarify key concepts, argue for solutions and distill guidance into policy.


How do I approach research ethics?

My work in research ethics is best described as both interdisciplinary and global in scope. The complex issues raised by health research require interdisciplinary solutions. I work with teams of scientists, methodologists, philosophers and patient partners to address challenges posed by research evaluating drugs, vaccines, public health interventions and government programmes. Increasingly, research is global in its impact, and so my approach takes international ethical principles, rather than regulations, as a starting point. With this approach, research projects have been productive, impactful and have provided outstanding training opportunities for new scholars.


Recent news


“Consent documents should contain a clear and accurate description of any serious adverse events. Certainly, they should contain more information than a prospective or current participant could discover with a Google search of the vaccine trial.”

Invite me to speak

I am available to speak at events for bioethicists, scientists, research ethics committees and the general public.
Current talks include…


Cluster headaches: the contested role of informed consent in cluster randomized trials

Cluster randomized trials are used to evaluate public health interventions, health policies, vaccines and (even) drugs. But researchers and research ethics committees often struggle with the question: when is informed consent required? In this talk, I argue that the need for informed consent depends on the “level” of study intervention (i.e., cluster, professional or individual) and not the unit of randomization.

Do you need ethics advice?

Research ethics guidelines were written for explanatory patient randomized trials evaluating new drugs. Innovative trial designs, including stepped wedge and cluster crossover designs, raise complex ethical questions that can lead to researcher uncertainty, delay in research ethics committee approval and unplanned public scrutiny. As a leading international expert in the ethics of innovative trial designs, I am available to organizations, research ethics committees and trialists for ethics consultations. I have recently acted as an ethics consultant to the Healing Communities Study (sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse), the E-MOTIVE trial (sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization), and the FLUID trial (sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research).

For further information, please contact me.


©2020 Charles Weijer