Ethics in Biosciences, seen by the University of Gdansk, Poland

Editorial Team Ethics, RRI


Prof. Krzysztof Bielawski – is a Professor at IFB. He is also Vice-Rector for Development at University of Gdańsk (UG) and has a PhD in medical biology and D.Sc. in biological sciences. Prof. Bielawski is a full-professor in biological sciences since 2011.

1. How do you understand “Ethics” in biosciences research?

Ethics plays a vital role in research, especially in biosciences. Two aspects are to be taken into account in this respect. On the one hand, we have ethics in the sense of research ethics, valid for any research area. This includes issues such as research integrity, resolving conflict of interest, equality, so called “good and bad science” issue, etc. On the other hand, specific ethical issues affect the work of bioscience researchers related e.g. to the use of animals, human tissues, embryos or GMO, and have to be dealt with in a responsible way in order to make research safe, reliable and acceptable.

2. What are the current standards and actions to achieve better Ethics in Gdansk University and in Poland in general?

Ethics in biosciences is regulated in Poland by rules introduced on the national level. Researchers need to observe laws and regulations regarding the use of animals, human tissues as well as GMO or GMM.

Specific ethical consents need to be obtained from the respective national or regional bodies as a proof that the institution and the projects complies with the required procedures. In some cases these consents are issued e.g. by the Ministry for Environment in other cases by local ethic committees located e.g. at the medical universities. IFB scientists observe these rules as a part of their usual professional practice.

UG also has a Code of Ethics referring to the overall scientific practice, independently from the area of research, referring to such issues as conflict of interest, research integrity, confidentiality etc.


Photo credits: Tomasz Nowicki for IFB UG & MUG

3. What are you aiming for with the implementation of the STARBIOS2 actions towards better Ethics for the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology at the University of Gdansk?

Within STARBIOS2 we aspire to collect the standards that our scientists need to observe in one place – making them more visible and better accessible, especially in the context of young researchers who begin their careers. We also think that putting emphasis on the fact that we comply with all required standards and act responsible related to various ethical issues will contribute to reducing bias in society and taking away fears that sometimes result from a lack of knowledge or misunderstandings on the non-scientific part of the society. Emphasis on ethical compliance, in our opinion, is also a positive factor facilitating collaboration between different kind of actors: science, industry, NGOs, end-users.

4. What kind of actions are you going to establish to fulfill your objectives?

A state-of-the-art analysis will help us collect all standards, procedures and regulations in one place. We will analyze internal ethics regulations with respect to the five RRI key issues, and, if necessary, take up negotiations to include missing aspects of the RRI strategy into internal regulations. We also plan to highlight the dilemmas that may be caused by ethical issues and make our scientists, especially young scientists, even more sensitive and aware of the fact that ethics should not be perceived as a burden consisting of a large number of procedures, but that it is a real tool to enhance research quality and social acceptance of research results.

5. Who is involved, from Gdansk University, in the action plan, in order to complete your final objective?

The STARBIOS2 Team at UG cooperates with numerous internal stakeholders, such as UG and IFB authorities, Technology Transfer Office, Science Office, IFB researchers and scientists from other faculties, such as Social Sciences, and possibly also Faculty of Law. Negotiations of any changes proposed for internal regulations would need to be preceded by discussions and approvals of the Ethics Committees, UG Senate’s Committees and other university-wide decisive bodies.