Ethics in E-research

This planned project is coordinated by Anne Beaulieu and Sally Wyatt.


This proposal establishes a new line of research on ethics in e-research.

The evergrowing sources of data and modes of scientific communication increase the diversity and complexity of ethical issues for researchers. In a context where greater accountability is demanded of researchers, we propose to investigate and support researchers in addressing the ethical issues that arise when research involves novel digital tools.

The focus on e-research enables us to address issues that are specific to doing research in digital settings. Ethical reflections and practices in this area urgently need to be consolidated, made visible, and discussed in relation to the context of the Netherlands, by the research community. A specific aim of this project is to raise the profile of mechanisms for dealing with ethical issues that take a relational approach to ethics, and that may be especially suitable for research in the humanities and social sciences.




The goals of this project are to map out the issues that are considered most pressing by researchers, to document how ethical challenges are being met, and to develop ways of better supporting researchers in dealing with these issues.


This work builds on the efforts of various bodies to address ethical issues in research, such as the Notitie Wetenschappelijke Integriteit (KNAW, 2001), the book Wetenschappelijk onderzoek: dilemma’s en verleidingen (KNAW, 2005) and the work of the European Commission on Preservation and Access. Our experience in doing and studying e-research at the VKS over the past three years has made clear that researchers are confronting a particular class of ethical issues in their daily practices involving new information and communication technologies. While some of these ethical issues have been raised in the course of discussions of privacy or open access, there is a wealth of further dilemmas that arise in the course of doing research.


This research will lead to a major report and provide an overview of ethical issues in e-research faced by researchers in the Netherlands. This overview will both document these issues and the ways they are being addressed on the ground. In particular, it will make clear how particular frameworks that aim to guide researchers in ethical dilemmas function in the current context. It will therefore provide input to further development of such guidelines. Furthermore, a structural part of this project will be a course on ethics in research, directed at PhD students in the Netherlands.