Research & Ethics

| Scientific integrity | Research ethics

UNIL attaches great importance to respect for ethical principles in the conduct of scientific research. This is both to protect those who participate in medical, social science, and humanities research, and, more generally, to ensure the quality of scientific methods and approaches.

Scientific integrity

The UNIL Charter, based on the Singapore Statement on research integrity (2010) and on the principles declared by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (including the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences), defines the basic principles of scientific integrity as follows:

  • veracity, independence and transparency;
  • exemplary behaviour and fairness (honesty in all aspects of research, responsible conduct of research, fairness and courtesy in working relationships);
  • promoting the next generation of scientists (openness to debate and interdisciplinary research.

Further information is available here.

Professor Fabrizio Butera, the Faculty lead for scientific integrity, can be consulted by anyone seeking advice on concerns related to a lack of scientific integrity. Following the procedure described in UNIL Directive 4.2, any member of the Faculty can take proceedings (under UNIL Directive 4.6) on grounds of a breach of scientific integrity. Accusations of breach of scientific integrity should be sent the lead for scientific integrity without delay.


Research ethics

Many research projects carried out within the Faculty deal with personal data and/or involve research on or with human subjects. Under all circumstance, researchers must take particular care to protect research subjects, and make sure that their participation in the project does not create a risk to their physical or psychological integrity, their dignity or their reputation.

General principles

The use of personal and/or sensitive personal data is covered by law:

As is research on human subjects:

These laws define the following general principles:

  • proportionality between the risks and constraints to which the participants in a research project are exposed and the expected benefit(s) of the project;
  • consent of whose data is collected and/or processed for research purposes;
  • organizational and technical measures to ensure the security and integrity of the data during their entire life cycle (collection, processing, storage, archiving).

In Switzerland, not all research involving human beings falls under the HRA, which essentially regulates projects in the biomedical domain. However, in some cases, even when your research is not conducted in a clinical context, the submission of a research protocol and the authorization of a Cantonal Ethics Commission might be required before you can start collecting data.

Research projects falling under the Federal Act on Research Involving Human Beings (HRA)

Projects will generally be subject to the HRA and require authorization by a Cantonal Ethics Commission if one or more of the following apply:

  • one of the objectives of the research is to make or to refine a clinical diagnosis;
  • one of the objectives is to contribute to understanding of a pathology and/or the way that the human body functions;
  • objective health-related data (physiological indicators) are collected;
  • research subjects are recruited based on a medical condition, including self-diagnosed).

If you are not sure whether you need the authorization of a Cantonal Ethics Commission, you can obtain initial advice by submitting a request for a clarification of responsibility. The procedure is free of charge for the Vaud Ethics Commission (which deals with all projects in French-speaking Switzerland, except Geneva, which has its own ethics commission).

For projects subject to the HRA, a full scientific protocol should be submitted online on the BASEC portal. Fees from CHF 800 to CHF 1,200 are charged for the evaluation of a full project. Your institute may cover some or all of the fees: you should apply directly to the director of your host institute. Further information is available on the website of the Swiss Ethics Commission (

Please also check the website of the Vaud Ethics Commission (CER-VD) (in French only).

Research projects not subject to the HRA

For projects not subject to the HRA, a certificate of ethical compliance may be obtained from the Faculty Interdisciplinary Ethics Commission (CER-SSP). This procedure is optional. Submission is by means of an online form. Projects submitted by students must be validated by the research supervisor (via the online form). Projects are reviewed either by the Bureau of the CER-SSP or by the full Commission in a plenary session. A certificate of

ethical compliance issued following the review may be required for publication in certain journals, to obtain funding or to access some areas of research.

Resources & contacts

The UNIL Ethics Commission checklist (in French only) will help you to decide whether your project requires ethical approval. The CER-UNIL website (in French only) also provides general information on research ethics.

Training on research ethics is regularly offered by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Research in Ethics, the Graduate Campus, and in doctoral schools (for example, the Programme doctoral romand de sociologie and the Swiss Graduate Program in Anthropology).

For information, a guide and some models of consent forms are available on the UNIL Ethics & Deontology web page.

For any question related to ethical issues related to your research, or the procedure for submission to a Cantonal Ethics Commission or the CER-SSP, please contact:

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