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"Without the freedom to ask difficult questions, research is not really free."

In these bizarre times, the VUB’s humanistic values are as important as ever. Ethics Week is a chance to reflect on the meaning of the VUB’s commitment to research that serves the good of humanity.

This year, our kick-off sessions will focus on the importance of open data in contributing to scientific integrity. Besides the kick-off sessions, we will also hold a number of sessions with a practical focus, looking at dual use and military research, animal experimentation, data and ethics, and conflicts of interest. The VUB’s Ethics Week will take place from 29th of November to 3th of December 2021. Ethics week is a chance to both reflect on our core values in these difficult times, and to provide practical guidance with ethics in research. The week consists of various sessions at the VUB’s two campuses (Etterbeek and Jette).

IMPORTANT: Due to measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, all Ethics Week sessions will be held online. You can join via Teams. If you register for a session, you will receive a link to participate in the online session shortly before the session.

29th November: KICKOFF VLIR Biannual Integrity Event: ‘MAGIC NUMBERS: DATA, STATISTICS AND INTEGRITY’ (12:00 - 14:00)

Data is the life blood of scientific research. To keep research healthy, researchers have to keep up with evolving data management practices. This session, organised jointly with the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) and the five Flemish Universities looks at how good, open data practices can contribute to promoting scientific integrity. The session consists of a panel session followed by a series of parallel sessions on specific data practices. 

  • Panel Chair: Professor Jean-Claude Burgelman, VUB
  • Professor Sabina Leonelli, Philosophy and History of Science, University of Exeter
  • Professor Stefaan Verhulst, The Governance Lab, New York University
  • Dr Mahlet Zimeta, Head of Public Policy, Open Data Institute
  • Professor Lennart Martens, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Gent

Parallel Sessions (14:00-16:00):

  • Data & Validity: This session will focus on production and management of good quality, useable and reliable data, and the role of Open Data in promoting good data generation and management practices.
  • Data Analysis & Integrity: This session will focus on integrity of data analysis practices, and examples of good and bad data analysis, including abuse of Power analysis, multiple testing, and p-hacking.
  • Data Visualisation: This session will look at the ways in which data visualisation can be used and misused. It will question the assumptions of scientists make how others will read their graphics, e.g. how easy is it to unintentionally publish a graphic that others will misread/misinterpret.

DEADLINE for registration is 24/11 at midnight

30th November: Session Ethics Committee Social Sciences & Humanities (ECHW) (12:00-14:00 )

Presenter: Professor Johan Stuy Research in the social sciences raises a wide range of ethics issues, such as the use of personal data, work with cultural and ethnic minorities, research with children, and research with potentially vulnerable participants. During this session, Professor Stuy will explain how and why the ECHW was set up. After the presentation, there will be breakout sessions that will look at specific cases that the ECHW has evaluated.

DEADLINE for registration is 24/11 at midnight

30th November: Cyclus Biomedische Ethiek - Medical care for stateless persons during hunger strikes  (19:00-21:00)

The session has RIZIV accreditation ‘Ethiek en Economie’ 
This session will be held in dutch. 

In februari 2021 bezette een groep staatlozen de VUB Campus om regularisatie van hun statuut te eisen. In mei 2021 begon een deel van de groep een hongerstaking waardoor ze medische complicaties kregen. Deze sessie gaat in op de juridische en ethische dilemma's die zich voordoen voor mensen die zorgen voor hongerstakers en de problemen met de politisering van de medische zorg. 

De sessie bevat presentaties van experts en een paneldiscussie met mantelzorgers die bij de zaak betrokken zijn geweest.

Speakers: dr. Dirk Lafaut; dr. Rita Van Obbergen, Prof. dr. Michel Deneyer, Audrey Van Scharen
Moderator: Prof. dr. Gily Coene, dr. Patrick Lacor

Join via Teams

1st December: Session Ethics Committee Dual Use, Military Use and Misuse of Research (12:00-14:00)

Presenter: Professor Alexander Mattelaer. Scientific research has an important role to play in our changing and often tense world. New technologies and research in politically sensitive fields brings potential benefits but also risks. During this session, Professor Mattelaer will explain the political context in which sensitive research takes place. The presentation will be followed by breakout sessions in which we will analyse several case studies of military and dual use research.

DEADLINE for registration is 24/11 at midnight

1st December: Workshop Medical Ethics Committee UZ Brussel - VUB: Challenges in seeking the right, legal and ethical consent for your study design (12:00-14:00)

The session has RIZIV accreditation ‘Ethiek en Economie’ 
This session will be held in English

“Platform trials, umbrella trials, basket trials, databases and the use big data models… New research designs and medical technology offer challenging possibilities in clinical research. But what with patient autonomy? How can patients still be in control of their participation in clinical research?  
Is deferred consent ethically acceptable? Will dynamic consent offer a solution? 
In an interactive workshop the members of the Medical Ethics Committee of the UZ Brussels and VUB will look into this challenges together with researchers and legal and ethics experts in informed consent.”
Join via Teams

2nd December: Session Ethics Committee for Animal Experiments (12:00-14:00)

Presentations: Professor Karine Breckpot & Professor Eline Menu Practices around the use of animals in scientific research are continually evolving, and the VUB’s Ethics Committee for Animal Experiments plays a vital role in ensuring that research meets the appropriate standards. During this session, Professors Breckpot and Menu will explain the ethics requirements for animal experiments, and will examine some cases in breakout sessions.

DEADLINE for registration is 24/11 at midnight

2nd December: Student session from the Research Master Gerontology sciences and Master biomedical sciences (12:00-14:00)

The Master’s students from the programmes in Gerontology and Biomedical Sciences will lead two thematic seminar sessions: 

  • Genetically Modified Organisms, a scientific domain that should be encouraged or questioned?
    This debate focusses on the use of genetically modified food and whether food adapted by crispr-cas can be considered as a genetic modified organism (GMO). In addition, the current legislation for GMOs in different countries and the safety of eating GMOs will be discussed. The questions asked in the debate would enable to reflect on different opinions considering economic, nutritional and environmental issues of GMOs.
  • What healthcare for an ageing prison population? 
    For this ethics week debate we will discuss various aspects of healthcare for prisoners in Belgium. We will specifically look at healthcare for prisoners with physical and mental health problems, we will consider the issue of ageing prisoners and we will discuss if there are viable alternatives to providing this type of care in prisons. Expect to engage with thought provoking, uncomfortable questions such as “should a person with a life sentence receive a heart transplant?” or “what if an older prisoner requires expensive aids and adaptations to function normally within the prison environment?”

Join via Teams

3rd December: Session Reflection Group Ethics and International Collaboration (12:00-14:00)

Presentations: Professor Romain Meeusen The VUB was one of the innovators in setting up an Ethics Reflection Group to consider the implications of international collaborations. During this session, the Ethics Reflection Group will look at the challenges of setting up ethically responsible research in a complex international environment. The session will involve presentations and breakout rooms that will look at specific cases.

DEADLINE for registration is 24/11 at midnight

Public Registrations for Ethics Week are now closed. If you are a Doctoral Candidate and you have not yet registered, please contact john.pearson@vub.be


Lunch Sessions 12:00-14:00 Afternoon Sessions 14:00 - 16:00 Evening Events 19:00 - 21:00
Monday 29th November ‘Magic Numbers’: Data Statistics and Integrity Parallel Sessions Data & Integrity
Tuesday 30th November Session EC Social Sciences & Humanities Reflection group Bio-ethics
Wednesday 1st December Session EC Dual Use: Military & Misuse
Wednesday 1st December session EC Medical Ethics
Thursday 2nd December Session EC Animal Experiments
Thursday 2nd December Session EC Student session: Research Master Gerontology sciences and Master biomedical sciencess
Friday 3rd December Session ERG International Collaboration

Registration for Doctoral Candidates

For participants in the VUB’s Doctoral Training Programme, participation in Ethics Week will count as credit towards your training in ethics in research integrity. To get credit for this participation, you just need to register for at least two of the sessions from the Ethics Week programme.

You can choose the combination of sessions that most suits your research interests. You can of course register for as many extra sessions as you like.
Please bear in mind the following:

  • If you register for the Kick-Off Session (‘Magic Numbers’) you must also participate in one of the parallel sessions in the afternoon (this is because this session does not involve active participation in the breakout sessions).
  • You must also participate in the following training as well:
    • The session on Ethics and Research Integrity that is part of the VUB PhD Introday
    • The online Research Integrity training ‘Mind the GAP’ available via Canvas

Questions? Contact the Ethics Week organiser, John Pearson: john.pearson@vub.be