As defined in the Statutes, the Ethics Commission at TU Darmstadt has two duties:
1. To examine and determine the ethical acceptability of research proposals
The implementation of research proposals (as well as the relevant third-party funding applications) is often subject to review and the positive vote of an ethics commission. Scientific journals also sometimes demand proof that an article has been ethically approved by a commission prior to publication. This is particularly relevant when research involves tests on humans or samples taken from humans or requires sensitive handling of personal data.
Even if you do not need approval from the Ethics Commission for a planned publication or third-party funding application – and even for research in the context of a Master’s dissertation – the Ethics Commission invites you to submit your research project for scrutiny. By consenting to a voluntary ethical examination, you are taking your responsibility as a researcher seriously. The process of reflecting on one’s own research is an integral part of TU Darmstadt’s academic culture. Moreover, the suggestions and conditions contained in the vote can help to provide everyone involved with greater security in carrying out the research.
You can decide whether it is advisable to submit an application to the Ethics Commission by consulting the checklist that is included in the application form. If you have questions about your personal responsibility or any potential social consequences of your research, you can also speak to the Commission directly.
2. To assess whether research proposals are compliant with TU Darmstadt’s Zivilklausel
By including a Zivilklausel in its constitution, TU Darmstadt has committed to pursuing peaceful objectives in its research:
TU Darmstadt’s Zivilkausel
“Research, teaching and studies at Technische Universität Darmstadt exclusively pursue peaceful goals and serve civilian purposes; research, particularly relating to the development and optimisation of technical systems, as well as studies and teaching are focused on civilian use.”
The Zivilklausel is not based on simple yes/no answers but takes a differentiated view of the goals and purpose of the concrete proposal (as well as the potential applications of research results). So-called “dual use” constellations are individually and thoroughly vetted on this basis.
The question as to whether a research proposal touches on the Zivilklausel should be part of the process of planning every research proposal at TU Darmstadt. By consulting a checklist (which, if applicable, also serves as an application form) researchers themselves can discover whether their project could prove problematic in terms of the Zivilklausel. If doubts arise or are confirmed when completing the checklist on your proposal you can consider whether it would be better not to pursue the proposal or to ask TU Darmstadt’s Ethics Commission to vote on it. You are welcome to contact the Office of the Ethics Commission for advice.
Legal basis and reporting obligation
The Ethics Commission at TU Darmstadt was instituted by the Senate of TU Darmstadt University in 2010. It operates in accordance with the Statutes, (opens in new tab)(German only) as updated on 4 February 2015, and reports the key points of its activities in aggregated form to the TU Darmstadt Senate once a year.
In order to assess research proposals that involve personal data, valid data protection law provides the legal framework. These provisions are: the Federal Data Protection Act, the Hesse Data Protection and Freedom of Information Act (German only) and the European General Data Protection Regulation.
In the case of research proposals in the fields of medicine or medical engineering, the following provisions could be relevant:
Law on the handling of medicines (Medicinal Products Act – AMG)
Law on medical products (Medical Products Act – MPG), German only
In the case that your planned study touches medical aspects, the study might have to be surveyed by a medical Ethics Commission. If so, please contact us as early as possible to talk about the further proceeding.