Research Ethics in Switzerland

Research Projects subject to the Human Research Act

Research projects that are subject to the federal Human Research Act (HRA) are legally required to seek ethical approval by the ethics committee which is responsible at the site of activity of the project coordinator (the lead committee) (HRA, ch. 8).

The website of the Coordination Office for Human Research (kofam) provides an overview and extensive basic information on the regulation of human research in Switzerland. For example, it outlines the relevant legislation and explains the roles of the various stakeholders. Kofam is operated by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). It undertakes a coordinating role in the area of human research in Switzerland and provides information to the general public and to researchers in this context.

Swissethics is the umbrella organisation of the cantonal Ethics Committees. Proposals for projects that are subject to the Human Research Act (HRA) must be submitted to the respective ethics commission via the BASEC database.

Studies that are not subject to the Human Research Act

For studies that are not subject to the Human Research Act, but that work with human study participants (e.g. in the social sciences, in history, economics, behavioural sciences, etc.), institutional ethics committees may exist, that require approval in order for the research to be carried out. These committees may be located at the faculty, department or university level. Furthermore, whether or not approval by an ethics committee may be required, is dependent upon discipline specific guidelines and regulations that may be in place. 

Forschungsethik in der Schweiz

Forschende, welche ein Forschungsprojekt betreuen, das unter das Humanforschungsgesetz fällt, sind rechtlich verpflichtet die Einwilligung einer Ethikkommission dafür einzuholen. Forschungsprojekte ausserhalb des Anwendungsbereichs des Humanforschungsgesetzes können ebenfalls ethisch relevant sein. Massgeblich sind in diesem Fall allfällige institutionelle Ethikkommissionen bzw. Ethikrichtlinien innerhalb der entsprechenden Fachdisziplin.