Department of Psychology Ethics Committee

A standing committee of the Department of Psychology, the Ethics Committee reviews and assesses on ethical grounds research projects proposed in the field of psychological research at the Department of Psychology with the aim of protecting participants and ensuring proportionality between the risks and benefits of the research investigation. Exceptions to this are research projects that are assessed by the cantonal ethics committees in accordance with federal law on research involving human subjects (Human Research Act, HRA 810.30, 30.09.2011). The Ethics Committee is independent of instruction and recommendation. The Commission consists of four members of the Department of Psychology (Research Dean Prof. Dr. Dominique de Quervain, Prof. Dr. Alexander Grob, Prof. Dr. Jörg Rieskamp, Dr. Andrea Meyer) as well as an external person with proven ethical expertise (Dr. Tenzin Wangmo, Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel). The procedure and the composition of the Ethics Committee of the Department of Psychology is governed and documented by regulation.

Applications and their submission

Applications may relate to individual applications or framework applications. Framework applications are those where an experimental paradigm or a specific method of investigation used for several individual studies will reviewed for ethical considerations. After obtaining approval for individual investigation of comparable population groups, the experimental paradigm or method of investigation may be applied without further approval.

The administration office accepts applications via email at the request of the responsible departmental members, verifies their completeness, ensures timely assessment, and notifies the applicant in writing of the decision. Applications may be submitted via email at any time and are continuously reviewed. The recommended application form is available from the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee decides on the approval usually within 30 days following receipt of the documents in their entirety. 

Assessment and decision-making process

Two reviews are obtained for each application. Reviewers are proposed by respective departmental heads from among their respective members and confirmed by the Departmental Board. The decision of the Ethics Committee takes their views into account but is not bound by them. Ethics Committee decisions will be made on the basis of a discussion of the cases and expert opinions. Ethics Committee members vote independently on all applications according to a simple majority decision. Evaluation of research projects is made in accordance with the Swiss Society for Psychology's (SGP) ethical guidelines for psychologists and takes into account human research legislation. Any federal legal regulations are subject to change without notice.

The following decision categories are possible: A) acceptance, B) acceptance subject to conditions, C), acceptance subject to substantial conditions, D) refusal. There is a two-stage process in the decision of an application: The first step is to decide whether the request can be accepted in principle. This categorizes A-C as accepted and D as rejected. In a second step, following acceptance in principle, a decision is reached over categories A to C according a simple majority rule. If a member of the Ethics Committee makes no explicit assessment of an application before the cut-off date, the assessment of the expert person is automatically accepted. If the recommendations of both experts deviate from one another, the more negative evaluation is chosen. If the decision is negative (simple majority for category D), the application is rejected.

After revision, accepted applications from category C must be resubmitted to the Ethics Committee. Accepted applications from category B are subject to conditions that must be fulfilled retrospectively by the applicant without the need for the application to be resubmitted the Ethics Committee. If the applicant cannot or does not wish to fulfill a requirement retrospectively, resubmission is absolutely necessary. The rejection of a project application means that the Ethics Committee deems the project not ethically safe. Rejected applications in category D can, in principle, be resubmitted to the Ethics Committee. On resubmission, it must be noted that the application has been rejected at an earlier submission and mention should be made of the key points that have undergone change.