An ethics review body has to be established in all institutions engaged or involved in research in order to help “safeguard the dignity, rights, safety, and well-being of all actual or potential research participants” either humans or animals (WHO 2000 cited in PHREB 2011, p. 23). It follows that the composition, procedures, and decision-making of the ethics review body shall be independent of political, institutional, professional, and market influences in order for it to function with greater objectivity (WHO 2000 cited in PHREB 2011, p. 23).
Guidelines for Creating the RERC Based on WHO Standards
Given this context, the ethics review body of Silliman University, called the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC), was created according to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO 2000) which are also adopted in the National Ethical Guidelines for Health Research by the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board (PHREB 2011). The following guidelines, which were approved by the Deans Conference on 20 January 2014 pursuant to DC Action 2013-14: 26 and subsequently by Board of Trustees Action 2014-05, tell the composition and nature of the UREC and the policies and procedures that it will develop to guide its operation. The UREC has prepared its standard operating procedure (SOP) to guide in its review of research proposals.
- Adequate legal framework: The Department of Health (DOH) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) require all organizations and higher education institutions (HEIs) engaged in research involving human and animal subjects to create their respective ethics review bodies. These have to be duly registered with and/or accredited by the PHERB.
- Multidisciplinary and multisectoral membership: The composition of the UREC may range from five to nine with gender balance and represented by different disciplines such as medical and health, law, religion and philosophy, natural sciences, social sciences and related others as well as lay people in the community.
- Adequate staffing, facilities, and financial resources: The UREC must have its own office with a Chairperson directly under the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA). It must have sufficient resources to support its operation. The collection of reviewer fees from outside researchers must be part of the resource generation activity of the board.
- Independence of UREC operations: The UREC is independent from the Research and Development Center and, therefore, the Research Director cannot supervise or become a member of the UREC due to conflict of interest. Meanwhile, RERC members with research proposals under review must inhibit from the said process.
- Provision of training on ethical considerations: The chairperson and members of the UREC must be knowledgeable of or trained about ethical considerations in reviewing different types of research proposals and involving different subjects, humans or animals.
- Transparency, accountability, consistency, and high quality operations: The policies and procedures of the UREC must be known to all interested parties and must promote high quality review results that put great regard to objectivity.
- Coherence and consistency in the application of ethical principles: The UREC must be aware of and consistent to international and national documents on ethics and human rights instruments in the formulation of its policies and procedures.
- Decisions based on thorough and inclusive processes: The actions of the UREC to research proposals must have made according to its policies and standard operating procedures and the decisions made are carefully studied and voted upon by its members.
- Policies and procedures are written: The policies and standard operating procedures of the UREC must be written specific to the condition of the institutions but based upon the guidelines of PHERB (2011) and must be accessible to interested parties. These guide the manners of accepting research proposals, reviewing them according to types, deciding on their merits, announcing of the results, and disposing of reviewed research proposals. The review policies and procedures for students must be different from faculty and outside researchers.
- Ensure only qualified persons will conduct research: The UREC must ensure that the proposals submitted for review must be conducted or implemented by researchers with sufficient scientific, clinical, or other relevant qualifications.
Ethical Principles and Guidelines in the Conduct Of Research
Pursuant to Republic Act 10532 (“An Act Institutionalizing the Philippine National Health Research System”) and Republic Act 8485 (“Animal Welfare Act of 1998), and in accordance to its commitments to total human development for the well-being of society and environment and to contribute to national development, Silliman University adopts these ethical principles and guidelines for the conduct of research. As a Christian institution, Silliman University upholds core theological principles of the Christian faith as its ethical bases for research principles and conduct. Guided by its Protestant roots, the university affirms fundamental biblical insights as the primary sources and guidance to its commitment to research work; and strives to integrate biblical values of life, justice, and truth in the search for new knowledge (University Manual, p. 53).
As a research institution, Silliman University emphasizes human responsibility and Christian stewardship as operative theological-biblical principles to its ethical commitment in the production and dissemination of human knowledge. As reflected in the canonical gospels, Christian stewardship is an act of faithfulness to Jesus to care for the least and oppressed. At its core ethical value in research, human responsibility is a commitment to social justice. As community of learners, scholars and artists, we pursue this calling within the framework of Christian ideals revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who is the Via, Veritas, Vita. We uphold the dignity, protect the rights, guarantee the safety, and preservethe well-being of all involved in or affected by the conduct of research.
In the Christian faith, human responsibility is a gift from God – “Then God said, let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). In this context, Christian stewardship is a gracious and grateful response to this gift entrusted to us by God. Informed by the Good News of Jesus Christ, this response to God is a creative and responsible act of upholding and enhancing life—that they “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
To this end, research in the University aims to therefore maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in every aspect of research from the submission of proposals, data gathering, reporting to publication. In the conduct of research, these ethical standards are anchored on six fundamental principles: Truth, Human Value and Well-being, Integrity, Environmental Justice, Collaboration and Solidarity, and Stewardship.
Founded with the motto of Via, Veritas, Vita, Silliman University affirms that all truths come from God. As affirmed in the gospels, truth is deeply intertwined with life. In Christ, there is life and such life is the light of all people (John 1:4; John 10:10). In the way of Christ, truth is life. In pursuit of this truth, the University commits to uphold academic freedom. Research is an exercise of responsible freedom.
As a service for and of such truth, the following are the guidelines:
- Research must be accurate, free from deceit and fraud;
- Research must contribute to the enhancement and flourishing of life;
- Research must participate in the development of common good;
- Research must promote social justice and give due recognition to the works of others;
- Research must enhance public life;
- Research must advance scientific knowledge.
This principle is anchored on the recognition of the worth of a person as a human being, with basic rights to security and freedom from harm in all forms (psychological, physical, social, and economic) due to their involuntary, deceitful or forceful participation in a research undertaking. In accordance to this principle, a researcher is expected to engage in research that would bring societal benefits particularly in uplifting the well-being of the marginalized people but without sacrificing human dignity, safety and the quality of their environment. Thus, the following codes of conduct have to be strictly observed:
- Researchers must ensure that voluntary informed consent is obtained from all human participants prior to the conduct of research or special safeguards are provided where this is not possible;
- Researchers must respect human participants including the community by minimizing or avoiding risks from harm and stress;
- Researchers must respect the privacy of research participants at all times and all information obtained, analyzed and published must be treated with utmost confidentiality;
- Upholding the research benefits to humanity that leads to societal development.
Research integrity may be defined as the adherence to ethical principles and professional standards essential to the responsible conduct of research and higher learning. It is a faithful compliance with ethical and legal obligations as required by statutory and regulatory authorities and should be based on consistency, honesty, and truthfulness or accuracy in one’s actions.
The following general ethical standards and procedures describe various aspects of integrity in research at Silliman University:
- Researchers strive to be honest, truthful, open, and accurate in their research work;
- Researchers must avoid incomplete disclosure of information unless complete disclosure is culturally inappropriate, violates confidentiality, or carries the potential to do serious harm to individuals, families, groups, or communities;
- Researchers must maximize impartiality and minimize biases;
- Researchers must not exploit persons or peoples for personal, professional, or financial gain;
- Researchers must avoid conflicts of interest and declare them when they cannot be avoided or are inappropriate to avoid;
- Researchers must ensure that all work is original and that they do not use plagiarized material in any form at any stage of the research cycle;
- Researchers must faithfully comply with ethical and legal obligations, including seeking ethical review and approval for research as deemed appropriate;
- Researchers in particular disciplines should comply with any research ethics guidelines set by their professional associations.
Upholding environmental justice in the conduct of our research is dovetailing our institutional mission of instilling an enlightened social awareness and deep sense of justice and compassion in all members of the university community. Environmental justice is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” Our commitment for fair treatment and meaningful involvement for environmental equity are manifested in the following guidelines:
- Encouraging active participation of stakeholders at every level of decision-making regarding our environment and/or health;
- Calling for the strict enforcement of existing environmental legislation;
- Respecting traditional land and natural resources of indigenous communities;
- Empowering social accountability for environmental equity;
- Securing the right to a clean and safe environment;
- Protecting the rights of victims of environmental injustice;
- Promoting the importance of identifying and addressing environmental equity.
In the pursuit of new knowledge and theory, the University recognizes the value of working and acting collaboratively in the spirit of inclusiveness and solidarity. This implies multi-disciplinary teamwork . that fosters cooperation among researchers and encourages the open exchange of ideas, methods, data, and analysis. . It allows for further inquiry, examination and thorough review of the subject of study. The following code of conduct should be observed:
- Researchers must show respect and trust among members of the research organization − sharing of duties and responsibilities is of utmost significance while observing the organizational structure;
- Researchers should work towards quality and excellent output;
- Researchers should conduct the proper methods in various disciplines and bring these disciplines together for communal enrichment;
- Researchers must engage is research projects within the range of their competencies and collaborate with others to complement their skills;
- Researchers should be responsible and accountable for the value and worth of their own contribution to the research project;
- Researchers should be transparent and have an open and proper communication with one another;
- Researchers should follow and abide by the standards and procedures set by the research organizations, the University, and the code of ethics in research.
As a Christian institution, we affirm our commitment to being stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:22; Genesis 2:26). Stewardship is defined as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”2 Our shared commitment on stewardship fortifies our pursuit of total human development for the well-being of society and environment. We are committed to the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through careful and responsible management, conservation and sustainability of our natural resources. In compliance with the Animal Welfare Act or RA 8485/10631 and the DA Administrative Order No. 40 series of 1999, we ensure the protection and welfare of all terrestrial, aquatic and marine vertebrate animals .
Researchers conducting inquiries and investigations that directly or indirectly affect the environment and animals must follow the following protocols:
- Protect, conserve, and sustainably develop natural resources and the environment for future generations;
- Be guided by precautionary principles in the conduct of research related to the environment, other species, our health and the community;
- Facilitate the transfer of knowledge on environmental issues and solutions across disciplines;
- Foster collaborations and partnerships on environmental protection with other educational institutions, government, non-governmental organizations, and the community as a whole;
- Uphold the institutional environmental policies and advocacies.
Care for the Animals
“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Silliman University affirms the inherent goodness of all there is. Human and non-human are co-inhabitants of this good created order. No one is less than others. As every creature has marks of God, everything is good. But as stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26), human beings are entrusted with sacred responsibility to care for animals (Deuteronomy 22:10; 25:4). In all human endeavors therefore, care and concern for the well-being of animals is a divine mandate. Thus, all researchers should:
- Strictly follow institutional protocols, policies and responsibilities regarding the care and use of animals.
- Protect and promote the welfare of animals by maintaining appropriate standards of feeding, accommodation and general care;
- Prevent or minimize any unnecessary discomfort or pain to the animals in the conduct of research;
- Address concerns on animal welfare by methods of reporting and investigation.
Chairman: Asst. Cyflor E. Putong
Secretary: Dr. Kim G. Sarong
- Asst. Prof. Nasser C. Acuram
- Dr. Roy Diamond M. Arco
- Atty. Golda D. Benjamin
- Dr. Theorose June Q. Bustillo
- Dr. Warlito S. Caturay
- Mr. Rehel A. Diaz
- Engr. Mylane A. Farolan
- Asst. Prof. Kathryn R. Jadloc
- Asst. Prof. Rhea Rheem Muarip-Bolodo
- Rev. Elmer L. Saa
- Dr. Michele Joan D. Valbuena
- Dr. Karl James E. Villarmea
- Dr. Chuchi S. Montenegro
Staff: Mr. Nathaniel E. Partosa Jr.