Since October 2015, the Bio-economy team have been part of a global consortium working towards achieving equity in international research. Known as ‘TRUST’ (short for: creating and enhancing TRUSTworthy, responsible and equitable partnerships in international research), the three-year project aims to foster adherence to high ethical standards in research globally and to counteract the practice of ‘ethics dumping’ or the application of double standards in research. It plans to do this by developing tools and mechanisms for the improvement of research governance structures.

The goal of the TRUST Project is to catalyse a global collaborative effort to improve adherence to high ethical standards around the world.

TRUST is an interdisciplinary collaboration between multi-level ethics bodies, policy advisors/makers, civil society organisations, funding organisations, industry and academic scholars from a range of disciplines. It combines long-standing, highly respected efforts to build international governance structures with network opportunities in Europe, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and Russia.

The guiding vision of TRUST is three-fold:
The overall principles of global research ethics must be applicable to researchers in all disciplines.
The long-term benefits of equitable partnerships versus the disadvantages of quick-and-dirty “ethics dumping” must infuse the global research ethics framework.
TRUST will exemplify the principles of responsible research and innovation in all collaborations and thereby provide a model for equitable partnerships in research.

The TRUST objectives are to:

  • Create an international network on global research ethics governance with relevant key actors to identify generic risks of exporting non‐ethical practices.
  • Identify paradigmatic case studies of exporting non‐ethical practices and report on lessons learnt.
  • Develop a global code of conduct that can be used by the European Commission and funders world‐wide to foster ethical research and equitable partnerships.
  • Develop a tool that gives power to vulnerable populations under non‐ideal conditions (fair research contract).
  • Develop a compliance and ethics follow‐up tool for conditions of high vulnerability.
  • Develop a strategy for fostering the convergence of global ethical research governance to improve adherence to high ethical standards in the longer term.

The Bio-economy team brings a special focus to the project, by contributing cases of ethics dumping in agricultural research.
The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 664771.

It is led by the Centre for Professional Ethics at the University of Central Lancashire, with partners from Europe (Action Contre La Faim, ACF, Paris; Council on Health Research for Development, COHRED, Geneva; European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, EDCTP, The Hague; Global Governance Institute, GCI, Brussels; Foundation Global Values Alliance, FGVA, Basel; Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Inserm, Paris; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, Paris), India (Forum for Ethics Review Committees in India, FERCI, Mumbai), Kenya (Partners for Health and Development in Africa, PHDA, Nairobi), and South Africa (South African San Institute, SASI, Kimberley; School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand).

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