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Competitiveness / Education and Research



Fears of the legality of some Swedish research projects as ethical principles might have been broken

Sunday, 23 December 2012
Swedish researchers could have used personal and sensitive data to pursue some research, which is now deemed as could have been illegal.

According to radio Sweden's own research and assessment, after going through research works conducted in Sweden since 2004, when the so-called Ethical Review Act took effect, it shows  from their assessment that the amounts of sensitive personal data collected from the Swedish Employment Service's archives used in the research seems to have failed the ethical test.

The Swedish Employment Service archive in Söderhamn contains hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of documents relating to individuals. This could be related to illnesses of various sorts such as injuries as well as documents and story of Sweden's labour migration.

"During the past eight years, several researchers have sought to gain access into the archive and its documents, sometimes to gain access to sensitive data about individuals to be used for research purposes," said radio Sweden

But in order to process data on, for example, ethnicity and health issues, scientists need to have applied for a review by an ethics committee. Radio Sweden has found eight projects that have no authorisation for research to be conducted with such data but where the Employment Service records show that they are still allowed to push forward with the research even though they are described as sensitive to the researchers.

One specific project is about a social medical study conducted on an ethnic group in the 70s, said Radio Sweden. The research according to experts, would have obviously been labelled ethics where there are both borderline for such studies.

There is also a research that focused on occupational injuries. This includes medical certificates for individuals, even where sensitive data that require ethical review was necessary, it is lacking for that study.

Radio Sweden says it has spoken to several experts in the field and they say that in these cases is not enough for the employment service to have leave the documents and such databases without adhering to the confidentiality clauses pertaining to them. They also question the researcher of the projects about their own ethical proficiency.

Generally, there are rules in Sweden that certain studies relating to human beings need adhere to those set of ethical rules, which guarantee that their personal situations will not be used to enhance research without certain conditions reached. In some cases, some data is not allowed to be used and some databases are not in any circumstances allowed to be accessed. From this report, it therefore looks like databases where invaded and information extracted either with or without the knowledge of   authorities or that the authorities were lax with the checks required. 
by Team

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