• Centre for Professional Ethics

    Hands around a globe

The Centre for Professional Ethics is an internationally renowned research institution. Established in 1993, it is one of the oldest ethics research centres in the world and has gained a reputation for excellence in various areas of ethics, especially global justice and human rights and medicine. Since Professor of Moral Philosophy, Doris Schroeder, became Director of the Centre in 2004, the majority of projects and activities have dealt with questions of global research ethics, benefit sharing, and access to medicines. Of key importance for the Centre is that projects have impact in the real world and are of practical benefit.

In the last ten years, the Centre for Professional Ethics has co‐ordinated large‐scale, international projects on benefit sharing; community consent & indigenous populations; ethics dumping in international collaborative research; ethics in science policy; access to essential drugs; performance‐based pharmaceutical rewards as a supplement to the intellectual property rights system; and responsible research and innovation.

The Centre has significant expertise in coordinating and participating in European projects, as well as projects funded by other sources (for example, Wellcome Trust, European Research Council). Additionally, the global outreach of the Centre is considerable with a network of global collaborators including the World Health Organisation; UNESCO; the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology; the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; the Indian Ministry of External Affairs; a range of African NGOs; government advisory bodies throughout the world and a number of leading global academic institutions.

The Centre of Professional Ethics’ projects and activities are designed to maximise benefit for society. We work collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure lasting impact and the sustainability of our work.

For example, through the TRUST project, we led the development of the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings, which aims to prevent ‘ethics dumping’, i.e. the export of research, which would be prohibited or severely restricted in a high-income country, to a low-or-middle-income country.

The code is now a mandatory reference document for recipients of EU funding and its importance was described in a NATURE article.

Global Ethics Code Website screenshot

Prof. Schroeder was interviewed by NATURE Masterclasses on ‘ethics dumping’, which you can watch below.

Since 2003, we have worked with the San people of South Africa, most recently in supporting the development of their own Code of Research Ethics. This is believed to be the first code of conduct for research developed by an indigenous group in Africa, according to a NATURE article.

The San have been one of the most commonly researched peoples in the world but many things that have happened in the past have left them feeling exploited by researchers. Lack of respect for local traditions and culture; lack of care for local needs; lack of any benefit to the San themselves and lack of transparency in the researchers’ dealings have been commonplace. From now on, all researchers who wish to work with the San must abide by their Code of Research Ethics. A short film about this development can be watched below.

In addition to the impact from our projects, members of the Centre work in high profile environments.

For instance, the Director of the Centre, Professor Doris Schroeder, serves on a variety of expert committees for the European Commission and also advises the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research and the National Research Foundation in South Africa on a regular basis.

Video ©Springer Nature 2019, used with permission

Funded by the European Commission, Horizon 2020, Co-ordinator.

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

Achieving equity in international research is one of the pressing concerns of the 21st century. Many international groups and organisations are working on governance frameworks and standards to guide research activities after progressive globalization. However, their efforts are disparate and lacking a guiding vision. In 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, this project combines long-standing, highly respected efforts to build international governance structures with new exciting network opportunities in Europe, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and Russia.

TRUST will open up new horizons in improving adherence to high ethical standards globally. The project’s strategic output are three sets of tools based on participatory engagement covering all continents: (1) a global code of conduct for funders (2) a fair research contracting on-line tool and (3) a compliance and ethics follow-up tool, which takes limited resources into account.

TRUST plenary meeting in Nairobi 2016

TRUST plenary meeting in Nairobi 2016


Funded by the European Commission, Framework 7, Co-ordinator

ProGReSS concentrates on the underexplored and least converging part of responsible research and innovation (RRI), namely achieving societal desirability. The project links existing international networks of RRI from all continents with European partners and societal actors to achieve the following objectives:

  • Link existing international networks of RRI with relevant societal actors on a global scale to focus innovation on societal desirability.
  • Complete a major fact-finding mission comparing science funding strategies and innovation policies in Europe, the US, China, Japan, India, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Advocate a European normative model for RRI globally, using constitutional values as a driver to inform societal desirability.
  • Develop a strategy for fostering the convergence of regional innovation systems at the global level.


ProGReSS kick-off meeting, UNESCO, 2013

Reward Making Medicines Accessible To All

Funded by the European Research Council

Every year approximately ten million people around the world die from lack of access to lifesaving medicines. High prices generated by the intellectual property rights (IPR) system are partly responsible, leaving patients – particularly those in developing countries and emerging markets – unable to access the medicines they need.

The REWARD project team are investigating how the IPR system could be supplemented so that the availability of medicines is improved worldwide. The project's ambitious output is an ethically and legally sound performance-based reward tool for pharmaceutical innovation, which complements the existing patent regime, yet mitigates its considerable disadvantages for the global poor.

Reward Team

The REWARD team get together for a meeting in 2016

Funded by the European Commission, Framework 7, Co-ordinator.

Funded by the European Commission , Framework 7, Co-ordinator.

Bilateral Support for the International Linkage with Kina (BILAT SILK), funded by the European Commission, Framework 7.

Genomics and Benefit Sharing with Developing Countries - From Biodiversity to Human Genomics, funded by the European Commission Framework 6, Co-ordinator.

Developing Ethical Governance
Wellcome Trust; Principal Investigator

Facilitating International Prospective Clinical Trials in Stem Cell Transplantation, funded by the European Commission. Framework 6.

Ethics in Mongolian and South-East Asian Science and Technology, funded by the European Commission under Framework VI, Principle Investigator.

Prior Informed Consent and Benefit Sharing. Wellcome Trust: Principal Investigator.

Genomics and Benefit Sharing with Developing Countries (BeSha). European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme, Science and Society: Co-Ordinator.