KKP Kicks Off 85th Anniversary with Research Ethics Webinar

By: Drexel H. Camacho, Ph.D.
KKP External Vice President & Chair, Webinar

The Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas (The Chemical Society of the Philippines) is celebrating its 85th anniversary with a series of webinars scheduled for the entire year. To kick-off, the Ethics in Research Webinar was held last April 20 and 21, 2022 via Webex with a roster of five esteemed speakers in the forefront of chemical and allied sciences research. The webinar was very well-attended by 150 – 200 participants from all over the country, significantly by undergraduate students interested to incorporate learnings into their research work.

Chemical research contributes a positive impact on the world because of the beneficial discoveries of new substances, materials, and processes that help improve the quality of life. Chemical activity is reflexively connected with worldviews, values, and belief systems that are deeply rooted in society’s historical, cultural, and political framework within which it is conducted (Science, Worldviews and Education, 2009). Continuing progress in science and technology, particularly in chemistry, in a global economy has become intertwined with changes not only in the economic development of countries but also in the social, political, and even cultural structures of societies.

The need for increasing the awareness that chemistry activities, especially on research and innovation, are interwoven with worldviews and value systems is one of the reasons for this webinar on research ethics to be conducted. Awareness and acceptance of research ethics are acknowledged to provide the path for the practice of good science, in this case, good chemistry.

The practice of ethical research, especially when involving human beings as participants, has guiding principles and components, which were discussed by Dr. Angeles Tan-Alora, MD, former dean of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Tan-Alora emphasized the principles of beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for persons, and justice as the foundational values for scientific soundness and ethical soundness of all research endeavors.

The nature of frontier research is marked by trans- or interdisciplinarity needed to advance innovations. Dr. John Noel Viaña, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science in Canberra, Australia, discussed the elements of responsible innovation of ethical acceptability, sustainability, and societal desirability. He presented the principles of Responsible Innovation as a framework for conducting innovation activities, including biotechnology or biomedical applications, that incorporate ethical considerations from development to deployment.

The seminal principles of 3Rs of Replace, Reduce, and Refine for the ethical conduct of research using animal models were elaborated by Dr.  Daria Manalo, DVM, Chief Science Specialist of the Veterinary Research Department of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. As explained by Dr. Manalo, the current attitudes and values on animal rights, by acknowledging their five freedoms, have led to the development of new declarations and guidelines on the use of animals in research that led to the enactment of legislation and regulations, such as the Animal Welfare Act. Techniques and procedures in animal handling that minimize their pain or stress were thus presented, alongside the ethical elements to consider in research protocols.

The importance of bioprospecting, a vital step in pharmaceutical development and production, was highlighted by Dr. Gisela Concepcion, Professor Emeritus of UP Diliman and Academician of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). Dr. Concepcion contextualized in her lecture about the Convention of Biological Diversity on the ethical considerations of bioprospecting. She then explained the ethical and legal complications related to biodiversity and access to biological resources. Guidelines were discussed in the areas of property rights, recognition for intellectual contribution, access and benefit-sharing, and respect for the autonomy of all actors involved, including indigenous people communities. These are highlighted in the Manila Declaration of 1992 and enfleshed in the EO 247 and its implementing rules and regulations. Access and benefit-sharing legislation is underway in the houses of the Philippine Congress. Dr. Concepcion’s work in the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (PMS-ICBG) illustrated her journey with bioprospecting and its scientific and ethical challenges and procedural standards and requirements.

A major requirement for beneficence in research is the dissemination or sharing of results, usually in the form of publications. This stage of research also is faced with some ethical considerations. Dr. Caesar Saloma, the Editor-in-Chief of the Philippine Journal of Science, Academician of the NAST, and Professor of the National Institute of Physics at UP Diliman, emphasized that the hallmark of science is experimental validation, and that acceptance of new knowledge has to be evidence-based and peer-reviewed. The principles of Professional Ethics in science, therefore, underpin the observance of research ethics, especially in publication. Dr. Saloma extensively discussed the salient or common ethical issues surrounding publication that includes statutory and ethics approval, informed consent, data manipulation, and research fraud, plagiarism, simultaneous submission, duplicate publication, self-citation, consent to reproduce published material, ethics of authorship, conflicts of interest and other questionable research practices. Dr. Saloma also gave an interesting and concerning overview of the Philippines’ state of human capital generation for STEM in terms of Ph.D. faculty profile and Ph.D. degree completion. He outlined the relevant Philippine legislation for adherence in research conduct and highlighted the need for self-regulation on ethical considerations among research entities and scientific organizations.

There is a growing concern and call that chemists need to give more consideration to the ethics of our research, including the reflection on ethical and social issues of chemistry, the compliance to ethical guidelines of the chemical profession, and an active contribution to the ethical discourse. In 2015, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) compiled a list of 140 different codes of ethics and conduct related to the practice of chemistry from across the globe. This led to the crafting of The Hague Ethical Guidelines in which the central message is that ethical codes should promote the peaceful use of chemistry, protection of the environment, and ensuring laboratory safety. These guidelines were quickly endorsed by the IUPAC for immediate promotion, which became the basis for the American Chemical Society in developing the Global Chemists’ Code of Ethics.

The webinar was an opportunity for enrichment received from the knowledge, insights, and experiential learning from the esteemed panel of speakers. The KKP acknowledges their generosity for the gift of their time and sharing of expertise for us in active research to be more aware and conscientious of practicing consistently good science, and good chemistry.

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