Research Ethics Consultations

The Program for Bioethics is responsible for directing and staffing the Research Ethics Consultation Service, which reports to the UK Office of the Vice President for Research. The service is free and available to all University of Kentucky investigators, researchers, students and laboratory staff. 

Request a research ethics consultation by calling 859-257-9474 or by email. Calls or emails received outside regular business hours will be addressed during regular business hours. 

When to Request a Research Ethics Consultation

A bioethicist can be consulted about various moral and ethical issues in the research setting that are not typically addressed by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) or Institutional Review Board (IRB). This includes:

  • Ethical issues regarding initial trial design and theoretical ethical frameworks, such as equipoise.  
  • Cell line contamination and investigator obligations.  
  • Epistemological integrity.  
  • Unanticipated errors discovered mid-project and professional obligations.  
  • Professional/moral integrity questions.  
  • Moral distress over unanticipated results or unreported misconduct.  
  • Mentor-graduate student miscommunication or conflicts.  
  • Disclosure of important or sensitive information.  
  • Publication ethics, sharing of credit and citation protocol.  
  • Conflicts of interest. 

Research ethics consultation facilitates early identification of ethical problems or issues in biomedical research. Through direct contact with a bioethicist about a specific research ethics question, investigators can:

  • Avoid potential problems with trial design and results that can delay IRB approval  
  • Work through ethical issues that may present in "cutting-edge" areas such as genetics and neuroscience.  
  • Discuss morally sensitive issues that involve professional integrity at the benchside in a safe venue. 

How the Process Works

  • All questions will be considered, and in some cases, the researcher may be referred to another office or individual.
  • The bioethicist will meet with the researcher and discuss the issue in person.
  • As a follow-up, the bioethicist may provide the researcher with a literature review that is relevant, or the researcher may request an “opinion letter” as well, which could be sent to the researcher directly.
  • Researchers who request research ethics consultations will be asked to fill out a feedback form to help track the utility of this service.
  • Anonymity will be respected; if transparency is necessary, this will be fully disclosed to the researcher as part of the consultation process.