Responsible Conduct in Research


This course addresses MSc and PhD students at ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The seminar is organized by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center.

This module is offered in the spring semesters only.


ETH Course Catalog Listing: 751-1040-00L

When studying at a university, Master’s and PhD-students join the scientific community and, therefore, have to learn the codes of professional and responsible conduct in research.

In this course, we provide information about specific rules, regulations and guidelines for research integrity and responsible conduct that includes a moral reasoning tool kit.

This course aims to raise awareness for potential conflicts of interest. The class will discuss real life examples, such as questions of authorship; giving credits; data handling; communication and responsibility in the public.

Students will discuss case studies with a typical conflict potential or a dilemma. We will work in teams, discuss the codes of conduct and values established in science, and apply them to case studies. The teams have to agree on actions to be taken for each case and will present a consensus view.

A special focus is on practising and applying the process of ethical inquiry/moral reasoning as a tool to analyze ethical issues and reach a well-reflected decision in ethical ambiguous situations.

Course registration

We request that all students first register for the course at the PSC course registration website, see info box on the right hand side.

Then, to receive course credit, you must also register for the course through your home university. ETH Zurich and University of Zurich students may use their institution's normal registration procedure. The ETH Zurich course number is 751-1040-00L.

University of Basel students must complete the form (free of charge) Anmeldeformular Fachstudierende ► Gruppe PSC

Access to the learning platform

The online-based case study platform can be accessed via  (use you university login to sign in). 

► In order to receive ECTS, you must follow the complete course and be present during the face-to-face meetings. 


Lecturers: Prof. Nina Buchmann, Dr. Melanie Paschke
Initial Course Meeting: There are two face-two-face meetings in spring (normally March and April).
In-between: Self-study and team work
Evaluation Criteria: Students have to complete a journal documenting course tasks to be approved by the lecturers. Student teams will prepare case studies in role-play scenarios and present their consensus of responsible conduct in research to the full class on the final presentation day. Additionally, each student will independently prepare one case study.

Credit Points: 1 ECTS (30 learning hours)

Learning Objectives

  • Students know the questions, conflicts and ethically ambiguous situations that may arise in research.
  • Students can apply codes of responsible conduct in research, i.e., they understand and can apply the professional values and ethical norms of their profession.
  • Students know how to deal with and communicate in ambiguous situations.
  • Students will develop a professional attitude towards responsible conduct in research.


Students deal with case studies on the following topics:

  • Scientific Integrity, Error and Negligence in Science
  • Conflicts in Authorship Practices
  • Questions of Data Treatment
  • Influence of Values on Data Interpretation
  • Social Responsibility of Scientists (e.g. 'Communication with the public')