Research involving Human Beings

In the case of research projects on or with humans, the principal investigators generally weigh up the proportionality of the probable burdens and risks for the study participants with regard to the expected gain in knowledge. They dispense with burdens and risks that are not absolutely necessary for the research project. In most cases, an ethical examination and approval of a research project is necessary. The UZH Ethics Policy provides information on the applicable legal foundations and procedures for the ethical examination of research projects.

HFG applies to research project

If the Swiss Human Research Act (HFG) applies to a research project, it must be approved by the Cantonal Ethics Commission (KEK) before the start of the study.

The HFG applies to research on human diseases as well as on the structure and function of the human body. Studies that are within the scope of the HFG are for example:

  • All clinical studies
  • Studies with measurements in or on the body (MRI, ultrasound, EEG, saliva sample, blood sampling, urine sample, etc.) with the aim of understanding diseases or the body's structure and function
  • Observation studies and experiments aimed at understanding diseases or the structure and function of the body
  • Collection or further use of health-related personal data with the aim of understanding diseases or the structure and function of the body

UZH researchers can obtain advice on all issues concerning the HFG at the KEKor at the Clinical Trials Center.
You can perform a self-assessment with the Ethics Checklist (PDF, 103 KB).

HFG doesn’t apply to research project, but ethical examination is required

If a research project does not fall within the scope of the HFG, there is no legal requirement for an ethical examination. The principal investigator may nevertheless ask for an ethical evaluation of a research project if:
  • a research funding organisation requires an ethical examination
  • a publisher requires an ethical examination
  • for feedback and improvement in quality

The following faculties offer an ethical examination in these cases:

Faculty of Theology

Faculty of Business, Economics and Informatics

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Faculty of Science

For the time being, researchers of the other faculties can apply to the KEK for an ethical examination paying a fee.