Ethical Standards in India and Other Countries

An ethical standard regarding psychological research or practice varies greatly from country to country, depending on its existing legislation, culture, and the prevailing conditions of the particular field. In India, a clinical psychologist needs to be certified by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), the governing body for mental health professionals in the country. Psychiatry and practitioners in neuroscience are regulated by the Medical Council of India (MCI). Some ethical standards and their legal implementations are discussed in the following text.

What are Ethical Standards?

Ethical standards in science refer to the principles and values that guide scientific research and experimentation. These standards are intended to ensure that scientific research is conducted fairly, responsibly, and transparently and that the rights and well-being of research participants, animals, and the environment are respected. Some of the key ethical standards in science include −

These ethical standards are intended to guide scientists and researchers and are often incorporated into institutional review boards, national laws and regulations, and professional guidelines.

The Need for Culture-Specific Ethical Standards

The need for culture-specific ethical standards arises because different cultures have different values, beliefs, and norms that shape how people think and behave. It is important for professionals working in different cultures to be aware of these cultural differences and to adapt ethical standards accordingly to ensure that services and research are provided in a fair, responsible, and transparent manner and that the rights and well-being of individuals are respected.

Ethical Standards in India

India has several laws and regulations to ensure that scientific research is conducted fairly, responsibly, and transparently. A governing body in India does not strictly regulate psychotherapy. However, psychiatry and neurology are much more established fields under the restrictions of the Medicine Council of India, among other governing bodies. Some restrictions are elaborated on in the following section.

One of the key laws in India that relate to ethics in science is the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Participants. These guidelines provide a framework for the ethical conduct of biomedical research involving human participants.

They include provisions for obtaining informed consent, protecting the rights and welfare of participants, and ensuring the confidentiality of personal information. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) also have guidelines on science ethics. The DBT guidelines focus on ethical issues related to the use of animals in scientific research. In contrast, the CSIR guidelines guide issues related to the responsible use of biotechnology.

In addition to these laws and guidelines, the National Apex Bodies, such as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have established institutional review boards (IRBs) to review and approve research proposals. These boards are responsible for assessing the ethical implications of the proposed research and ensuring that it adheres to established ethical standards.

Another important aspect of ethics in science in India is the responsible use of technology. With the rapid advancement of technology, scientists and researchers must use it to respect individuals' rights to privacy and confidentiality and ensure that the technology is not used in a way that disadvantages certain groups of people.

Ethical Standards in the USA

The ethical standards in psychological science in the USA are established by the American Psychological Association (APA). They are intended to guide psychologists and other mental health professionals in their practice. These standards are based on the APA's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, which is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the latest developments in the field.

Some of the key ethical standards in psychological science in the USA include −

  • Informed consent − Psychologists must obtain informed consent from clients before providing any treatment or services.

  • Confidentiality − Psychologists must protect the confidentiality of client information, except in cases where there is a legal or ethical reason to disclose it.

  • Beneficence and non-maleficence − Psychologists must strive to do good and minimize harm in their practice.

  • Professional competence − Psychologists must maintain professional competence and continuously update their knowledge and skills.

  • Cultural competence − Psychologists must be aware of their client's cultural and diverse contexts and respect their values and beliefs.

  • Responsible use of technology: Psychologists must use technology to respect clients' rights to privacy and confidentiality and ensure that technology is not used to disadvantage certain groups of people.

  • Responsible research − Psychologists must conduct research responsibly and ethically, ensuring the protection of human subjects and respect for their rights and welfare.

By adhering to these ethical standards, psychologists and other mental health professionals in the USA can ensure that their practice is fair, responsible, and transparent and that clients' rights and well-being are respected.

Ethical Standards in Europe

It is crucial to look into the development of research ethics in order to get a thorough understanding of the subject. Though research ethics is best developed in medicine, broad guidelines hold for all types of research. A sociological study needs informed permission and confidentiality just as much as a clinical study.

A declaration on research ethics was adopted in 1964 in Helsinki, Finland, by the World Medical Association, founded in Paris in 1947 in response to the ethical violations exposed during the Nuremberg trials. The Helsinki Declaration has undergone multiple revisions since then, but its basic points and objectives have not changed.

The Declaration of Helsinki outlines ethical guidelines for medical research involving identifiable human beings, including data and material. The declaration's fundamental tenet is that, in any study, the welfare of the individual research subject must come before any other interests.

The proclamation lays out guidelines for conducting medical research and additional guidelines for combining medical research with medical treatment. Although medical research is the environment in which research ethics has progressed the most, research ethics are essential for all scientific fields. Professional and academic organizations frequently offer guidelines and ethics rules tailored to their study fields' particulars.

Human rights and research ethics have a close relationship. Significant overlaps exist, and both fields have an impact on one another. The Oviedo Convention, adopted by the Ministers of the Council of Europe in 1996, illustrates this. This convention establishes uniform criteria for all Council of Europe members and is intended to address the ethical challenges generated by research within the context of defending human rights.

Additional protocols offer guidelines for more specialized sorts of study, whereas the convention lays out the broad underlying concepts. These values include the importance of a person's well-being and interests, informed consent, and privacy.

The Oviedo Convention also establishes guidelines for using human genome data and human embryo research. The Additional Protocol Concerning Biomedical Research, which was signed by the majority of Council of Europe members but was only ratified by a small number of them, confirms the fundamental ideas and offers more detailed guidelines for the function of ethics committees in research, the requirements for sufficient informed consent, confidentiality, and the right to information.

The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights by UNESCO and the International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) are two additional significant international declarations and conventions.

The clear European commitment to human rights is the foundation for research ethics under the European regulatory framework. Respect for human rights, firmly established in the treaties13, is essential for all areas of European policy. The European Union passed its human rights law, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, to further solidify this commitment.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights in Europe

Given that the European Union was established on a foundation of shared values outlined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, considering the ethical aspects of research activities has a special significance in the European legal system. A variety of personal, civil, political, economic, and social rights are recognized by the Charter. The creation of a charter was given to a convention by the June 1999 European Council in Cologne.

The Lisbon Treaty declares that all European law must adhere to the principles of the Charter and incorporates the Charter into the Treaty on the European Union, giving it equal legal effect. This consequently holds for European research policy as well. Several principles in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights apply to research. The conduct of research is supported by these concepts, which also serve as the foundation for significant ethics guidelines.


Ethics in science is an important aspect of the scientific enterprise in India. The country has several laws and regulations to ensure that scientific research is conducted fairly, responsibly, and transparently. Adhering to these laws and guidelines helps to ensure that scientific research is conducted in a manner that respects the rights and well-being of all parties involved and promotes public trust in science.