Responsible research

The Freedom of Form Foundation is, first and foremost, interested in advancing rights and ethics. Research that advances rights of the individual to choose and modify their outward appearance cannot come from sacrifices of rights in other areas. The FFF is exceptionally proactive on ensuring that all of its funded research satisfies robust ethical requirements to protect the rights of research subjects, whether the subjects are animals or human volunteers. We are proud to have some of the strongest protections of any grant-making foundation for human subjects, and to outright prohibit any use of our funds for new non-human primate research.

Furthermore, our views on ethics extend to how data and conclusions are shared between researchers. If research is not openly shared, then how can one justify the sacrifices made by research subjects, or by the generous contributions of the public towards that research? Closed-access research is a disservice to everyone.

 

Human research will be tightly scrutinized:
The FFF believes it is currently premature to propose projects involving human volunteers. We will still consider these project proposals, but require more stringent justifications for the research, and impose much more rigorous ethical requirements than for other proposals.

Such research must absolutely have IRB approval before funding can be provided. We may additionally conduct site visits, or request unannounced IRB inspections, at our discretion, and we will work closely with the IRB to ensure strict compliance at all times. These restrictions are a necessary burden to ensure safety and usefulness of human research. Proposals must have exceptionally strong justification for the use of human research subjects to justify the accompanying burden and risks.

 

We will not fund Non-Human Primate research:
We will not fund proposals that use non-human primates for behavioral tests, for surgeries, or for the extraction and/or culturing of new tissues.

However, research that only plans to perform histology on tissues from previously deceased non-human primates, such as from a bio-bank, will be allowed.

 

Institutional regulation compliance with research on model organisms:
All other animal model research will be allowed for research proposals, but will be carefully checked for compliance with all possible ethical protections for animals in research.

Even so, we firmly advocate for the substitution and reduction of the use of animals in research whenever possible. In particular, if experimental questions can be answered using cell or tissue culture, or through computational modeling, we encourage those approaches rather than the use of animals.

 

Open-access data-sharing and publications:
We believe it is critical for researchers to openly share their research, either in free-access journals, or by ensuring that their publications are free-to-read in otherwise paid-access journals. We take a carrot-and-stick approach on this subject. (1) On one hand, we are happy to help defray publishing costs for accepted articles in paid-access journals, to make them openly accessible to the public. (2) On the other hand, we may (at our discretion) penalize researchers attempting to renew their funding, if they published their research in a way that is not publically accessible.

In addition to this, we believe it’s necessary to share raw data from large datasets, programming from coding efforts, etc. We encourage researchers to share such digital assets through the appropriate mechanisms. Again, we take a carrot-and-stick approach on this: (1) encouraging researchers to make their assets available, and helping defray costs if possible; but (2) potentially penalizing researchers who attempt to keep their assets private.

At the same time, we are respectful to the need for some levels of secrecy and protection for assets and discoveries that hold more commercial value. We understand the need for patents and trade secrets, and we therefore will not penalize researchers keeping their assets and discoveries private as long as commercial applications are being actively pursued.