Skip to main content

Ethics and sponsorship policy

The IDEFICS study worked hard to ensure that all its research complied with ethical guidelines and European, national and international legislation, giving special regard to children's rights in aspects such as the use of genetic samples and personal data. The University of Lancaster played a key role in achieving this, providing advice on ethical aspects throughout the project and reporting on the ethical implications of our work.

The following publications give a deeper insight into ethical aspects of our research on childhood obesity:

  • Voigt K, Nicholls SG, Williams G. Childhood Obesity: Ethical and Policy Issues. Oxford Scholarship Online: Oxford University Press; 2014. (book)
  • Williams G. Picturing Childhood Obesity: What’s Behind the Cover? Lancaster: Lancaster University Blog. 2014 June. Available from:
  • Nicholls SG, Pohlabeln H, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Chadjigeorgiou C, Gwozdz W, Hebestreit A, et al. Parents' evaluation of the IDEFICS intervention: an analysis focussing on socio-economic factors, child's weight status and intervention exposure. Obes Rev. 2015;16 Suppl 2:103-18.
  • Williams G. Children as Means and Ends in Large‐Scale Medical Research. Bioethics. 2012;26(8):422–30.
  • Wickins-Drazilova D, Williams G. Ethics and Public Policy. In: Moreno L, Pigeot I, Ahrens W (eds). Epidemiology of Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Springer Series on Epidemiology and Public Health. Springer, New York. 2011;2:7-20.
  • Wickins-Drazilova D, Williams G, the IDEFICS Consortium. The ethics of evaluating obesity intervention studies on children. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011;35 Suppl 1:S24-9.

Ethical approval

During the first year of the IDEFICS study, approval to conduct the survey was obtained from the corresponding national/local ethics committees and data protection authorities in the 8 participating countries:

  • Ethics Committee of the Ghent University Hospital, BELGIUM
  • National Bioethics Committee, CYPRUS
  • Tallinn Medical Research Ethics Committee, ESTONIA
  • Ethics Committee of the University of Bremen, GERMANY
  • Medical Research Council of Pécs, HUNGARY
  • Ethics Committee of the Local Health Institute in Avellino (ASL), ITALY
  • Ethics Committee of Clinical Research of Aragon (CEICA), SPAIN
  • Regional Ethics Committee of the University of Gothenburg, SWEDEN

IDEFICS sponsorship policy

The IDEFICS consortium adopted an overall framework for sponsorship arrangements that aimed to ensure the independence of its interventions and scientific work, while permitting fruitful collaborations with external funders.

Even beyond the official project period, the partners in the consortium are keen to work with anybody that endorses the IDEFICS goal of promoting healthy living, and to make sure that such collaborations take place on a clear and open basis.

Above all, however, it is important that the project and partners are able to conduct independent research. We need to ensure that members of the public – and especially parents and children who participate in the study – can have confidence that their interests will always be respected and that our findings are reported fully and objectively.

Therefore, the project partners do not enter into sponsorship arrangements with the following bodies:

i. High-calorie drinks companies;

ii. Companies that promote sedentary activities for children, such as computer games;

iii. Companies that market diet and weight-loss measures.

Sponsorship proposals relating to processed food companies and marketers of functional foods have been evaluated on a case-by-case basis – so far, we have not made any such arrangements. We also consider proposals for sponsorship arrangements with charitable foundations that are funded by particular companies on a case-by-case basis. For example, the Volkswagen Foundation provided financial support for a special IDEFICS supplement of the International Journal of Obesity on reference values for health care in children – thanks to its support, these papers are freely available at:

Outside of these limitations, partners to the project may discuss sponsorship possibilities with all suitable bodies. Before any agreement is reached, they must consult with the project’s coordinator (, who will also inform the project’s Steering Committee. In any case where the advisability of a sponsorship proposal seems open to doubt, the proposal will be reviewed by the project’s Steering Committee, which has the authority to give a final decision.