2 Every social scientist needs to consider how to practice their discipline ethically.Whenever we interact with other people as socialscientists we must give paramount importance to therational concerns and emotional needs that will shapetheir responses to our actions.It is here that ethical research practice begins, withthe recognition that our research procedures involvepeople who deserve as much respect for their well-beingas we do for ours.
3 Historical Background Formal procedures for the protection of participantsin research grew out of some widely publicized abuses.The Nuremberg War Crime Trials and Hitler’s experimentsThe Tuskgee syphilis experiments in the 1930’sOut of these and other experiments that violated human rights,the US created a National Commission for the Protection ofHuman Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research.
4 Three basic ethical principles Three basic ethical principles for the protectionof human subjects were established:Respect for persons: Treating persons as autonomousagents and protecting those with diminished autonomy.Beneficence: Minimizing possible harms and maximizingbenefits.Justice: Distributing benefits and risks of research fairly.
5 Federal regulations require that every institution that seeks federal funding for biomedical or behavioralresearch on human subjects have an institutionalreview board (IRB) that reviews research proposals.IRBs at universities and other agencies apply ethicsstandards that are set by federal regulations but can beexpanded or specified by the IRB itself.
6 Ethical principles The American Sociological Association (ASA), like other professional social science organizations,has adopted, for practicing sociologists, ethics guidelinesthat are more specific than the federal regulations.Professional organizations may also review complaintsof unethical practices when asked.The complete text of the Code is also available at this site.
7 Ethical guidelines To protect research subjects To maintain honesty and opennessTo achieve valid resultsTo encourage appropriate application
8 Protecting Research Participants The Code’s standards concerning the treatment of humansubjects include federal regulations and ethics guidelinesemphasized by most professional social science organizations:Avoid harming research participantsObtain informed consentAvoid deception in research, except in limited casesMaintain privacy and confidentiality
9 Avoid harming research participants Although this standard may seem straightforward, it canbe difficult to interpret in specific cases and harder yet todefine in a way agreeable to all social scientists.Does it mean that subjects should not be at all harmedpsychologically as well as physically?That they should feel no anxiety or distresswhatever during the study or only after theirinvolvement ends?
10 Obtain informed consent To be informed, consent must be given by persons whoare competent to consent, have consented voluntarily,are fully informed about the research, and havecomprehended what they have been told.
11 Avoid deception in research, except in limited circumstancesDeception occurs when subjects are misled aboutresearch procedures to determine how they wouldreact to the treatment if they were not research subjects.
12 Maintain privacy and confidentiality Procedures to protect each subject’s privacy such aslocking records and creating special identifying codesmust be created to minimize the risk of access byunauthorized persons
13 Maintaining honesty and openness Protecting subjects, then, is the primary focus ofresearch ethics.But researchers have obligations to other groups,including the scientific community, whose concern withvalidity requires that scientists be open in disclosingtheir methods and honest in presenting their findings.Biases or political motives should be acknowledged,since research distorted by political or personal pressuresto find particular outcomes is unlikely to be carried out inan honest and open fashion.
14 The act of publication itself is a vital element in maintaining openness and honesty, since then otherscan review procedures and debate with the researcher.In spite of this need for openness, researchers mayhesitate to disclose their procedures or results to preventothers from “stealing” their ideas and taking the credit,thus using openness as a method for resolving a scientificdispute.
15 Achieving valid results It is the pursuit of objective knowledge – the goal ofvalidity – that justifies our investigations and our claimsfor the use of human subjects.We have no business asking people to answer questions,submit to observations, or participate in experiments if weare simply trying to trumpet our own prejudices or pursueour personal interests.
16 Encouraging appropriate application Scientists must consider the uses to which theirresearch is put.Although many scientists believe that personal valuesshould be left outside the laboratory, some feel that it isproper—even necessary – for scientists to concernthemselves with the way their research is used.Social scientists who conduct research on behalf ofspecific organizations may face additional difficultieswhen the organization, instead of the researcher, controlsthe final report and the publicity it receives.
17 Different kinds of research produce different kinds of ethical problems.Most survey research, for instance, creates few if anyethical problems, and can even be enjoyable for participants.On the other hand, some experimental studies in thesocial sciences that have put people in uncomfortable orembarrassing situations have generated vociferouscomplaints and years of debate about ethics
18 Research ethics should be based on a realistic assessment of the overall potential for harm and benefit to research subject.The decisions about ethical procedures are not just upto you, as a researcher, to make.The ethical propriety of your research will be guardedby an institutional committee, following professionalcodes and guidelines; but still, that is an uncertainsubstitute for your own conscience.