The ethics of research may be concerned with a great many aspects of a research project; for example: general human rights, non coercion, privacy, intellectual property rights, record keeping, use of data, plagiarism, experiment design and more.
Some aspects of research ethics may gain more importance with regard to the area of research being undertaken. For example a biology experiment using animals will require care and consideration as to the design of the experiment, while a sociological researcher will need to ensure to gain participants permission and to protect their privacy. Needless to say aspects such as integrity and honesty of research, non falsification of data and plagiarism will apply across the board.
Globally research ethics are underpinned by the Declaration of Helsinki which was primarily focused on medical research. The declaration is not law but a guideline that is promoted by the World Medical Association.
Why do we need Research Ethics?
A fundamental pillar of research regardless of the field could be regarded as the pursuit of truth and understanding with the minimum of errors. Ethical research supports this by the prohibition of falsification, plagiarism, dishonesty and general misrepresentation of data.
However our need for ethical research reaches far beyond honest research and dissemination. It also reflects society’s moral and social values in many ways. This may include the respect we give to animals, those with disabilities or the vulnerable within society. It can also reflect lawful abidance or environmental and social responsibility. A breach of ethics in research might result in physical harm to subjects, unlawful behaviour and discredit from peers for example.
Another important point is the general acceptance and respect from the community of research. A lack of ethics in researchers conduct could have numerous ramifications ranging from a lack of funding for research to distrust of researchers among participants.
1. Integrity of Research, Results and Dissemination
- All research must be designed and undertaken to ensure integrity and quality
- All research must be independent and free from conflicting interests or partiality
2. Ethics Research involving humans and animals.
- Research participants must never be coerced, it must be voluntary participation. They must also be free to leave the research at any time.
- No harm must ever come to a research participant.
- All information supplied by research participants must be confidential and their anonymity must be maintained unless otherwise specified.
- Researchers must apply sensitivity to all religious, gender, political and other differences.
How do you apply Principles of Ethical Research?
The above principles can be applied by adhering to an ethical code of practice. Most countries will have an organization that can supply them with a framework or guide to ethical conduct in research. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with this especially with reference to your proposed research.
For example in Australia, the National Health & Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council publish a booklet “The Australian Code for the Conduct of Research”. In the UK, there are many bodies that publish similar titles such as the ESRC Research Ethics Framework or the National Research Ethics Service can also provide similar information. In fact the many professional bodies globally will maintain an Ethical Code for research and conduct. These may be as diverse as the Acoustical Society of America to the Institute of Engineers in Australia. It is worth while for you to investigate this with reference to your field of study if you think it will impact upon others in any way.
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