What is ethics?
When I consider ethics, I think of rules for distinguishing between right and wrong, such as:
- Respect for another’s property.
- Refraining from violence against another.
This is the most common way of defining ‘ethics’: norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. However there are many different answers towards why ethics is important.
Why are ethics important in research?
All people recognise some common ethical norms but different individuals interpret, apply, and balance these norms in different ways in light of their own values and life experiences. There are several reasons why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research. “First, norms promote the aims of research, such as knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error” (Resnik, 2011). Second since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust and fairness. Researchers do not want there ideas stolen from them. People more likely to fund research project if they can trust the quality and integrity of research. Finally, there are certain morals such as animal/human rights which promote important values.
It is therefore important for researchers to learn how to interpret, assess, and apply various research rules and how to make decisions and to act in various situations. The vast majority of decisions involve the straightforward puppose of ethical rules. For example, consider the following case,
Stella is the principle investigator for a large study which interprets what fabrics are the worst to wear. She has an impressive amount of 50 workers that are willing to contribute and participate in the study. Her data-set includes information on the fabrics: Polyester, Acrylic, Rayon, Acetate and Triacetate, Nylon and anything static resistant, stain resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof or moth repellant. Stella wants to publish a paper on the top 6 fabrics you should avoid wearing by the end of the week, she only has 5 people to experiment the fabrics with left, however, her friends have organised a holiday leaving tonight. She has run through some tests but hasn’t completed the rest. She decides to conclude from the other 45 completed results to produce the 5 additional results.
Many different research ethics would conduct that Stella has acted unethically by fabricating data. Actions that nearly all researchers classify as unethical are viewed as misconduct. “It is important to remember, however, that misconduct occurs only when researchers intend to deceive: honest errors related to sloppiness, poor record keeping, miscalculations, bias, self-deception, and even negligence do not constitute misconduct” (Resnik, 2011).
Given the importance of ethics for the conduct of research, it should come as no surprise that many different professional associations, government agencies, and universities have adopted specific codes, rules, and policies relating to research ethics. Some include:
- Human subject protection
It is important to be honest in completing ethical research. It is far better to point out a potential ethical problem, and say what you intend to do about it, than to ignore it and hope that someone won’t notice. Moreover, ethics are important for many reasons, as stated above and without them, there would be unjust, misconducted occurrences to do with the publication of research articles/papers.
- All Body Ecology Articles,. ‘The Top 6 Fabrics You Should Avoid Wearing And Why’. N.p., 2008. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
- Resnik, David. ‘What Is Ethics In Research & Why Is It Important?’. Niehs.nih.gov. N.p., 2011. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
- Smith, Deborah. ‘Five Principles For Research Ethics’. http://www.apa.org. N.p., 2003. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.