Ethical Issues in Research
Research is carried out for making the things better. If the research is conducted with causing harm to those for which it is conducted, then the research is worthless. Therefore, new things, new facts etc shall be explored with considering the rights of the people or others involved in the study. The method or procedures of doing the things without causing any physical, psychological, and economic harm to the participants is called ethics. In context of research, ethics refers to the appropriateness of the researcher’s behavior in relation to the rights of those who become the part of research and are affected by it. Therefore, researcher shall need to consider ethical issues throughout the period of research and to remain sensitive toward the impact of research work on the people who actively participate in the process.
In most research three parties; the researcher, sponsor and the respondent; are involved. Each party knowingly or unknowingly expects certain rights and feels obligations toward other two parties. The importance of ethics in research is that it promotes the aim of research. It prohibits against fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data, promotes the truth, and avoids error. Since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many different people, ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work such as trust, accountability, mutual respect and fairness. Therefore, the researcher should be ethical towards participants, sponsor, and own self.
1) Ethical issues related to participant: In research, participants play important roles.Therefore, due care should be paid in protecting the rights and privacy of participants. Research process should be designed in such a way that participants do not suffer from any type of physical and psychological discomfort. To safeguard against these, the researcher should follow following principles:-
a. Voluntary participation and Informed consent: It advocates that the people should not be forced into participating in research. The researcher should consider that the people have a right to privacy. They can be persuaded to take part in the research process but never be forced.
By informed consent, we understand the right of individual to choose whether to participate in research free from any element of duress, coercion, fraud, or deceit. For ethically sound research, it is the principle that the prospective research participants must be fully informed about the procedures and risks, if any, involved in research process so that the participants can give consent positively to their involvement in research.
b. Explain benefit: It is obvious that the prospective participant may question why they have to take part, what benefit they will get in return of being respondents etc. Therefore, Researcher should state the benefits of the study to participants, being careful to neither overstate nor understate the benefits. This puts participant at ease, lets them know to whom they are speaking, and motivates them to answer question truthfully.
c. Confidentiality and Anonymity: These two terms are often interchangeably used but they do have distinct meanings. Confidentiality is an active attempt to remove any identifying features of the research participants from the research records and anonymity means that those who participate remain nameless. Anonymity ensures that a person remains nameless and unidentifiable. It is important to take precautions that are necessary to protect the identity of the people who take part in the research process, even though it can be the case that some research participants want to be identified in research publication. Once promises about the confidentiality and anonymity have been given, it is of great importance to make sure that these are maintained.
d. Debriefing participants: In some cases, the researcher creates a false impression by disguising the purposes of the research, which is known as deception. It is usually done to avoid biased reactions of respondents towards the subject matter of study. Deception may be used if a researcher would be otherwise unable to observe or straight forwardly ask about the phenomenon of interest. It is taken as ethical activity if the researcher informs those affected, about what has occurred and why, afterwards. This process is called debriefing. This helps retain the goodwill of the participant, providing an incentive to participate in future research project.
2) Ethical issues related to Researcher:
a. Objectivity: Researcher should maintain high standards to ensure that the data collected are accurate. They should strive to avoid bias in research design, data analysis, data interpretation, peer review, and other aspects of research where objectivity is expected or required. Bias is a deliberate attempt either to highlight disproportionately to its true existence. The researcher should maintain objectivity until the analysis and reporting stage complete.
b. Maintain honesty: The researcher should strive for honesty in all scientific communications. He should honestly report data, result, methods, and publication status. It is not ethical to fabricate, falsify, or misrepresent data.
c. Carefulness: Researcher should avoid careless, errors and negligence, and carefully and critically examine his work and the work of his peers. He should keep good records of research activities such as data collection, research design, and correspondence with agencies or journals.
d. Respects for intellectual property: Researcher should honor patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property. It is better not to use unpublished data, methods or result without permission from concerned authority. It is necessary and ethical behavior to give credit where credit is due.
e. Human subject protection: When conducting research on human subjects, researcher should try to minimize harms and risks and maximize benefits. He should respect human dignity, privacy, and autonomy and should strive to distribute the benefits and burdens of research fairly.
3) Ethical issue regarding the sponsor:
a. Confidentiality: Some sponsors wish to undertake research without revealing themselves. They have right to several types of confidentiality including sponsor non-disclosure, purpose non- disclosure and findings non-disclosure. Sometime the sponsoring agency of the research wishes to dissociate itself from the research project in order to prevent influence on the result due to sponsoring agency’s current image. This type of confidentiality is called sponsor non-disclosure. Purpose non-disclosure involves non-disclosing the purpose of the study or its details. A research sponsor may not want the competitors to know of its plans. It may be investigating employee complaints and may not want to spark union activity. Finally, if a sponsor feels no need to hide its identity or study’s purpose, most of sponsors want the research data and finding to be confidential at least until the decision is made. Thus, usually sponsor has the right of findings non-disclosure.
b. Right to quality Research: An important ethical consideration for the researcher towards sponsor is the sponsor’s right to quality research. From initial phase to final reporting phase, proper methods and techniques must be used to reach at valid conclusions. The researcher should not purpose activities to maximize researcher benefit or minimize researcher effort at sponsor’s expenses. The sponsors have right of getting the return of the expenses.
c. Obligation of sponsor: The sponsoring agency has the obligation to exchange the researcher to seek out objectively. Occasionally, researcher may be asked by sponsor to participate in unethical behavior. The sponsor should avoid following unethical behavior.
- violation of participant confidentiality.
- changing data or creating false data to meet desired objectives.
- omitting sections of data analysis and conclusions.
- making recommendation beyond the scope of the data collected.