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Research Ethics: The application of moral rules and professional codes of conduct to the collection, analysis, reporting, and publication of information about research subjects, in particular active acceptance of subjects’ right to privacy, confidentiality, and informed consent.
Collecting data through any of the methods may involve some ethical issues concerning the participants and the researcher:
- Those from whom information is collected or those who are studied by a researcher become participants of the study.
- Anyone who collects information for a specific purpose, adhering to the accepted code of conduct, is a researcher.
There are many ethical issues in relation to participants of research activity.
Collecting information: Your request for information may put pressure or create anxiety on a respondent. Is it ethical?
Research is required to improve conditions. Provided any piece of research is likely to help society directly or indirectly, it is acceptable to ask questions if you first obtain the respondents’ informed consent.
If you cannot justify the relevance of the research you are conducting, you are wasting your respondents’ time, which is unethical.
Seeking consent: In every discipline, it is considered unethical to collect information without the knowledge of the participant and their expressed willingness and informed consent.
Informed consent implies that subjects are made adequately aware of the type of information you want from them, why the information is being sought, what purpose it will be put to, how they are expected to participate in the study, and how it will directly or indirectly affect them. It is important that the consent should be voluntary and without the pressure of any kind.
Providing incentives: Most people do not participate in a study because of incentives, but because they realize the importance of the study.
Is it ethical to provide incentives to respondents to share information with you because they are giving their time?
Giving a present before data collection is unethical.
Seeking sensitive information: Certain types of information can be regarded as sensitive or confidential by some people and thus an invasion of their privacy, asking for such information may upset or embarrass a respondent.
For most people, questions on drug use, pilferage, income, age, marital status, etc. are intrusive. In collecting data, you need to be careful about the sensitivities of your respondents.
It is not unethical to ask such questions provided that you tell your respondents the type of information you are going to ask clearly and frankly, and give them sufficient time to decide if they want to participate, without any significant inducement.
The possibility of causing harm to participant: When you collect data from respondents or involve subjects in an experiment, you need to examine carefully whether their involvement is likely to harm them in any way. Harm includes l research that might consist of hazardous experiments, discomfort, anxiety, harassment, invasion of privacy, or demeaning or dehumanizing procedures. If it is likely to, you must make sure that the risk is minimal, i.e., the extent of harm or discomfort is not greater that ordinarily encountered in daily life. If the way information is sought creates anxiety or harassment, you need to take steps to prevent this.
Maintaining confidentiality: Sharing information about a respondent with others for purposes other than research is unethical. Sometimes you need to identify your study population to put your findings into context. In such a situation, you need to make sure that at least the information provided by respondents is kept anonymous.
It is unethical to identify an individual’s responses. Therefore you need to ensure that after the information has been collected, the source cannot be known.
Avoiding bias: Bias on the part of the researcher is unethical. Bias is a deliberate attempt to either hiding what you have found in your study or highlight something disproportionately to its actual existence.
Provision or deprivation of a treatment: Both the provision and denial of a treatment/ intervention may pose an ethical dilemma for you as a researcher. Is it ethical to provide a study population with an intervention/ treatment that has not yet been conclusively proven effective or beneficial? But if you do not test, how can you prove or disprove its effectiveness or benefits?
There are no simple answers to these dilemmas. Ensuring informed consent, ‘minimum risk,’ and frank discussion as to the implications of participation in the study will help to resolve ethical issues.
Using inappropriate research methodology: It is unethical to use a method or procedure you know to be inappropriate, e.g., selecting a highly biased sample, using an invalid instrument, or drawing wrong conclusions.
Incorrect reporting: To report the findings in a way that changes or slants them to serve your own or someone else’s interest is unethical.
Inappropriate use of the information: The use of information in a way that directly or indirectly adversely affects the respondents is unethical. If so, the study population needs to be protected.
Sometimes it is possible to harm individuals in the process of achieving benefits for the organizations. An example would be a study to examine the feasibility of restructuring an organization. The restructuring may be beneficial to the organization as a whole but may be harmful to some individuals.
Apart from the above-mentioned issues, anything which will adversely affect the research project can be considered against the research ethics.