Ethical issues in research is a topic worth discovering because it helps a person conducting a study to do their job in a quality way. Research ethics is a vast subject, and in this article, we will give you the basics of it. You will learn about the definition of research ethics, the main issues of ethics in research and their examples.
Research ethics involves a lot of understanding, engagement, and knowledge. If you are a researcher, then you should know about the specifics of research and the main ethical issues that can be raised in the process of analysis and data gathering. Therefore, we bring you the entire article which tackles the topic of the ethical problems in research.
What are ethics in research?
When the majority of people hear the term "research ethics", the first thing that comes to their mind is the problems that arise in front of the scientist when there are human or animal subjects needed. These issues are, undoubtedly, the critical part of the research ethics, but there are many more problems connected with it. Today, we will make them clear for you and talk about all the central ethical issues of research. We will also learn how to solve the moral dilemmas in research.
Importance of research ethics
Perhaps, after reading all of this, you are still questioning why are research ethics so important. There are a lot of reasons why they are significant to many people, and we will list them for you now:
- Promotion of the research aims (e.g., expansion of common knowledge);
- Support of the values which are needed for collaborative work (e.g., fairness and mutual respect). This point is essential to the collaboration between people and study groups because the research always depends on how well they will be able to co-exist and work together;
- Accountability of the researchers for their actions. There are a lot of people conducting studies who receive public money support, so it is crucial to regulate various sorts of conflicts and misconduct during the process of their work and make sure that they are appropriately spending that money.
- Insurance that the research is trustworthy and the publicity can fully rely on it. Those people who fund and support such kinds of works have to be sure that everything is done right.
- Common values are supported in the research. These are the most general moral and social values – for instance, the principle of not causing any harm to other people or animals.
What is an ethical issue?
At first, we need to learn the definition of an ethical issue. As the Business Dictionary states, this is the particular situation or problem which makes the researcher (organisation or person) choose between a few alternatives, which are seen as ethical (right) and unethical (wrong).
It is incredibly important for every scientist to know the ethics code. Some of the issues are backed up by the force of law. However, even if they are not, and you have technically not done anything illegal, there is still a chance that you do something that is not considered to be ethical. Doing the wrong things can lead to the end of your career in research.
The main ethical issues in research
Every person or group of people who are planning on conducting deep analysis in a specific area are required to know about the primary moral codes. If you want to know the ethical issues in research examples, we will provide you with them right here. So, the significant ethical issues in research are:
- Honesty and integrity – the report of your research results always needs to be honest. This concerns the methods of your work, the results of the study, the data that you have used, and whether or not this data has been previously published. None of the data should be made up in the process of research because using the data without proof will mislead people. Misleading the publicity and deflecting from the confirmed information is never acceptable in an analysis. Usually, it is better to underestimate the results of your research than attempt to exaggerate the things you have found. Honesty also applies to working together with your partners in a group – sincerity is always appreciated.
- Objectivity – in your research, you have to be straightforward and use the true, confirmed facts. Any kinds of bias have to be avoided in the course of the study, and this applies to data analysis, interpretation, peer reviews, and design. To give an example, it is unacceptable to recommend the person you know or your co-worker to be a peer reviewer. Also, it is important to remember and control that none of the groups that are a part of your study are excluded from it. Therefore, any financial or personal interests that might affect the quality of your study must be immediately eliminated.
- Carefulness – one of the most significant factors of success in every research is putting your attention and effort into it, and avoiding the mistakes that are done out of carelessness. All the work needs to be very critically reviewed to make sure that your research meets the standards of credibility. The records of the study have to be entirely kept and checked when necessary. If you are performing the functions of peer reviewer, then you need to act carefully and sacrifice enough time to ensure the quality of your job.
- Openness – if requested, you always need to be ready to share the results and data of your research. You also have to be prepared for sharing the tools that were developed by you in the process, because these tools are very useful in furthering common knowledge and helping to advance the current state of science. Every researcher needs to be open to any kinds of new thoughts, ideas, and constructive criticism.
- Respect for other people's intellectual property – it goes without saying that plagiarism is never acceptable in the scientific researches. Therefore, you should never under any circumstances copy someone else's work and attempt to pass it as something that belongs to you. Before using the other person's works for your own purposes, you always have to ask this person first. Plagiarism can even make you hold legal responsibility because a lot of intellectual work is patented or copyrighted, and therefore can not be used for other people's researches. If you are in doubt whether to use a specific piece of information, it is always better to check first.
- Confidentiality and privacy – all the information that has been provided to you under the terms of confidence should be respected, and you should never give away this information to the third parties. Sensitive information, for instance, patient records, has to be protected. To learn more about it, you need to study and thoroughly follow the guidelines on its protection.
- Legality – the knowledge of the law is incredibly important because the wrong move in your research could have legal consequences. This means that you have to be aware of various regulations and laws which govern your research. Always be confident that your knowledge is up-to-date and that you are following them.
- Animal care – this point is for people who use animals in their studies. Animals are living beings, and of course, they are an essential point in the rules of research ethics. Every scientist has to be sure that the experiments on animals are, first of all, necessary, and also safe for the subjects. You have to take proper care of the animals that you are using for your experimenting.
- Human subject protection – in case the research that you are conducting includes experiments on people, then you should pay meticulous attention to reducing any harm caused to them to the absolute minimum amount. You also have to make sure they get maximum benefit out of it, and so do other people that your research is aimed at. Exposing people to more testing than needed to fulfil your scientific purposes is not good. It is always important to put human rights above everything else and respect them, and this includes the autonomy and privacy rights. Special care measures have to be taken with the groups that are considered the most vulnerable, e.g., older adults, young children, and people who have difficulties to learn. Solving the ethical issues in research with human subjects can be difficult, and you have to pay special attention to them.
- Informed consent – before every type of study which involves humans, the person involved needs to give their clear consent to participate in this thing. Before the person gives their permission, all the specifics of the study need to be explicitly described to them, including the procedures, any privacy invasion, and discomfort. The consent needs to be willing and not forced. Otherwise, it goes against fundamental human rights.
- Beneficence – this ethical principle means that during research you have to reduce causing the person any harm, both physical and emotional, to the minimum. For this, you have to consider all the risks that could result from this kind of study and attempt to minimise them.
It is worth mentioning that most universities and scientific institutions have a special committee on ethics, where they make sure that the study does not raise any ethical problems. The role of this committee is to evaluate the actions that are taken during research, to help you make sure that they are appropriate. Consider this example: if the study is carried out on some disease, you should not ask the participants questions about their marital status, because this would hold no relevance to the topic of the study. The ethics committee might make suggestions on the other methods of questioning the participants, which would be more appropriate in this particular situation.
READ ALSO: Functions of project management tools
How to solve ethical issues in research work?
All of us have had a certain sense of ethics since we were children and learned what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes, however, dealing with various ethical dilemmas while conducting a study can be difficult. To deal with the ethical issues in your researching work, you have to consider the following questions and try to answer them:
- What is the problem? It is the central question that you need to give yourself a clear answer to because it is the first step on the way to the solution of your problem.
- What is the relevant information? Sometimes the researchers make wrong decisions because of misinformation. If you are not sure about some aspects of your issue and need to know more about them, it is better for you to get educated and informed before making any quick decisions.
- What are the alternative options? Usually, there is at least one alternative solution or choice when it comes to any problem. People do not always see these options due to various reasons, but if you think more in-depth into the issue, maybe the different choice might come up.
- Are there any ethical policies or codes, as well as legal rules, which can apply to these options? The researching institution might have special policies on the management of your data for this case. There also are broader rules of ethics and laws, and you need to go into these before attempting further actions.
- Can other people offer ethics-related advice? Perhaps some people are good at making ethically correct decisions in your surroundings? If you have a dilemma, you should stop stressing out and go talk to them. There is a high chance that they will help you out or at least direct you towards the right solution.
After you ask yourself all of these questions and seek help, you might know which solution would be better. But if you are still confused, there are more questions that you can ask yourself. Even if you have already made a decision, these questions can be answered just in case you will need to justify it in front of other people:
- Which solution would have the best possible consequences for society and science?
- Which solution would best stand up to the study and publicity?
- Is there a choice that you could not live with if you made it?
- Who is the wisest person you have ever met? What would this person do if they found themselves in the same situation?
- Which solution would be right in terms of fairness, justice, and responsibility?
These questions might help out with the dilemma of your study. In case even after answering them you are having trouble, you can consider different ways of solving ethical issues, such as meditating, praying or trusting your guts. There is no exact answer to all of the questions in the universe, and the human cannot be expected to solve every single ethical dilemma easily.
Now you know about the ethical issues in research and which factors to consider when you solve them. Good luck with your research study!