WHY ARE ETHICS IN RESEARCH IMPORTANT? 4
WHYARE ETHICS IN RESEARCH IMPORTANT?
Mostof the scientific findings that researchers publish are conclusionsmade from observations, interviews or other procedural testsconducted on individuals. Therefore, there are certain codes ofconduct that they must uphold while collecting their data. In thecontext of social research, Ethics refers to the principles thatregulate the behavior of individuals in their motive to make certaindiscoveries while using human beings as subjects for the study(Association of Qualitative Research, 2015). They define the standardrelationship between the researcher and the participants (Resnik,2015). Although most researchers adhere to ethical standards, somerespondents have not been satisfied with the way the researchershandle them. Some participants feel like they are only objects ofdata collection without the researchers focusing on how the studieswould impact on their lives (Kelman, H. 1966).
Researchethics in social sciences comes in handy to ensure that both theresearcher and the participants find meaning in taking part in astudy. Even if a study might not directly impact the lives ofparticipants directly, they may feel content to know that the resultswill impact the lives of other people negatively (Resnik, 2015). Mostrespondents complain that researchers do not sufficiently inform themof the intention of the studies do not show appreciation for the timespent during the data collection. Also, some do not receive assurancefor the privacy and confidentiality of their information. Someresearchers fail to make follow-ups of the study and share theresults of the study with their participants (Resnik, 2015). Othersfeel a sense of powerlessness in society rising from the fact thatthey are not consulted or involved in the planning, and they perceivethat this happens because nothing regarding the research will everchange in their community or social lives. To others, the studiesonly bring back traumatic experiences causing anxiety, stress, and nohelp ever comes from the research.
Thecomplaints and dissatisfactions lodged by participants in variousstudies put future research at risk since participants might bereluctant to take part. It can also create a bad image for studiesdue to the notion that they are only for academic purposes withoutthe intention changing the various situations in the community. Toprotect and respect the rights of those taking part and to ensurethat sociological studies yield the expected outcomes, all researchactivities must adhere to various universal ethical considerations.
First,researchers have to adhere to confidentiality of the data theycollect and the location of the study for some sensitive studies. TheData Protection Act of 1998 obliges parties who hold people`spersonal details to keep the data secure, accurate, and not be keptlonger than necessary (Bryman, 2008 P 136). Those who hold personaldata should not store it on personal hard drives to avoid its easysharing and consequently landing on the unintended hands. In actingby the data protection act, researchers should ensure that nodocument includes participants’ real names. They should safely andconfidently keep all the transcripts from the field in theinformation with other parties.
Secondly,researchers must obtain the consent of participant before collectingany information regarding them. Consent can either be written orverbal (Shahnazarian, Hagemann and Aburto, 2015 P 3).. Either way, itallows the researchers to administer any form of data collectionwithout the risk of reproach especially for studies that involveobservation other dealing with minors. Signed informed consent occursin a form that explains to the respondent the nature of the research,its consequences and their free will to take part in the study(Oliver, 2010 P 34). The form must be in the language that therespondents understand. The participant can either agree or turn downthe request to participate in the study, and the research has no dutyto convince them to take part. Verbal consent involves explaining thepurpose of the study to the intended participant and any otherinformation as outlined in the written consent. Consequently, theparticipants agree to be part of the study or turns down the requestverbally (Shahnazarian, Hagemann and Aburto, 2015 P 5). By acceptingthe terms of the study, the participants agrees to follow all theprocedures outlined in the research for them to obtain thepredetermined variables of a study. Field research and structuredobservation are some of the research which may not need informedconsent because of the huge number of participants. However,researchers must obtain permission from the entry persons, forexample, the authorities before embarking on their study (SocialResearch, 2013 19).
Consentalso extends to conducting studies while involving the vulnerablemembers of the society. They include children, old people, the sickor those with mental health problems. Researchers must seek consentfrom their parents, caregivers or guardians before engaging them inany activity about the study (Shahnazarian, Hagemann and Aburto, 2015P 8). According to the mental health capacity act 1995 of Wales andEngland, an adult who lacks the capacity to take part in any researchshould not be involved without the consultation of their caregiversto give consent (UAS Data Protection, 2015). The consulted persongives information as to whether the vulnerable person would havewished to take part if they had the ability to decide for themselves.If the guardian thinks they would not have wanted to participate inthe research or study, then researchers must not include them(General Medical Council, 2015).When seeking consent from an adultwho does not have the capacity to respond autonomously, for examplebecause of a medical condition like dementia, the researcher shouldtake reasonable steps to establish whether they had a prior interestin research (Shahnazarian, Hagemann and Aburto, 2015, P. 9). Theyshould find out if the intended participants had indicated beforetheir condition that they might participate in any future studies orany refusal to take part. Therefore, researchers must respect anyadvance statement or decision taken by the individual in question.
Whenconsidering children or anyone under the age of 17 to participate inany study, researchers should first seek consent should from parentsor guardians. There are several things to consider when seekingconsent for kids to take part in any research. First, researchersshould seek approval from the ethics committee. Secondly, they shouldseek consent from both parents (if applicable), and both must provideconsent especially if the study includes the minimum risk of harm tothe participants (General Medical Council, 2015). If the parent isbelow sixteen, they still must provide written or verbal consent ifthey have the ability to do so. Researchers should not rule out theresponsibility of the parent in making critical decisions for theirchildren. Even when dealing with children who are almost of legal ageand capable of making sound decisions, researchers must inform theparents of their intention and seek their permission (General MedicalCouncil, 2015).
Recordinga participant’s information requires their consent. These days mostof the structured and semi-structured interviews might be recordedusing various methods like audio, video or manual recording. Beforerecording participant information, data collectors should seek theparticipants’ consent by informing the in advance. They shouldalso use pseudo names instead of the real names of the participantsto avoid exposing their identities.
Also,ethics requires that before conducting any research, researchers’must explain the nature of the research. They should provideinformation on why they are conducting the study, the funders of thestudy, and the implication of the results of the study and whetherthere is any compensation for participation (Oliver, 2010 P 39). They should also let the participants know the procedure used tochoose them and that they can withdraw from the research anytime.They should also provide the details of who to contact in case theywant to raise a complaint. The explanation curtails the deceptivebehavior of some researchers who encourage people to take part in astudy by keeping them in the dark concerning the intention of theirstudies (Kelman, 1966 P 22). Some researchers can hide the reason ofthe research and other aspects of it, which respondents might findharmful, undesirable or present an unattractive image of theirresearch. Researchers end up using deception in their studies if theythink that explaining the primary reason for their study torespondents would not give them their desired reaction. Even ifdeception is done for any reason, it still poses ethical questions(Kelman, 1966 P 23).
Anotherethical consideration during research indicates that no participantshould be coerced to take part in a study. The participation must befree, voluntary and fully informed (Sieber, 2015 P 2). It means thatparticipants must not only know that they are taking part in a studybut also that they have consented to it fully based on thepresentation of correct facts. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist, ran anewspaper advertisement looking for volunteers for his experiment. Heseparated them into “students” and “teachers” and yet thereason was to study obedience not learning. The participants who gotteaching roles were to teach a few words and to give learners someelectric shock on every blunder made. Unknown to the” teachers”was that the shocks were not connected to an electrical generator butto some cardboard box that looked like a generator. These so called,“students” were actually paid people who feigned pain and failure(Sieber, 2015 P 3). Before the experiment, a group of psychiatristhad predicted that one in a thousand people would obey advice anddeliver a painful shock, at the end of each meeting the actualreason and procedure were outlined, and those who delivered severeshock were told that obedience under these situations was notunusual. After a year, a follow-up was made to see if there was aneffect of the study on the participants and some were grateful forthe knowledge they gained from the study while a third regrettedtaking part because deception was used to gain their participation(Sieber, 2015 P 3).
AUSA’s controversial research conducted in the 1960s by asociologist called Laud Humphreys contravenes several ethicalconsiderations, and it can stand as a model of a faulty research. Heembarked on a study to see how men meet and engage in sexualactivities in public restrooms. During the study, men would comethrough the restroom where another man would be waiting, and theywould in engage in sexual activities while a watch queen would belooking out for anyone coming. What oblivious to the men was that theresearcher was the “watch queen” and he befriended these men andwas able to match their behaviours in the restrooms (Research andEthics, 2015).
Whileobserving these men, Humphreys took down the number plates of theircars, and then a year later, he used the number plates to know theirhouse numbers where he followed them and handed out a questionnairepretending that it was for a social survey. The data he collectedmade him conclude that most of the guys were married with familiesand kids, living good lifestyles and he described them as “sociallyconservatives” when outside these restrooms. Laud Humphrey studymethods violated ethical norms of research and raised many questionsthan answers. First, he recorded the participants without theirconsent or knowledge and breached their confidentiality by invadingtheir privacy. He used deception for them to take part in his study,and by publishing the results, it could have been linked to theparticipants and have their identities exposed (Research and Ethics,2015).
Inconclusion, social science research cannot e effective withoutobserving the standard universal ethics that create a platform forprofessionalism and respect for human rights and dignity. Researchersmust hold participants data with confidentiality and avoid sharing itwith people who have no interest in the research. Further, beforeinvolving participants in a study, researchers must inform them oftheir intention and how they would use the findings. Consequently,the participants can either accept or turn down the request withoutany coercion. A total compliance with the ethics in social scienceresearch will make them effective and obtain the desired results dueto the strong rapport created between the participants and theresearchers. It will also exempt future research from beingcompromised by the negative attitude that people may develop fromdefective studies.
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