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why do we need ethics in research

At first sight,
deceptive practices fly in the face of informed consent. After all, how can participants know (a) that they are taking part in research and (b) what the research requires of them if they are being deceived? This is part of what makes the use of deceptive practices controversial. For this reason, in most circumstances, dissertation research should avoid any kinds of deceptive practices. However, this is not always the case. Deception is sometimes a necessary component of covert research, which can be justified in some cases. Covert research reflects research where (a) the identity of the observer and/or (b) the purpose of the research is not known to participants. Cases where you may choose to engage in covert research may include instances where: It is not feasible to let everyone in a particular research setting know what you are doing. Overt observation or knowledge of the purpose of the research may alter the particular phenomenon that is being studied. It is not feasible By feasibility, we are not talking about the cost of doing research. Instead, we mean that it is not practically possible to let everyone in a particular research setting know what you are doing. This is most likely to be the case where research involves observation, rather than direct contact with participants, especially in a public or online setting. There are a number of obvious instances where this may be the case: Observing what users are doing in an Internet chat room. Observing individuals going about their business (e. g. , shopping, going to work, etc. ). Clearly, in these cases, where individuals are coming and going, it may simply be impossible to let everyone known what you are doing. You may not be intentionally trying to engage in deceptive practices, but clearly participants are not giving you their informed consent. Overt observation or knowledge of the purpose of the research may alter Where observations or a participants? knowledge of the true purpose of the research have the potential to alter the particular phenomenon that you are interested in, this is a major concern in terms of the quality of your findings.


Therefore, when you think about whether to engage in covert research and possibly deceptive practices, you should think about the extent to which this could be beneficial in your dissertation, not research in general; that is, everything from the research paradigm that guides your dissertation through to the data analysis techniques you choose affect issues of research ethics in your dissertation [see the article: ]. Imagine some of the following scenarios where covert research You are conducting a piece of research looking at prejudice. Whilst participants are given a questionnaire to complete that measures their prejudice, it is not obvious from the questions that this is the case. Furthermore, participants are not told that the research is about prejudice because it is felt that this could alter their responses. After all, few people would be happy if other people thought they were prejudice. As a result, if participants knew that this is the purpose of the study, they may well provide responses that they think will make them appear less prejudice. You are interested in understanding the organisational culture in a single firm. You feel that observation would be an appropriate research method in such a naturalistic setting. However, you feel that if employees knew that you were monitoring them, they may behave in a different way. Therefore, you may have received permission to go undercover or provide a story to explain why you are there, which is not the truth. Whilst such covert research and deceptive practices, especially where used intentionally, can be viewed as controversial, it can be argued that they have a place in research. (This article originally appeared in the September 24, 2002 issue of The ASHA Leader. ) The ASHA Code of Ethics lists four principles. These principles relate to one's responsibility to the welfare of persons, competence, the public, and colleagues.


Any action that violates these principles, including those relating to research, violates the spirit and purpose of the Code. In case there is any doubt that research is included in this code, it is mentioned in several rules. Principle of Ethics I, Rule K, states that "Individuals shall use persons in research or as subjects of teaching demonstrations only with their informed consent. " Principle of Ethics III, Rule E, states that "Individuals' statements to the publicadvertising, announcing, and marketing their professional services, reporting research results, and promoting productsвshall adhere to prevailing professional standards and shall not contain misrepresentations. " Lastly, Principle of Ethics IV, Rule D, states, "Individuals ' statements to colleagues about professional services, research results, and products shall adhere to prevailing professional standards and shall contain no misrepresentations. " There are other areas in which the word research does not appear but, by implication, any reasonable body would include research within the rule. For example, Principle of Ethics IV, Rule B, states that "Individuals shall not engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or any form of conduct that adversely reflects on the professions" and Rule C states "Individuals shall assign credit only to those who have contributed to a publication, presentation, or product. Credit shall be assigned in proportion to the contribution and only with the contributor's consent. " Therefore, the interpretation of the Code should include research endeavors whether or not they have a strong clinical component. In fact, as highlighted in the Issues in Ethics statement, "Ethics in Professional Practice and Research" (2000; ASHA Leader Supplement 22), references to research and scholarship in the Code must be interpreted broadly. Implicit in the Code is that an investigator is responsible for protection of the rights and welfare of all participants, and thus the Code should be interpreted to include the welfare of animals as well as humans.


Informed consent is not defined but it should be interpreted in the spirit of the prevailing definition accepted by the scientific community. For example, this would include the right of a participant to withdraw or to choose not to participate without incurring any prejudice or penalty. Additionally, ethical responsibilities should be interpreted to include the ethical treatment of all collaborators, assistants, students, and employees associated with the research effort. Because of the implied rather than specific nature of research in the Code and the emphasis on just the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology, and not speech-language-hearing scientists specifically, the Board of Ethics proposed revisions to the ASHA Code of Ethics for widespread peer review in March 2002. The primary changes include: reference to scientists and not just professionals, inclusion of research and scholarly activity in the Preamble, and specific inclusion of research under each of the four Principles, rather than just three in the present Code. The Code is "aspirational and inspirational. " It applies to all categories of individuals over whom it has jurisdiction. As such, specific codes pertaining to research are implied but not mentioned, such as: The Nuremberg Code (1947; JAMA, 276, 30, Nov. 27, 1996, p. 1691), which is "a 10-point statement delimiting permissible medical experimentation on human subjects," and The Belmont Report (1978; DHEW Publication No. [OS] 78-0013 and No. [OS] 78-0014), which states the "Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research. " Pending the need for further review and study in follow-up to the widespread peer review, the Board of Ethics plans to put forward revisions dealing with research and scholarly activities to the Legislative Council in November 2002. James McCartney previously served as a member of the ASHA Board of Ethics.

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