Introduction to Research Ethics
Ethics is the set of moral principles that a person is expected to follow irrespective of time and place. Research ethics focuses on the norms and values or code of conduct that researchers must follow to ensure responsible conduct of research. It treats values like honesty, social responsibility, and integrity as the underlying tenets for conducting any form of research.
The major principles of Research ethics are as follows:
- Minimizing the risk of harm
- Obtaining informed consent
- Protecting anonymity and confidentiality
- Avoiding deceptive practices
- Providing the right to withdraw
I. Practices that are against Research Ethics
Practices against research ethics or Research Misconduct is defined as “the fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception in proposing, carrying out or reporting results of research or deliberate, dangerous or negligent deviations from accepted practices in carrying out research.” However, it is important to note that research misconduct does not include honest errors or honest differences of opinion. Some of the major research misconducts are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them. It is the manipulation of research data to give a false impression. It need not be a complete lie and may have an element of truth but mostly it is an exaggeration or downplay of the real situation to get the expected results.
Eg: Claims made based on incomplete or assumed results
Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting research data results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record. Unlike fabrication, falsification doesn’t have an element of truth and is a completely deliberate and untruthful manipulation of information
Eg: publishing untrue and manipulated facts associated with a study
Plagiarism comprises the misappropriation or use of one’s own or other’s ideas, intellectual property, or work (written or otherwise), without acknowledgment or permission.
a.) Direct Plagiarism occurs when a person copies the text of another person, without any changes and doesn’t use quotation marks or attribution.
b.) Self-plagiarism: reuse of one’s work without suitable acknowledgment.
c.) Mosaic Plagiarism: involves copying phrases, passages, and ideas from different sources and putting them together to create new content.
d.) Paraphrasing Plagiarism: It involves the use of someone else’s writing with some minor changes in the sentences and using it as one’s own.
- Breach of duty of care
Breach of duty of care is serious misconduct of research as it shows the inability and carelessness on the part of the researcher to ensure the protection and safety of the respondents.
Eg: Disclosing improperly the identity of individuals or groups involved in research without their consent or any other breach of confidentiality or anonymity
- Fraudulent information
Misleading or fraudulent behavior includes acts contributing to or associated with lying. It takes on any form of fabrication, falsification, or misrepresentation
Eg: Taking credit for accomplishments achieved by another researcher.
Tampering is the unauthorized removal or alteration of documents, software, equipment, or other academic-related materials. It should be noted that tampering may also be classified as criminal activity.
Eg: Sabotaging another Researcher’s work intentionally
- Copyright violation
Academic integrity prohibits the making of unauthorized copies of copyrighted material, including software and any other non-print media. Individuals, however, may make a copy of an article or small sections of a book for personal use.
Eg: Making or distributing copies of a copyrighted article in a group.
Misinterpretation refers to an interpretation of the results that are not consistent with the actual results of the study. It is the manipulation of the results of the study to get the desired outcome.
Eg: suppression of relevant findings, or knowingly, recklessly, or by gross negligence presenting a flawed data interpretation
II. Steps to ensure ethics in research
Ethical research can be ensured by strictly following the five major concepts also known as the 5 ‘R’s in Research ethics. They are:
One of the basic qualities of a good researcher is to respect the respondent’s opinion and confidentiality. People who contribute their views to research need to feel comfortable about what will happen to the information they give. Thorough research and preparation must be done before data collection to ensure that the respondent’s time is not wasted.
There should be a proper assessment of personal risk as well as potential risks to other people involved in the research. Necessary steps should be taken to mitigate these risks.
Eg, are you putting your respondents in a situation of potential job loss because of your research? You have to limit the risk for the respondent, by ensuring confidentiality and convincing them that they won’t lose their job because they helped you with your project.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to make the respondents and other people involved in the research understand what is expected of them, their rights including the right to withdraw from the research, our obligations towards them, and what happens to the data collected from them. It is very important to obtain informed consent from respondents before data collection and moving forward with the research process.
Most universities have a pre-existent process that offers a guided pathway through the various issues surrounding the research that needs to be addressed. This process should be strictly followed by the researcher. It is also necessary to get the approval of the concerned authority before taking further steps. In case of any misconduct on the part of the researcher, they are also liable to accept the consequences and face disciplinary action.
- Record keeping
The researcher must document all consent forms and maintain the records containing details of how the information is collected, whether it is confidential or not, how it will be used, and stored, and the disposal method. Record keeping not only helps to keep a systematic track of your research process but also helps the researcher to collect proof in case they are later sued by any of the respondents.
1. Research Ethics
- These are the set of belief or fundamental principles of decent human behavior that is accepted as societal norms. It mainly consists of values such as equality, obedience to the law, etc. At the beginning of the research, there was no ethics or guidelines maintained in conducting research.
- Research Ethics are some of the moral principles that are followed by a researcher in researching so that it meets the scientific competence and pure best results. Research Ethics mostly promote values that are essential for collective work and those values are trust, mutual respect, and accountability.
- It makes the researcher accountable to the public so that participants would take part in the research by themselves. It also helps in bringing out the truth by avoiding manipulation.
- There are different stakeholders in Research Ethics and their social responsibility is to serve society. The main stakeholders in Research Ethics are the researcher himself/herself, the participants, the research community, the regulatory bodies, publishers, and society as a whole.
- Some of the basic tenants of Research Ethics are Honesty, Accuracy, Efficiency, and Objectivity. (Question can be expected from these tenants).
2. Basic Tenants of Research Ethics
3. Principles for Research Ethics
Research Ethics should have some principles or guidelines which is also known as the Belmont Report as Belmont was the 1st person who initiated the principles of Research Ethics. Those principles are discussed here:
- Principle of respect for human dignity: Humans i.e. the participants should be treated as autonomous agents so that they control their activities. The researcher should make the person aware of the nature of the study, and its responsibility and they have also the right to refuse participation. There should be no discrimination or bias on the part of the researcher against any individual based on caste, class, sex, race, religion, etc., as these factors are not related to scientific competence. Research ethics should also include the protection of human and animal subjects.
- Transparency and Accountability: There should be honesty in reporting the data, results, and methods used in conducting research. Openness in sharing data, results, ideas, tools, and resources would make the study open for criticism and this would result in the creation of new ideas. The study conducted by the researcher should maintain objectivity so that it avoids bias in research design, data analysis, and peer-review.
- Confidentiality is maintained: While conducting research one must maintain confidentiality in the context of communication, personal records, and privacy issues. For instance, in sensitive studies such as a study on election scenarios, etc. one must maintain confidentiality, as the participants might not want to disclose their identity to the public.
4. Research Ethics in the Academic Profession
- Research Ethics is a must in Academic Field. Research misconduct would erase the proper meaning of ethics in research.
- Misconduct in Research mainly emphasizes making up of data without any collection of it, and manipulation of research materials to change the accurate result.
- Even plagiarism also comes under research misconduct where one took the ideas, results, and words from another research work without giving any appropriation.
- Duplicate publication/submission of research findings, misrepresentation of research findings, and use of fraudulent data to support a hypothesis or claim are also a violation of Research Ethics in the Academic field. Therefore, Researchers while conducting research should respect intellectual property rights such as patents, copyrights, etc. Thus all ethical decision taken by individuals is relative to their conscience and should be judged based on some universal code.