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Unformatted text preview: Ethical and Political Considerations in Research
CJ 300 Dr. Kierkus October 2010 Introduction Doing ethical research requires one to balance two considerations: Goal of social science is to promote human well being. The need for scientific knowledge. The right of the subjects, and the research team, not to be harmed. However, many pressures can tempt researchers to make unethical decisions: This is the primary goal of the Declaration of Helsinki (1964). Publish or perish. $$$ offered by lobbyists. Low probability of being caught. Types of Misconduct Scientific misconduct: Plagiarism: Falsification of data, manipulation of research results, refusing to admit errors. Using someone else's work without acknowledgement. Presenting one's own work for repeated credit. Using one's position as a researcher to take advantage of others. Using people as a means to an end. The research community has its own code of ethics. Violation of trust: Actions can be unethical without being illegal. The Belmont Report (1979) The Belmont Report outlines three basic principles that underlie all research which involves human subjects.
Beneficence: the researcher must minimize . the risk of harm for all subjects. Justice: the study should treat all people equally (equal exposure to risk and benefit). Respect for persons: a researcher must allow subjects to make their own decisions. Potential Harm to Subjects Unethical researchers can cause harm to their subjects in a variety of ways: Physical: Most profound harm. Classic examples: Tuskeege syphilis study and Nazi medical experiments. Rarely occurs today, but cases do happen: In 1996, a subject in a medical study at the University of Rochester died as a result of an overdose of lidocaine. Although the subject consented to the procedure, the dosage was increased without IRB approval, nor was there a set maximum in the experimental protocol. In 1999, a subject in a gene therapy trial died after being injected with a virus being used to transfer genetic material. Potential Harm to Subjects Psychological: potential for psychological harm occurs more frequently. Subject is stressed, embarrassed or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable as a result of a study (e.g. Milgram Study). Debriefing and counseling should be available whenever the risk of psychological harm can occur. Legal / Social: Subjects, or the research team, get into legal trouble, or suffer social consequences, because of their participation in a study. Obviously, this a big issue for us because we deal with illegal behavior. A researcher can be placed in a difficult situation if he or she discovers illegal behavior and is later subpoenaed. Subject could be fired / socially ostracized for participating in a controversial study. Minimizing The Risk of Harm Informed consent: subject voluntarily agrees to assume risk in exchange for some benefit.
To give informed consent the subject must fully understand the risks and the benefits. The subject must be in a position to consent. Minors and mentally challenged people may not be able to consent (although they must still assent). The subject must be allowed to withdraw consent without fear of penalty. Confidentiality: the researcher promises not to share any information learned as part of the study. Privacy: the researcher promises to only collect relevant information and develop procedures to safeguard it. Anonymity: the researcher collects data in such a way that he or she is unable to identify any of the research subjects. However, there is no "lawyer / client privilege" in research. All else being equal, collecting data anonymously is best, but practical considerations may make this impossible (e.g. longitudinal surveys). Dealing with Risk If there are alternative ways of obtaining knowledge, a researcher must always use the method that is least likely to cause harm. If there is a plausible risk of harm then informed consent is an absolute must. It is the job of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to review research and determine if proper procedures have been followed to minimize the risk. There are different levels of review depending on the nature of the project and the anticipated risk. The IRB The Institutional Review Board is a committee of research professionals from the University. Its job is to review proposed research. Evaluate if the researcher is qualified to do the research. The IRB will follow different procedures depending on the amount of potential risk a study entails.
Exempt status if risk is negligible. Expedited review by IRB chair if the risk is minimal. Full review by the entire IRB if the risk is more than minimal. Determine if all necessary steps have been taken to minimize risk. Determine if the amount of risk is commensurate with the expected benefit. At a minimum, the Researcher will have to be human subjects certified. IRB often asks for revisions before approving a project. Power A researcher is nearly always in a position of power relative to the subjects. vulnerable populations. Students? Particularly true when working with powerless or Children, prisoners, mentally challenged. "Expert" "Authority" "Doctor" "Professor". Even higher standard of care is necessary. IRBs mandate that specific procedures are followed with regards to vulnerable populations. Politics Researchers at universities have a lot of discretion regarding what they want to study. Academic freedom: the best way to advance knowledge is for professors to be able to conduct research and teach without the fear of punishment for unpopular findings / viewpoints. The tenure system is designed to facilitate this. This is not absolute: University of Colorado at Boulder Professor suggested 9/11 victims "got what they deserved". Harvard President suggested women have less natural aptitude for science than men. University of Western Ontario Professor published a book suggesting that Asians are more evolved than Caucasians, who in turn are more evolved than Blacks. Researchers working for professional organizations (Rand Corporation, DOJ, Stats Canada) typically have much less freedom. Politics Research is an intensely political enterprise. As a junior researcher, your agenda will be dictated by a primary investigator (P.I.) University researchers compete for grants. A heavily political process. Whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power makes a difference. If you wanted to get a Federal government grant to study the effect of faith based programs on recidivism, you probably missed the boat! The P.I. is the person who holds the grant, and therefore dictates the direction of the research project. You will be his or her research assistant / associate. Politics Being an assistant/associate does not absolve you of ethical responsibility. Researchers should be careful about accepting projects with predetermined outcomes. "I was just following orders" is no more a defense in research than in war. You should never do anything that violates your code of ethics. You may make you a lot of money in the short term. Hurts your credibility in the long term. Tempts you to make unethical decisions. Being an effective politician means picking your battles: Understand that others have agendas. These agendas should not cause you to compromise your core beliefs. ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/15/2011 for the course CJ 300 taught by Professor Kierkus during the Fall '10 term at Grand Valley State University.
- Fall '10