Ethics are moral principles which should be followed by a person irrespective of time or place. Ethically behaving means doing the right thing at the right time. Research ethics primarily deals with focusing on model principles which researchers should follow irrespective of their fields of research.
Many people understand and learn about ethics at home, in church, at school, or in other social situations. All the people understand what is right and wrong from their childhood, the model development takes place throughout life, and human beings pass via different stages of growth and maturity. Ethical norms are so standard and omnipresent that when I mistake them for simple common sense. On the other hand, if morality were equal to common sense, then there wouldn’t be so many ethical disputes taking place today.
Importance of Ethics in Research
The primary objective of ethical decision making is to provide maximum benefits to its participants. It is essential to follow ethical principles to maintain research integrity. There could be grave consequences for research misconduct. Ethical misrepresentation could result in termination of entire research which was conducted. Optimum levels of plagiarism is one of the many research ethics which should be followed.
The Nuremberg Code: Nuremberg code is one of the famous ethical guidelines which are followed in medical research. It shows a commitment to respect all research participants. The Nuremberg code was formed as a result of terrible experiments that were conducted during the second world war by the infamous Nazis. The participants were never allowed to consent if they agreed to participate in research or not. The Nuremberg code addresses all of these issues.
Research ethics are perhaps more important than the research and its findings itself. If research is unable to follow guidelines and ethics, then even if its groundbreaking, it will not have credibility. Sometimes these guidelines may seem very harsh and orthodox or yet too formalized, but they are necessary not only for the success of the research but also to present the research as untainted and pure.
Principles of Research Ethics
Following are five crucial principles of ethics:
1. Discuss IPR
IPR or Intellectual Property Rights have a lot of importance in research ethics. It deals primarily with who gets the credit for authorship. One of the best ways to solve this to talk about authorship before the research starts. This has a better chance of avoiding disagreements, and it should be cleared off at the beginning even though many people may not be comfortable with such discussions. It’s like talking about money, and people don’t want to seem greedy.
The faculty should discuss credit of publication with their students as early as possible and also throughout the research process. Such things are better put in writing so that they have a common understanding of the research process and are on the same page. They can continuously evaluate and discuss the contributions throughout the research process.
However, dispute occurs because people understand the same situations differently. The ethics code says that the author should take credit for the work that they have carried out. The research should reflect their contributions. Merely having a high position in an institution does not guarantee authorship credit. It is recommended that all the contributions be acknowledged even in introductory statements or in footnotes.
The same ethical rules apply to students as well. If they have contributed a lot to the design, conceptualization, analysis or execution of research, then they should also get authorship of the project or research. Technical contributions do not guarantee authorship. Similarly, advisors should never expect authorship to the work of their students.
Researchers are expected to meet the ethical obligations after their research is published. If authors notice an error in printing or typing or any other sort of error that they had missed out earlier, then they should bring it to notify immediately and take corrective action to perform the necessary revision. It is also recommended that authors should store their primary data for at least five years for everyone to have a look at it if required. This is necessary so that if someone challenges your research, then you can go back to the stored data.
2. Be aware of multiple roles
It is recommended that researchers should avoid relations which could impair their performance or could harm others. But it is important to note that many relationships are not unethical as long as they don’t have adverse side effects. That being said, a researcher should enter into relations very thoughtfully may it be with any person, group, or institution. This includes having relationships with students or participants who are directly related to those groups whose products are being evaluated.
One of the very common roles for most of the researches are being a mentor and lab supervisor both to students whom they teach in class. They have to be very cautious that they don’t abuse their power over students.
It is recommended to outline relations between a mentor and participants before the research begins to avoid any possible misunderstandings.
It is recommended that researchers have timely and specific methods to give feedback to students and keep the entire record of supervision provided to them, including meeting times, topics discussed and debated, and duties which are assigned. If the researcher is unable to find harmful multiple relations, then it is ethically mandatory to take steps to solve them while maintaining ethical codes.
3. Follow consent rules
Consent rules say that people should voluntarily participate in research with having complete knowledge of relevant benefits and risks associated. The person should have complete information that will influence his willingness to participate in a form in which he can understand as well as comprehend at the same time. The purpose of research, procedures and their duration, etc.
should be explained to the person. He should also have a right to decline or withdraw participation owing to risks and adverse effects. The guidelines also recommend that there should be incentives for assistance, and the participant should have contact details of the person in case they have any questions.
4. Privacy and confidentiality
Every participant in research has the right to privacy. Research ethics sayss that you should discuss the privacy of the topic with the participant. You should let the participant know how and where will his data be used in research including his photo, video, recordings and other sensitive material whichever applicable.
The researcher should know and follow the law of the land while conducting research. The records and data of the study should be stored in a private and secure area which has limited access. Every possible precaution should be taken, such as having a soundproof window and room where confidential discussion is taking place, having records of all meetings, etc.
A proper consent process should be followed if the data is to be shared with others. The people with whom the information is shared should not share it further without the consent of the researcher. Including an ethical code, a confidentiality code should be followed. Technology is continuously evolving, which is why the researchers should be tech-savvy. It will help them to gather and secure the research data, and they don’t have to be dependent on other people. Also, if they are not cautious about the data, then anyone could manipulate their data, and the results could be awry.
5. Understand ethical resources
Understanding what the ethical obligations are and how those ethical problems can be solved is one of the crucial things that researchers have to follow. The researchers have to make themselves aware of the basics of professional ethics.
The basics of research ethics include the Belmont report, which provided a detailed ethical framework for human participants and their regulations. There are many institutional boards that regulate the researches happening under their jurisdiction.
Making ethical decisions
Many core principles guide ethical decisions. You should be committed to those moral principles completely before conducting research. This also means that you should always choose ethical behavior over the disease of your research. Putting everything aside, ethical research should be the priority.
You should always determine authentic facts. It is very crucial to evaluate the credibility of all the information that has been taken in research. Make a list of all the actions that you can take and evaluate the consequences one by one. Make a final choice such that it should reduce shortcomings and should build trust. How researchers reported and who is considered an author or affected by ethical decision-making.
Not only the treatment that is provided to the participants but ethics also govern the researchers. Any research that has contributed substantially to a project has to get credit. This will hold even if the researcher is not a faculty but a student. This can be done by naming him or her as the primary author of the final paper. It is recommended to have this discussion before writing the research paper. This way, all the people who are involved in the research can have their say.
Ethics for multiple disciplines
Different disciplines have different genres of the code of ethics. Biomedical research uses the Declaration of Helsinki. Different ethical guidelines are available even for internet researchers as well as for psychologists.
Irrespective of their discipline, all ethical guidelines look to maximize the benefits and minimize the disadvantages. Research ethics, therefore necessitates that all participants should provide their informed consent. The researcher should always try to find out the answers which will benefit humanity, and the risks should be minimized for a human participant.