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Ethics in Research- A Term Paper

Presented by
Ms. Jhala Maya B.K
Nepal Law Campus
LL.M- 2nd Semester
Roll No: 34

Meaning of ethics in research

Ethics is the norms of the conduct, rationally derived normative structure that permits us to distinguish
good from bad behavior. The norms can be integrated into a professional responsibility. All person
weathers in business, government, university, college, school or other organization are concerned with
ethics. In Webster's new collegiate dictionary "ethics is defined as the discipline dealing with what is
good and bad with moral duty and obligation. Ethics are concerned with truth and justice such as a
expectation of the society, fair competition, advertising public relation, social responsibilities,
corporate behavior." 1

"A researcher must recognize moral right of others and he/she must take ethical consideration while
undertaking research. Formal permission is required to be taken from concerned authority, authors,
formal or informal consent with individual is required to be taken before starting the interview and the
interview to be taken most be completely confidential and the name of respondents. The researcher is
required to understand that objective of the study should be clearly started."2

Research that involves human subjects or participants raises unique and complex ethical, legal, social
and political issues. Research ethics is specifically interested in the analysis of ethical issues that are
raised when people are involved as participants in research. There are three objectives in research

According to Black's Law Dictionary, "ethics off or relation to moral action, conduct motive or
character as ethical emotion also treating of morality, moral"3

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, "ethical means connected with

principles of what is right and wrong. The use of animal in scientific test raises some difficult ethical
questions, morally good or correct." 4

Webers new colligate Dictionary)
Proff. Dr. Bal Bdr. Mukhiya, Legal Research & Methodology as a glimpse, Mrs Malati mukhia &
Aditya Mukhiya (2011) P. 136
Blacks law dictionary, 6th edition pg 553
Longman dictionary of contemporary english, 3rd edition , pg466

Most people learn ethical norms at home, at school, in church or temple and in other social settings.
Although most people acquire their sense of right and wrong during childhood, moral development
occurs throughout life and human beings pass through different stages of growth as they mature.
Ethical norms are so ubiquitous that one might be tempted to regard them as simple commonsense. On
the other hand, if morality were nothing more than commonsense, then why are there so many ethical
disputes and issues in our society?

One plausible explanation of these disagreements is that all people recognize some common ethical
norms but different individuals interpret, apply and balance these norms in different ways in light of
their own values and life experiences.

Most societies also have legal rules that govern behavior, but ethical norms tend to be broader and
more informal than laws. Although most societies use laws to enforce widely accepted moral
standards ans ethical and legal rules use similar concepts, it is important to remember that ethics law
are not the same. An action may be legal but unethical or illegal but ethical. We can also use ethical
concepts and principles to criticize, evaluate, propose or interpret laws. Indeed, in the last century,
many social reformers urged citizen to disobey laws in order to protest what they regarded as immoral
or unjust laws. Peaceful civil disobedience is an ethical way of expressing political view points.

Another way of defining 'ethics' focuses on the disciplines that study standards of conduct, such as
philosophy, theology, law, psychology or sociology. For example, a "medical ethicist" is someone
who studies ethical standards in medicine. One may also define ethics as a method, procedure or
perspective for deciding how to act and for analyzing complex problems and issues. For instance, in
considering a complex issue like global warming, one may take an economic, ecological, political, or
ethical perspective on the problem. While an economist might examine the cost and benefits of
various policies related to global warming, an environmental ethicist could examine the ethical values
and principles at stake.

The five general principles

Complementing the numerous ethical standards are APA’s five General Principles of Ethics for
Psychologists. Prescriptive non-enforceable in nature, the general principles are there not to limit and
impose on us, but instead to “guide and inspire psychologists toward the very highest ethical ideals of
the profession”, be it in their clinical practice, while conducting a study, consulting a company, etc.
Here is a concise overview of how we can translate them to research, how respecting them enriches
and elevates our practice and how dismissing them may result in tainting an otherwise brilliant and
illuminating research.

Principle A: Beneficence and No beneficence – The first principle states that “In their
professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they
interact professionally and other affected persons and the welfare of animal subjects of research",
among other. Many ethical standards are already in place to ensure that externally. In terms of
personal consideration, the first principle stresses out the need for researchers to work independently
of biases (itself a vast, multifaceted topic that poses an obstacle to quality science making), prejudices,
and malignant affiliations and with a clear sense that what they are doing has very often impact on the

lives of others. It is thus important for us to have an understanding that biased research affects the
public negatively not only through the wide-reaching reports by media, but also by its usage by
policymakers and lawmakers and always to stay critical and alert for such possibility.

Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility – Outlining the value of conscientiousness in the

psychological practice and research, the second principle somewhat overlaps with the first one. It
differs in the focus it has, moving into an overview of what to mind when working with our colleagues
and within our work network. While responsibility is a universally understood value, the principle also
states that “ [psychologists] are concerned about the ethical compliance of their colleagues’ scientific
and professional conduct. Psychologists strive to contribute a portion of their professional time for
little or no compensation or personal advantage”. In research his might translate to us as taking part of
the peer-review process, striving to help fellow scientists improve the quality of their work before it
enters into circulation. Ethical misconduct should be pointed out whenever we can spot it, but it is
always to be done with respect to the researcher who conducted it, as decision-making in relation to
ethics is fairly complex and influenced by factors that may lie beyond one’s control.

Principle C: Integrity – The third principle summarizes what we are supposed not to do in our
practice as researchers. Cases of manipulation, fraud, fabricating results and general scientific
misconduct are not unheard of, affecting tremendously the field. A somewhat recent widely publicized
case of such lack of integrity is that of Mr. Diederik Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist who fixed the
results in over 30 of his papers, some of which were published in prestigious and esteemed journals.
Even though fraud is controlled for and strict sanctions are enforced against it another vast concern –
deception – is treated differently. The third principle states that "psychologists have a serious
obligation to consider the need for, the possible consequences of, and their responsibility to correct
any resulting mistrust or other harmful effects that arise from the use of such techniques”. Deception
according to a number of investigators is the “explicit provision of erroneous information – in other
words, lying”, estimated to occur in some 40-55% of the papers published in influential social
psychology journals. This naturally rises the question how is it possible a last-resort design such as
these that include deception to be so widely popular. What is sure though is that deception should be
avoided and psychologist should think long and hard whether or not the potential benefits of using
such a method outweighs the explicit and implicit harms.

Principle D: Justice – The fourth principle states that "fairness and justice entitle all persons to
access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes,
procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists”. And how can we begin translating this
into research? Open access! Providing free and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed articles is an act
of universal value for educators, students, scientist and the public alike and both JEPS and EFPSA are
involved in the growing open access movement. The JEPS Bulletin had published some very
illuminating texts about it throughout the years.

Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity –

The fifth principle in a way encompasses the previous four, adding an emphasis on obtaining
individual’s consent and protecting their confidentiality and privacy. A once-debated topic, obtaining
consent from the people we would like to include in our research today is a must. Beyond that the
principle inspires and facilitates understanding and acceptance for difference, postulating that
“Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those
based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual
orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and consider these factors when working

with members of such groups”. In science it is of utmost importance to have all these factors in mind
and hopefully not only control for them, but also work to understand how they affect the target of our

Concentrated and well-defined, the five general principles that the APA outlines are a great tool for
young psychologists to evaluate their own work and the work of others based on the best ethical
practices and to use as a groundwork into further exploration into many pronounced and subtle issues,
topics and concerns in research and beyond. Even though they may be a relatively obscure piece of
literature, their value is great and it is worth being acquainted with them.5

Importance of ethics in research

There are several reasons why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research.

 First, norms promote the aims of research, such as khowledge, truth and avoidance of error. For
example, prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying or misrepresenting research data promote the truth
and avoid error.
 Second, since research often involves a great deal of cooperation and coordination among many
different people in different disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote the values that are
essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect, such as guidelines for
authorship, copyright and patenting policies, data sharing policies and confidentiality rules in peer
review, are designed to protect intellectual property interests while encouraging collaboration.
Most researchers want to receive credit for their contributions and do not want to have their ideas
stolen or disclosed prematurely.
 Third, many of the ethical norms help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the
public. For instance, many policies on research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the human subjects
protections and animal care and use are necessary in order to make sure that researchers who are
funded by public money can be held accountable to the public.
 Fourth, ethical norms in research also help to build public support for research. People more likely
to fund research project money if they can trust the quality and integrity of research.
 Finally, many of the norms of research promote a variety of other important moral and social
values, such as social responsibility, human rights, animal welfare, compliance with the law and
health and safety. Ethical lapses in research can significantly harm human and animal subjects,
students and the public. For example, a researcher who fabricates data in a clinical trial may harm or
even kill patients and a researcher who fails to abide by regulations and guidelines relating to radiation
or biological safety may jeopardize his health and safety or the health and safety of staff and students.6

Ethical issues relating to the researcher

i) Avoiding bias : Bias on the part of the researcher is unethical . Bias is a deliberate attempt to either
to hide what we have found in our study, or highlight something disproportionately to its true

American pfychological association code of ethics ,accured on 16 april 2018
Sanad Devkota at all, Legal Research Methodology, Pairavi Prakashan (2013-pg 327)

II)Provision or deprivation of a treatment: Both the provision and deprivation of a treatment /
intervention may pose an ethical dilemma for us as a researcher. Is it ethical to provide a study
population with an intervention/treatment that has not yet been conclusively proven effective or
beneficial? But if we do not test, how can we prove or disprove its effectiveness or benefits. There are
no simple answers to these dilemmas. Ensuring informed consent, 'minimum risk' and frank
discussion as to the implications of participation in the study will help to resolve ethical issues.

iii) Using inappropriate research methodology: It is unethical to use a method or procedure we

know to be inappropriate e.g. selecting a highly biased sample, using an invalid instrument or drawing
wrong conclusions.

iv) Incorrect reporting: To report the finding s in a way that changes or slants them to serve tour
won or someone else's interest, is unethical.

v) Inappropriate use of the information: The use of information in a way that directly or
indirectly adversely affects the respondents is unethical. If so, the study population needs to be
protected. Sometimes it is possible to harm individuals in the process of achieving benefits for the
organizations. An example would be a study to examine the feasibility of restructuring an
organization. Restructuring may be beneficial to the organization as a whole but may be harmful too
some individuals. 7

Plagiarism Plagiarism is derived from two Latin words-plagiaries which means an abductor, and
plagiary which means to steal. According to Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, it is
defined as use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation
of them as one's own original work. It is also considered as violations of scholarly ethics and
intellectual property by many academicians. Plagiarism is defined as the deliberate or reckless
representation of another's works, thoughts or ideas as one's own without attribution in connection
with submission of academic work .8

Code of Ethics in Research

Given the importance of ethics for the conduct of research, it should come as an surprise that many
different professional associations, government agencies, and universities have adopted specific codes,
rules, and policies relating to research ethics. The following is a general summary of some ethical
principles that various codes address:

a) Honesty: Strive for honesty in all scientific communications. Honestly report data, results, methods
and procedures, and publications status. Do not fabricate, falsify, or misrepresent data. Do not
deceive colleagues, granting agencies, or the public.
b) Objectivity: Strive to avoid bias in experimental design, data analysis, data interpretation, peer
review, personnel decisions, grant writing, expert testimony, and other aspects of research where
objectivity is expected or required. Avoid or minimize bias or self-deception. Disclose personal or
interests that may affect research.
Sanad Devkota at all, Legal Research Methodology, Pairavi Prakashan (2013-pg 327)

c) Integrity: Keep your promises and agreements; act with sincerity; strive for consistency of thought
and action.
d) Carefulness: Avoid careless errors and negligence: carefully and critically examine our own work
and the work of our peers. Keep good records of research activities, such as data collection, research
design, and correspondence with agencies or journals.
e) Openness: Share data, results, ideas, tools, resources. Be open to criticism and new ideas.
f) Respect for Intellectual Property: Honor patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual
property. Do not use unpublished data, methods, or results without permission. Give credit where
credit is due. Give proper acknowledgement or credit for all contributions to research. Never
g) Confidentiality: Protect confidential communications, such as papers or grants submitted for
publication, personnel records, trade or military secrets, and patient records.
h) Responsible Publication: Publish in order to advance research and scholarship, not to advance just
our own career. Avoid wasteful and duplicative publication.
i) Responsible Mentoring: Help to educate, mentor, and advise students. Promote their welfare and
allow them to make their own decisions.
j) Respect for colleagues: Respect your colleagues and treat them fairly.
k) Strive to promote social good and prevent or mitigate social harms through research, public
education, and advocacy .
l) Non-Discrimination: Avoid discrimination against colleagues or student on the basis of sex, race,
ethnicity, or other factors that are not related to their scientific competence and integrity.
m) Competence: Maintain and improve our own professional competence and expertise through
lifelong education and learning ; take steps to promote
n) Legality: Know and obey relevant laws and institutional and governmental polices.
o) Animal Care: Show proper respects and care for animals when using them in research. Do not
conduct unnecessary or poorly designed animal experiments.
p) Human subjects Protection: When conducting research on human subjects minimize harms and
risks and maximize benefits; and strive to distribute the benefits and burdens of research fairly.


Ethics in research should be concerned with finding a balance between benefits and risk for harm. The
results of findings based on data gathered unethically could lead to harm, possible conflicts and
enormous dilemmas. As such, it is considered good practice for a research project to fully comply
with ethical standards.

Finally, many of the ethics of research promote a variety of others important moral and social value,
such as social responsibility, human right, animal welfare, compliance with the law, and health and
safety. Ethical lapses in research can significantly harm human and animal subject, student, public.
For Example a researcher who fabricates data in clinical trial may harm or even kill patient and a
researcher who fails to abide by regulations and guideline relating to radiation or biological safety
may jeopardize his health and safety or the health and safe of the students. Besides, wherever possible,
the investigation should from all participants of the objective of the investigation. No pressure should
ne exerted on people either to take part or to remain in a investigation. A fair explanation of the
procedure to be followed and their purpose should be given as well as description of the attendance
discomfort, risks or benefits reasonably to be exerted, if any. In addition, ethics is also important to
ensure that nobody will get harm.

Webers, & Dictionary, N. C.

Webster. New Collegiate dicttionary.

Webers new colligate Dictionary)

Proff. Dr. Bal Bdr. Mukhiya, Legal Research & Methodology as a glimpse, Mrs Malati mukhia & Mr
Aditya Mukhiya (2011)

Blacks law dictionary, 6th edition

Longman dictionary of contemporary english, 3rd edition ,
American pfychological association code of ethics ,accured on 16 april 2018

Sanad Devkota at all, Legal Research Methodology, Pairavi Prakashan