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Chapter 3

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Lingqin Feng

SOC221 Week 5, Chapter 3 Chapter 3 – Ethics in Social Research Introduction  Ethics include the concerns, dilemmas, and conflicts that arise over the proper way to conduct research; ‘moral research procedures’  Many ethical issues ask to balance two values: pursuit of knowledge and the rights of research participants  Knowledge of the proper research techniques and sensitivity to ethical concerns is crucial Why be Ethical? Scientific Misconduct  Scientific misconduct occurs when a researcher falsifies/distorts the data or the methods of data collection, or plagiarizes the work of others; deviating from generally accepted scientific practices (Ex: Dr. Ranjit Chandra)  Research fraud occurs when a researcher fakes/invents data that he/she didn’t really collect, or fails to honestly report how he/she conducted a study (Ex: Sir Cyril Burt)  Plagiarism occurs when a researcher ‘steals’ the ideas/writings of another, or uses them without citing the source (Ex: undergrad student at Memorial University) Unethical but Legal  (Ex: dissertation from Eastern New Mexico University) Power Relations  Professional researcher + research participants/employee-assistants are in a relationship of unequal power and trust Ethical Issues Involving Research Participants  Acting ethically requires balancing the value of the advancement of knowledge against the value of non-interference in the lives of others Origins of Research Participant Protection  Gross violations of basic human rights: ‘medical experiments’ conducted on Jews + others in Nazi Germany, and similar ‘medical experiments’ to test biological weapons by Japan in the 1940s  Tuskegee Syphilis Study (Bad Blood) began in 1929, but continued long after treatment had become available  1950s – research on LSD to learn how drugs can be used to control people’s minds (CIA) Page 1 of 5 SOC221 Week 5, Chapter 3 Physical Harm, Psychological Abuse, and Legal Jeopardy  Researcher’s responsibility: being aware of all types of potential harm, take actions to minimize risks to participants 1. Physical Harm: - Only 3-5% of studies - Project is terminated if physical safety is not guaranteed 2. Psychological Abuse, Stress, or Loss of Self-Esteem - Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Study (deception and extreme emotional stress) - Laud Humphrey’s Tearoom Trade Study (subjects never consented) - Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment (risk of psychological, and physical harm were great) - Only highly experienced researchers should consider conducting a study that induces great stress or anxiety 3. Legal Harm - A researcher is responsible for protecting research participants from increased risk of arrest - Van Maanen (witnessing police beatings, and irregular procedures of police officers) Other Harm to Participants  Uncomfortable survey questions; negative impact on careers, reputations, or incomes  Researcher must evaluate each case, weigh potential harm against potential benefits Maximizing Benefit  Flipside of minimizing harm: researchers have a duty to maximize the benefits that their research has on others Deception  Principle of voluntary consent: people should never participate in research, unless they first explicitly agree to do so; do not lie to anyone unless it is necessary and the only way to accomplish a legitimate research purpose  Deception is never preferable if the researcher can accomplish the same thing without using deception  Deception and covert research may increase mistrust and cynicism and may diminish respect for social research Informed Consent  Informed consent: an agreement by participants stating they are willing to be in a study after the learn something about what the research procedure will involve Page 2 of 5 SOC221 Week 5, Chapter 3  Canadian federal gov’t does not require informed consent in all research involving human subjects  It is unethical if the researcher coerces people to participate in research (Ex: professor telling a student to be a research subject in order to pass a course)  Lessens the chance that a con artist in the guise of a researcher will abuse subjects  Mandatory for qualitative interviews and experimental research Special Populations and New Inequalities  People may be offended to sign a form – may be too ‘formal’ for them (Ex: Chinese Torontonian – informal money transfer systems)  Special populations are people who lack the necessary cognitive competency to give valid informed consent / people in a weak position who might cast aside their freedom to refuse in order to participate in a study  (Ex: students, prison inmates, employees, developmentally disabled, homeless, etc.); seeing participation as a means of obtaining a desired good (higher grades, early parole)  Legal guardian + following standard ethical principles for ‘incompetent people’  Case of coercion: researcher judging whether the benefits to the criminal outweigh the ethical prohibition on coercion 1. Avoid Creating New Inequalities - People denied a service or benefit through experimentation - Reducing the chances of New Inequalities: i. Con
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