As we grow and change, so does our grasp of what it right and what is wrong. Our understanding of these concepts is usually shaped during childhood by societal/ and cultural norms, but our morality is fluid and continues to develop and mature throughout our lifetime. Most would consider ethical dilemmas as simply a matter of applying common-sense, but there are many issues that tip-toe the line between good and evil.
That’s the hardest thing about ethics, there is no universal definition of what it is to be ethical because it is so purely subjective. Due to an individual’s understanding of the world and cultural context, their ethical/ moral compass will invariably differ.
One of the most important elements in undertaking any type of research is being able to maintain strong ethical principles so as not to discredit or undermine your work. As Resnik explains in his article “What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?”, there are several reasons why researchers should adhere to ethical norms:
- They promote the aims of research, such as truth, knowledge and the avoidance of error.
- Due to the nature of research being somewhat cooperative, they support values that are essential to collaborative work like trust, objectivity, accountability and respect.
- Abiding by these ethical norms also ensures that researchers can be held accountable to the public.
- Acting in an ethical manner also gives researchers an opportunity to build public support, as they can be seen as more trustworthy in terms of the quality and integrity of their research.
- They also encourage a variety of other social and moral values like; social responsibility, human rights, animal welfare, compliance with the law, and promoting health and safety.
Due to the ethics of research being so important, there have been many guidelines issued by various industries so that there can be a set of standards for individuals and groups to follow. In Australia, the Australian Research Council (ARC) in conjunction with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Universities Australia (UA), developed The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research in 2007. This aimed to explain what is expected of researchers and assist institutions in developing their own codes of conduct.
A somewhat recent example of unethical researching techniques is Facebook’s ‘Emotional Manipulation Study’, which sparked international outrage due to its lack of consent from users of the social media site. The study was carried by researchers from both Facebook and Cornell University, and sought to establish whether “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading to people experience the same emotions without their awareness.” The study was so significant because it included over 689,000 people, and no informed consent was given. Therefore leading to many people deeming it unethical and condemning the actions of Facebook.
So I guess the biggest thing to take from this is knowing that being ethical in research is important because it is beneficial to all parties involved. Not only does it protect the research subjects and public in general, but it also protects the researchers themselves from public backlash and even worse consequences.