Evaluation on the ethical and unethical researches revealed that the credibility, authenticity and validity of the research outcome is highly reliant on the type of research. Ethical research is based on the ethical codes and conduct, guidelines, etc and the important considerations of this type of research includes, maintaining respect, dignity and anonymity of the participants; reducing the risks or harm to the subjects; protecting the rights, privacy and confidentiality of the individuals and avoiding misrepresentation and deception of facts and information. In unethical research the ethical principles and practices are not followed and hence research outcome is not credible or valid and has only very little or no academic or practical application. The participants would be confident to share their views or information in the case of ethical research while it is difficult to collect relevant data in the case of unethical research. Unethical research does more harm to the human subjects while ethical research aims to minimize the risks and harm on the subjects and objects of research.
Keywords: Ethical research, unethical research
Researchers need to follow certain practices and guidelines for safeguarding the moral standards as well as to minimize harm to objects or subjects of research. Though adopting ethical practices might appear a little tedious procedurally, the quality of the research would improve considerably if researches comply with these ethical standards. Not only in research but also in practice, compliance to specific ethical practices and guidelines are essential to safeguard dignity, confidentiality, privacy and secrecy of people and of related societal causes. Especially in the case of psychology, ethical research has more relevance as the subject and outcome of research might have direct impact on people and society. Ethical research is expected to uphold the integrity and authenticity of researches and assessments on the different features of ethical and unethical researches is discussed.
Ethical research is about conducting research with compliance to the ethical codes, conduct, guidelines and principles. The different considerations of ethical research includes, protecting the rights of human subjects; maintaining respect, dignity and anonymity of the participants; reducing the risks or harm to the subjects; protecting the rights, privacy and confidentiality of the concerned individuals and avoiding misrepresentation and deception of facts and information (Simmerling, Schwegler, Sieber & Lindgren, 2007). Ethical issues associated with researches also vary based on the type of research and researchers need to identify the best practices that have applicability in the specific context. For e.g., the various ethical practices in survey research includes, to collect and provide correct information regarding the survey; to seek informed consent from the participant; to provide opportunity for the participant to withdraw from the survey at any time; to maintain the anonymity of the participant; avoid deception and misrepresentations.
In ethical research, lot of formal procedures has to be followed prior to actual research and as part of the research. Researchers need to design their research studies in accordance with the ethical and moral standards in order to make their researches and its outcome to be ethically compliant. Fulfilment of the ethical codes and conduct increases the authenticity of the research and is sure to improve the quality of its outcome. As ethical research is aimed to uphold and maintain the rights, privacy and confidentiality of the participants and subjects, the participants could confidently disclose relevant information to the researcher. Sticking to the ethical code or guidelines increases the credibility of the study and can make the participants to be more open. It is opined by Chambliss & Schutt (2012) that compliance to the ethical standards in fact increases the possibility to get more direct or primary information regarding the subject matter.
The various ethical guidelines followed in ethical research are,
- Getting consent from the authorities to collect and utilize data for research purposes
- Providing clear cut information to the participants regarding the purposes of the research and its outcome
- Getting written consent from the participants on their willingness to partake in the research process
- Participant given the right to withdraw from the research activities at any point of time.
- Guarantee that the collected information would not be used for any other purpose other than for research.
- Reduce the interferences on personal life.
- Maintain the anonymity of the participant throughout the research process
- Protecting the rights of individuals and minimizing the damage caused to the participants.
- The “benefits and burdens of research” should be “distributed fairly” (Simmerling et al, 2007, p. 857)
- Avoid misrepresentations and deceptions of any kind
Unethical research describes researches that are done without compliance to the ethical codes and conduct. During the research processes the ethical issues are not given due considerations and so the quality of research outcome would be affected adversely. In these types of researches the participants would not be properly informed on the purpose and scope of the study. Lack of transparency regarding the research would affect the different stages of research right from data collection to the data interpretation and even the results. In this type of research, data collection could be through deception or by tricking the participants in to gathering the information. There might be lack of authenticity in the data sources, data collection techniques, data processing and interpretation of the data and hence the research outcome would be of very low quality or in a disintegrated state. Proper measures or steps might not be in place for protecting the privacy, confidentiality and rights of the participants. Such researches could affect or harm the objects and subjects of research considerably. According to Hodge (2012) biased approaches or unethical researches produces unreliable and baseless results, which has no value either at academic or practical realms.
Falsification and fabrication of data and information as well as plagiarism appears to be the common form of unethical practices shown by researchers. These are considered as “serious transgression of research ethics” and these “affects the credentials of the research” (Sinha, Singh & Kumar, 2009, p. 1). In case of unethical research, the basic responsibility of the “researcher to safeguard physical, social and mental wellbeing of participants” is not properly taken care of (Pienaar, 2010, p. 317). As a result of which these unethical researches can do more harm than good.
Compare and contrast ethical and unethical research
There appear wide differences in the ways with which both ethical and unethical researches are conducted. Ethical researches are based on the ethical codes and conduct and follow systematic steps for getting quality research outcome. While unethical research do not consider the ethical principles and practices and hence these researches appear to do more harm to concerned individuals as well as to adversely affect the privacy, dignity, confidentiality of the subject and objects of research. On the other hand, ethical researches safeguards the rights of the concerned individuals, minimizes the risks or harm to individuals, safeguards privacy, secrecy and confidentiality of the research objects and subjects. There is greater credibility, authenticity and validity for the research outcomes of ethical research. But unethical research lacks reliability and validity and is considered to be of lesser value. Data collection would be easier and effective in the case of ethical research as the participants are given proper information on the scope and outcome of the research. While in the case of unethical research, data collection would be difficult and the methods might be mostly deceptive or faulty. Misrepresentation, falsification, fabrication and plagiarism appear to be the common type of unethical practices used.
Assessments on ethical and unethical research indicate that the quality of the research outcome is influenced by the various practices adopted in researches. The outcome of ethical research is highly credible, authentic and reliable compared to the results of unethical research. Main considerations of ethical research include safeguarding human rights, upholding privacy, integrity, confidentiality, etc of the research objects, while unethical research seldom consider these factors and hence would do more harm than good.
Chambliss, D. F. & Schutt, R. K. (2012). Making Sense of the Social World: Methods of Investigation, 4th edition. Los Angeles, US: Sage Publications Inc.
Hodge, F. S. (2012). No meaningful apology for American Indian unethical research abuses. Ethics and Behavior, 22 (6): 431-444. Retrieved April 9, 2013, from http://www.nnaapc.org/publications/fhcrc%20article.pdf
Pienaar, J. (2010). Ethics in economic and management sciences: A researcher’s resource. South African Journal of Economic and Management Studies NS, 13 (3): 317 – 328. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDAQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sajems.org%2Findex.php%2Fsajems%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F104%2F6&ei=6MdlUf62MtHQrQfyy4CYAg&usg=AFQjCNEZcQ2NOZT_aJfscfI0sJQgf9F06g&sig2=ZkqB9HYOpE_IBEE-imHvPA&bvm=bv.44990110,d.bmk
Simmerling, M., Schwegler, B., Sieber, J. & Lindgren, J. (2007). Introducing a new paradigm for ethical research in the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences: part I. North Western University Law Review, 101 (2): 837 – 860. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from http://www.law.northwestern.edu/lawreview/v101/n2/837/LR101n2Simmerling.pdf
Sinha, R., Singh, G. & Kumar, C. (2009). Plagiarism and unethical practices in literature. Indian J Ophthalmol., 57(6): 481–485. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812776/