Different kinds of research produce different kinds of ethical problems. Most survey research, for instance, creates few if any ethical problems and can even be enjoyable for participants. In fact, researchers from Michigan’s Institute for Survey Research interviewed a representative national sample of adults and found that 68% of those who had participated in a survey were somewhat or very interested in participating in another;
the more times respondents had been interviewed, the more willing they were to participate again (Reynolds 1979:56–57). On the other hand, some experimental studies in the social sciences that have put people in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations have generated vociferous complaints and years of debate aboutethics (Reynolds 1979; Sjoberg 1967).
Research ethics should be based on a realistic assessment of the overall potential for harm and benefit to research subjects. In this chapter, we have presented some basic guidelines, and examples in other chapters suggest applications, but answers aren’t always obvious. For example, full disclosure of “what is really going on” in an experimental study is unnecessary if subjects are unlikely to be harmed. In one student observation study on cafeteria workers, for instance, the IRB didn’t require consent forms to be signed. The legalistic forms and signatures, they felt, would be more intrusive or upsetting to workers than the very benign and confidential research itself. The committee put the feelings of subjects above the strict requirementfor consent.
Ultimately, then, these decisions about ethical procedures are not just up to you, as a researcher, to make.Your university’s IRB sets the human subjects protection standards for your institution and will require that researchers—even, in most cases, students—submit their research proposal to the IRB for review. So an institutional committee, following professional codes and guidelines, will guard the ethical propriety of your research; but still, that is an uncertain substitute for your own conscience.
Content will be erased after question is completed.