Being Responsible with Research

The main thing to consider when being responsible with research is ETHICS.

Psychologists should follow and respect ethical for a number of reasons:  ethical standards provide knowledge and truth of a research piece and they help to prevent errors – ethics set up trust, respect and equality – researchers are more likely to get funded for their research if they know they are trustworthy – ethics provide health and safety issues due to moral values and human rights!! (without ethical standards, research may not have any respect for our human rights, and none of us want to lose a limb or .. you know.. maybe even DIE, due to taking part in a risky study). *

Shamoo and Resnik**  suggested that vital Ethical principles in psychological research are:

Honesty Researchers must not lie!!!!! No one likes a liar. Research is to be reported honestly due to what results have been produced, no sneaky data removing so you can prove your hypothesis (unless of course, there are valid reasons like the outliers discussed last week). Also, lying to others is obviously forbidden, everyone involved in the study should be aware of the research.   

Objectivity Researchers should avoid being bias, if they have any personal attachments or interests in something to do with the study this should not interact and affect with the research. (I dunno if anyone has seen the latest Plant of the Apes film? but the main character is a great example of this, he is a scientist and his father is suffering with Alzheimer’s.. he steals drugs from the work and also ends up stealing a chimp all in order to cure his dad..)

 Integrity Researchers should be consistent and stick to any agreements made.

Carefulness Researchers should basically.. be careful. Meaning they should keep records of everything happening in the research process, this will prevent careless errors.

Openness Ideas, data, results and opinions should be shared between researchers.

 Respect for Intellectual Property Plagiarism is not cool… Do not use other people’s work and publishings without citing and referencing their work.

Confidentiality Keep individual’s data confidential. Their data is allowed to be shown and analyzed but the public do not need to know the individual person’s name, age, address and dog’s name to look at the data!

 Responsible Publication Researchers should only publish their research in order to help others and advance research, not just for personal gain of looking good with publications!

 Responsible Mentoring Help to mentor research students but researchers should not tell them what to do, students should be able to make their own decisions.

Respect for colleagues Self-explanatory really haha.

Non-Discrimination Anything about a person that is NOT related to the study should not even be thought about: such as their race, sex, ethnicity, age etc. 

 Legality Well researchers shouldn’t break the law!

Animal Rights Animals should be treated with respect too (Again, Planet of the Apes.. was it really fair that the chimp was stolen and used as scientific research??). Researchers shouldn’t purposely harm animals in order to complete their research. Unfortunately, animals are usually given the nasty experiments as in terms of research humans are looked at as a lot more important creatures.. 😦

Human Rights Personally, I would say this is the main ethical principle. Researchers should be VERY careful when dealing with risky studies, they should always respect a person’s privacy and human dignity! Harm should be avoided!!!

A very famous example of piece of research that did not follow ethical issues was of course, Milgrams experiment on obedience and authority. I wont go into detail about the study as I’m sure all you psychology geeks know ALLLLLL about it. Anyway, Milgram caused serious emotional harm for the participants as they thought they were electrocuting someone else! A study like this would never ever be done again due to this. But you could argue, as disgusting and as upsetting it was to emotional harm the participants.. if Milgram didnt break the ethics, we would never have that huge piece of research! We would never have thought that us as humans would harm (and up to 450 volts? maybe even kill!!!) another human just because an authority figure told us to do so?? So thats the only benefit I can think for not having ethics… lol. Oh no, also without ethics, conducting a study would be a lot quicker as we wouldnt have to faff around with consent forms and all that!

To summarize, ethics may restrict researchers from researching exactly what they wanted to, which unfortunately can lead to us missing out on some interesting and scientific findings. However, I do believe that ethical principles are a great thing to have in place, without them.. who knows what kind of studies we might be conducting. It’s not justifiable to have an experiment where someone could potentially lose their life just so we can have some good research, we can still find results with ethics in order :-). Also, being responsible in research is important as these guidelines provide a basis on how to conduct a study responsibly, atleast we know all research is being conducted fairly in the same way 🙂

  * Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct according to APA.

** Adapted from Shamoo A and Resnik D. 2009. Responsible Conduct of Research, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press).


8 thoughts on “Being Responsible with Research

  1. nirapsy says:

    A very good blog that describes all of the ethical considerations we as psychologists need to follow. I wouuld like to add about Milgram (i have priviously written a blog about ethics myself) that the reason he made his study was to explain some of the actions german soldiers performed during WW2, so you could argue that there was a historical justification for his method, as it actually succeed in explaining the horrors that happened during the war. Also i would like to ask, do you believe it is completely wrong to use deception in an experiment? I personally believe that sometimes you do have to maybe cross the ethical line just a little bit, to actually find an explanation that could otherwise not be found.

  2. World of Statistics says:

    It is essential that psychologists obey to the ethical guidelines when conducting pieces of research as not to do so can indeed cause significant harm to the participants, as we have seen in Milgram’s study. On the contrary, if Milgram had not conducted that piece of research, then we wouldn’t have been exposed to such an inspirational piece of research that has had such a huge impact on society. After all, his outcome demonstrated how humans have the ability to cause another human significant harm on the basis of an authority figure telling them to do so. As a result, this has widened our knowledge on the field of conformity, therefore having a postive impact in the field of psychology. This therefore raises the question: is it okay to break the rules? There are many sayings that emphasise that to get anywhere in life, one must sometimes break the rules. However, should one not obey to the ethical guidelines when there is a risk of participants being harmed? Would the findings of the research have such a huge impact on society that the risk of participants being harmed is justifiable?

  3. repugh18 says:

    Ethic’s is a very interesting topic that has to be considered throughtout all aspects of psychology. I thought that your explanation of the ethical principles was very informative, clear and concise. When considering honesty I think that it is important to consider that it is sometimes necessary to use participants that are in the know aswell as naive participants such as in Asch’s conformity study. Here it is necessary to use naive participants otherwise if all of them knew what the true aim of the study was, it would be pointless doing the study.Well done, excellent blog.

  4. cfredlevy says:

    When discussing ethics in my own blog, I didn’t mention the variety of considerations mentioned here. They highlight well the points that we need to remember as well as the main five commonly quoted ethics. An unfortunate aspect if past unethical experiments is that they have often been very useful, as well as Milgram and Zimbardo who have taught us a lot in their areas there are some other examples which show this. Examples include Project MKULTRA and project 4.1. American government studies which irradiated innocents including children allowing them to suffer. They are evil experiments but actually revealed more about drugs and radiation in relation to human biology. Yet just because they taught something does not mean they can be justified in the harm they caused! Hopefully this example goes in some way to support part of your conclusion, that we can find similar results other more ethical ways 🙂

  5. steveytea says:

    The ethical guidelines in place are definitely needed in order to ensure things such as the Harlow’s monkeys experiment do not happen again. However as we need a participants consent to take part in the experiment this also brings up the problem of demand characteristics. Sabotage and playing good can have a detrimental effect to the results of an experiment. I know it isn’t going to happen but surely observing participants without their knowledge would produce more realistic results?

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