Research ethics provides researchers with the guidelines to conduct their research responsibly. Furthermore, research ethics committees monitor and educate researchers to ensure that high ethical standards are kept throughout the research process. Generally, research ethics focuses on the analysis of ethical concerns that come up when people are involved in a particular research.

Objectives of research ethics

Research ethics has three objectives, which include:

  • Protecting human participants;
  • Ensuring that research is done in a manner which serves the interests of people, groups or society; and
  • Examining research projects and activities for their ethical standards, checking for things like risk management, safeguarding of confidentiality and the procedure of informed consent.

For a long period, research ethics has mainly focused on issues concerning biomedical research. The use of ethical research in examining and evaluating biomedical research was developed many years ago, and it has affected some of the existing guidelines and statutes governing ethical conduct of research. However, different types of ethical issues pop up when it comes to humanities and social science research.

Today, there are new and emerging ways of conducting research, like participatory action and auto-ethnography research that raise a critical, but distinctly different ethical concerns and obligations for researchers. Additionally, research that involves vulnerable groups of people, such as people who are institutionalized, people with cognitive or developmental disabilities, children, people without legal status or the homeless also raises concerns in any research context.

The principles of research ethics

Undeniably, researchers face several ethical requirements. Every researcher must meet the set institutional, federal and professional standards for conducting research that involves human participants. The following are some of the general research ethics:

  • Honesty – researchers should honestly report data, research methods, and procedures, results, and publication status. Never falsify, fabricate or misrepresent data.
  • Objectivity – always aim to avoid biases in experimental design, data analysis and interpretation, personal decisions, expert testimony, peer review and all other aspects of research.
  • Integrity – do not act contrary to your promises and agreements. Do your research with sincerity and endeavor for regularity of thought and action.
  • Carefulness – avoid negligence and making careless errors. Ensure that you carefully and critically scrutinize your work as well as the work of your friends. It is always good to keep the records for every research activity.
  • Respecting intellectual property – always respect copyrights, patents and any other type of intellectual property. Never use unreleased data, methods or results without consent. Never plagiarize, and always give credit where it is due.
  • Confidentiality – safeguard confidential information like personal information, military or trade secrets, and patient records. Never disclose any of this information without the necessary permission.