OJO Samuel Dunsin

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RESEARCH AND RESEARCH ETHICS

WHAT IS A RESEARCH

Research is defined as the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research to the extent that it leads to new and creative outcomes.

This definition of research is consistent with a broad notion of research and experimental development (R&D) as comprising of creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.

This definition of research encompasses pure and strategic basic research, applied research and experimental development. Applied research is original investigation undertaken to acquire new knowledge but directed towards a specific, practical aim or objective (including a client-driven purpose).

Generally, research is the organised and systematic method of finding answers to questions. It is systematic because it is a process broken up into clear steps that lead to conclusions. Research is organised because there is a planned structure or method used to reach the conclusion. Research is only successful if we find answers, whether we like these answers or not. Development research is focused on relevant, useful and important questions. If there are no questions, there can be no research.

If government, business, institutions, labour, organisations and society in general are to function efficiently and effectively, it is important that the decisions they make are based on valid and reliable information and thorough analysis. The search for this information is referred to as the research process. There maybe an existing body of evidence (prior research, studies etc) you can make use of. If there is not, there is a need for research.


ETHICAL ISSUES IN CONDUCTING RESEARCH

Ethics are broadly the set of rules, written and unwritten, that govern our expectations of our own and others’ behaviour. Effectively, they set out how we expect others to behave, and why. While there is broad agreement on some ethical values (for example, that murder is bad), there is also wide variation on how exactly these values should be interpreted in practice. Research ethics are the set of ethics that govern how scientific and other research is performed at research institutions such as universities, and how it is disseminated.

Honesty and Integrity

This means that you need to report your research honestly, and that this applies to your methods (what you did), your data, your results, and whether you have previously published any of it. You should not make up any data, including extrapolating unreasonably from some of your results, or do anything which could be construed as trying to mislead anyone. It is better to undersell than over-exaggerate your findings. When working with others, you should always keep to any agreements, and act sincerely.

Objectivity

You should aim to avoid bias in any aspect of your research, including design, data analysis, interpretation, and peer review. For example, you should never recommend as a peer reviewer someone you know, or who you have worked with, and you should try to ensure that no groups are inadvertently excluded from your research. This also means that you need to disclose any personal or financial interests that may affect your research.

Carefulness

Take care in carrying out your research to avoid careless mistakes. You should also review your work carefully and critically to ensure that your results are credible. It is also important to keep full records of your research. If you are asked to act as a peer reviewer, you should take the time to do the job effectively and fully.

Openness

You should always be prepared to share your data and results, along with any new tools that you have developed, when you publish your findings, as this helps to further knowledge and advance science. You should also be open to criticism and new ideas.

Respect for Intellectual Property

You should never plagiarise, or copy, other people’s work and try to pass it off as your own. You should always ask for permission before using other people’s tools or methods, unpublished data or results. Not doing so is plagiarism. Obviously, you need to respect copyrights and patents, together with other forms of intellectual property, and always acknowledge contributions to your research. If in doubt, acknowledge, to avoid any risk of plagiarism.

Confidentiality

You should respect anything that has been provided in confidence. You should also follow guidelines on protection of sensitive information such as patient records.

Responsible Publication

You should publish to advance to state of research and knowledge, and not just to advance your career. This means, in essence, that you should not publish anything that is not new, or that duplicates someone else’s work.

Legality

You should always be aware of laws and regulations that govern your work, and be sure that you conform to them.

Animal Care

If you are using animals in your research, you should always be sure that your experiments are both necessary and well-designed. You should also show respect for the animals you are using, and make sure that they are properly cared for.

Human Subjects Protection

If your research involves people, you should make sure that you reduce any possible harm to the minimum, and maximise the benefits both to participants and other people. This means, for example, that you should not expose people to more tests than are strictly necessary to fulfil your research aims. You should always respect human rights, including the right to privacy and autonomy. You may need to take particular care with vulnerable groups, which include, but are not limited to, children, older people, and those with learning difficulties

Non-Discrimination

Avoid discrimination against colleagues or students on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or other factors not related to scientific competence and integrity.

Social Responsibility

Strive to promote social good and prevent or mitigate social harms through research, public education, and advocacy.

Competence

Maintain and improve your own professional competence and expertise through lifelong education and learning; take steps to promote competence in science as a whole.


Source:

Resnick, D. B. (2015) What is Ethics in Research and Why is it Important? List adapted from Shamoo A and Resnik D. 2015. Responsible Conduct of Research, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press).

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