Friday, 9 December, 2022

Ethical Considerations in Sociological Research

Dr Matiur Rahman

Ethical Considerations in Sociological Research

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Research ethics are the 'ethical' principles that determine how a researcher should conduct research. These principles shape research regulations agreed upon by groups such as university governing committees, communities or governments.

All researchers should follow any rules applicable to their work. Over the years, various individuals have defined ethical principles for researchers. A clear example is the Belmont Report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 1978, which described basic ethical principles for research on human participants. One should consider these principles when they are planning their research.

Moreover, to help researchers ensure that their work is ethical, many organizations develop guidelines and checklists of dos and don'ts that enable researchers to determine practical steps to ensure that their research is ethical. Ethical guidelines protect participants or research subjects from plants to animals and humans, and research ethics provide guidelines for the responsible conduct of research. Furthermore, it educates and monitors scientists' research to ensure a high ethical standard.

The first general principle is integrity, which requires honest reporting of data collection, results, procedures and disclosure status. Do not falsify or misrepresent data. Efforts should be made to avoid bias in experimental design, data analysis, data interpretation, peer review, personnel decisions, grants, expert testimony, and other aspects of research.

Act by keeping promises and agreements; act with sincerity; efforts should be made for continuity of thought and action. Avoid omissions or errors; examine your work and peers' work carefully and critically. Good records of research activities should be kept.

Share data, results, ideas, tools, and resources. Need to be open to criticism and new ideas. Do not use unpublished data, methods or marks without permission regarding patents, copyrights, books, texts and other forms of intellectual property. Never plagiarism.

Confidential communications must be protected, such as papers or grants submitted for publication, personnel records, trade or military secrets, and patient records, besides helping train, mentor, and advise students. Promote their welfare and allow them to make their own decisions. One should show respect to colleagues and treat them usually and well.

Efforts should be made to promote societal good and prevent or reduce social harm through research, public education, and advocacy. Avoid discrimination against research participants, colleagues or students based on sex, race, ethnicity or other factors unrelated to their scientific competence and integrity.

To maintain and improve skills through lifelong learning and to take steps to promote science skills. Know and obey relevant laws and institutional and government policies. Minimizing harms and risks and maximizing benefits when conducting research with human subjects; human dignity, privacy and autonomy should be respected.

On the other hand, according to the American Sociological Association (ASA), ethics are self-regulatory guidelines for making decisions and defining professions. By establishing ethical codes, professional organizations maintain the profession's integrity, define members' expected behaviour, and protect the welfare of subjects and clients. Furthermore, ethical principles guide professionals when dealing with dilemmas or confusing situations.

Many organizations, such as the American Sociological Association, establish ethical policies and guidelines. Most of today's social scientists adhere to the ethical guidelines of their respective institutions.

The ASA's Code of Ethics outlines the principles and ethical standards that underlie sociologists' professional responsibilities and conduct. These principles and standards should be guidelines when examining daily professional activities, and they constitute normative statements for sociologists and guide on issues they may encounter in their professional work. The ASA's Code of Ethics contains five general principles and interpretations.

Sociologists strive to maintain the highest level of competence in their work; they recognize the limitations of their skills and only accept jobs for which they are qualified by education, training or experience. They acknowledge the need for ongoing learning to remain professionally competent. They are skilled in scientific professions necessary to ensure competence in their professional activities Dar, using technical and administrative resources. They consult with other professionals to benefit their students, research participants, and clients.

Sociologists are honest, fair, and respectful of others in their professional activities—research, teaching, practice, and service. Sociologists do not knowingly act in ways that endanger their or others' professional welfare. Sociologists conduct their subjects in ways that inspire trust and confidence; they do not intentionally make false, misleading or deceptive statements.

Sociologists adhere to the highest scientific and professional standards and take responsibility for their work. Sociologists understand that they form a community and show respect for other sociologists even when they disagree on theoretical, methodological, or personal approaches to professional activity.

Sociologists value the public's trust in sociology and are concerned about their ethical behaviour and that of other sociologists that might compromise that trust. While always striving to be academic, sociologists should never overstep their shared responsibility for ethical behaviour. When appropriate, they consult with colleagues to prevent or avoid unethical conduct.

Sociologists respect all people's rights, dignity and worth. They try to eliminate bias in their professional activities. They do not tolerate discrimination based on age; gender, race, ethnicity; religion, sexual orientation; disability, health condition; marital status, wealth or economic status of parents, etc.

They serve individuals with distinctive characteristics and are sensitive to cultural, individual and role differences in teaching and learning groups. In all their work-related activities, sociologists recognize the right of others to hold values, perspectives, and opinions that differ from their own.

Sociologists know their professional and scientific responsibilities to the communities and societies in which they live and work. They apply and express their knowledge to contribute to public welfare. While conducting research, they strive to advance sociological understanding and serve the public good.

So it can be said that the above ethical issues should always be considered in any research.


The writer is a researcher and development worker