lacuwufe's version from 2017-12-11 16:01


QA) What kinds of harm may be caused when conducting research? Discuss examples of where this has/or could have taken place and how it can be avoided


Types of harm that can be caused when conducting research -


1) Physical harm
e.g. An example of harm was the victims and perpetrators of Nazi human experimentation when Medical practitioners seized opportunities offered by war and genocide to advance scientific agendas, without regard for the moral and ethical consequences of human exploitation.


2) By damaging their development or self-esteem
e.g. The Tuskegee experiment. Was run for 50 years in the US on black males who had syphilis but were not told they had syphilis or got any treatment, even after it became treatable. In stopped in the 1970s, apology in 1997 by President Clinton, long after many had died, suffered, family affected.


3) By causing stress
4) By hurting their career prospects/employment opportunities
5) By breaking confidentiality


6) By revealing their identity


e.g The Rathje and the Tuscon garbage study: Where researchers gathered residents’ waste to match up to residents who produced the waste. Garbage included letters bills and could have contained evidence of wrong-doing. Body parts were even discovered twice during the study. Morally obligated as a researcher to report a crime or morally obligated to your research subjects to keep quiet?


A significant example that caused psychological/physical harm to subjects -


The Stanford Prison Experiment: Philip Zimbardo: 1971
- The researchers wanted to know how the participants would react when placed in a stimulated prison environment
- Received ethical approval from the university of Stanford and from the Office of Naval research
- Set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford Universities psychology building and then selected 24 undergraduate students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards.
- The experiment was originally meant to last 14 days but it was stopped just after six due to the guards becoming abusive and the prisoners showed signs of extreme stress and anxiety
- When the prisoners began to experience severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety, they were released from the study early
- Psychological harm: Prisoners showed signs of distress, 3 left after showing signs of severe emotional distress, 1 removed because of controllable screaming and showed signs of depression
- Physical harm: burned skin because of carbon dioxide, officers used fire extinguishers on them
- Issues of consent: (r.e arrests/anticipated physical risk) had the people recruited understood what they had been recruited for- things could have been significantly different


However, despite this the researchers did deliberately select non-vulnerable people who could cope with this sort of environment. Post-research study, questionnaires were conducted after several weeks and then annually. No lasting effects were found nor harm.


How it can be avoided-


Diener and Chandall, 1978
- Experiments such as the Nazi experimentation or the Tuskgee experiment have shaped the codes of practice and the legal position of researchers around the world, both medical and social
- For example, the Nuremburg Code (1946) was conducted in response to WWII experiments and set out a variety of ethical principles for research ethics and human experimentation
- The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has a framework for research ethics including principles of informed/voluntary/anonymity/no harm for participants.
- Harm does not just mean experimenting on people, by controlling data we have power over people, so we have a responsibility to protect this data and not cause them harm
- Researchers need to be aware of the ways in which we can be complicit in research
- No harm should come to the research participants
- They should agree to participate and know what the research is about, this can be avoided through a document assuring informed
consent e.g. Has the subject been given informed consent, please attach the consent form if so
- Solomon Asch produced a conformity test in 1951
- Their privacy should not be invaded
- They should not be lied to or cheated a.k.a no deception. Deception usually means that we represent our research as something other than it is, so respondents respond more naturally.
- We must be vigilant in keeping deception to a minimum and if it is necessary, mitigate its degree and effects as much as possible
- As researchers, it is vital to be aware and to behave responsibly
- Researchers have an ethical obligation to facilitate the evaluation of their evidence through data access, production transparency so that their work can be tested or replicated
- 1988 Data protection act: personal data must be relevant to the purpose for which they are processed
- Building on the standard prison experiment, the 2001 BBC Prison study arguably conducted research in a much more ethical way


2001 Prison study
- Drawing on the Stanford experiment, the research was orchestrated to look at tyranny and resistance
- 10 prisoners, 5 guards
- Ethical safeguards were as following
i. 2 clinical psychologists present or on call for 24 hours a day, power to intervene and remove participants
ii. Paramedics and security guards on hand
iii. Constant monitoring from 5-person independent ethics panel chaired by an MP


Issues about assuring privacy and informed consent
- Implementing principles of anonymity and confidentiality is ‘easier said than done’ (Homan, 1991)
- It is extremely difficult to present prospective participants with absolutely all the information that might be needed to be make an informed decision about their involvement
- In ethnographic research, the researcher is likely to come into contact with a wide spectrum of people, and making sure everyone has informed consent is not realistic.
- The boundary between ethical and unethical practices is not precise
- The potential for deception/lack of informed consent is likely for most research
- Internet-based research provides new ethical dilemmas


Additional ethical considerations -


i. Data – is it distributed evenly? Will it exacerbate existing divisions (i.e. if participants receive large financial incentives to participate?) Could they be perceived to be coercive?
ii. Care of vulnerable persons – i.e usually below the age of consent/vulnerable social or ethnic groups/ who can give consent?
iii. Online research – How to gain consent? Is material public or private? Hackers? Data protection? Distinction between public and private is blurred. A lot of consent issues over visual images.
iv. Harm to researchers not just to participants – Dual roles (studying those over whom have duty of care)/Travel advisories – Ethnographic research in Syria?
v. Ethical reporting – Avoid judgemental words/the published work has potential to affect how community or individuals are viewed. If identities are discovered? What might be the consequences, can the researcher/participants live with them?