The world is an interesting place, especially when we’re exposed to WHAT the hell is happening through headlines that bombard us everyday, time and time again, leading us to wonder, WHY the hell are these people doing what they are doing?
It’s a question of ethics. It’s a question of distinguishing between right and wrong, whether by the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, the code of professional conduct’s Hippocratic Oath, “First of all, do no harm” or finally, the Ten Commandments. But the definitive and most common way of defining “ethics” is, the norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour (Resnik, 2011).
According to Resnik, the development of distinguishing right from wrong commonly takes place during childhood – at school, in church or most likely, at home – whereas our moral compass develops throughout life and human beings pass through different stages of growth as they mature through ethical norms that commonly vary between disciplines, institutions, and professions to suit their particular aims and goals. These norms also help members of the discipline to organise their actions or activities, while gaining the publics trust.
For example, ethical norms govern conduct in medicine, law, engineering, and business, while more specifically, the method, procedure, or perspective of these ethics are factors that decide how to act or analyse complex problems and issues. There’s also a specialised discipline, research ethics, which studies these norms in detail, and through this, several reasons on why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research arise (Resnik, 2011):
- Promote the aims of research; such as knowledge, truth and avoidance of error, these are exercised through prohibitions against fabrication, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data.
- Values essential to collaborative work; such as trust, accountability, mutual respect and fairness that are evident in the guidelines for authorship, copyright and patenting policies, data sharing policies and confidentiality rules in peer review are designed to protect intellectual property interests while encouraging collaboration.
- Accountable to the public; in order to make sure that researchers who are funded by the public, Federal Policies on research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the protection of human subjects and animal care are necessary.
- Public Support; the public is more likely to fund research projects if they can trust the quality and integrity of research.
- Moral and Social values; such as social responsibility, human rights, animal welfare, compliance with the law, and health & safety, enable a researcher to avoid fabricating data in a clinical trial that may lead to the injury or even death of patients.
The bodies that regulate these practices take the form of Institutional Review Boards and Human Research Ethics Committees, professional Codes of Ethics and Codes of Professional Behaviour, who provide guidelines and assess research proposals to maintain consistency in ethical standards and the quality of the research process (Weerakkody, 2008).
Resnik, D. (2011, May). What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Bioethics .
Weerakkody, N. (2008). Research Ethics in Media and Communication. Research Methods for Media and Communications , 73-91.