So for the year ten school certificate, the last long answer question was on ‘ethics’. But being the cool kid I was, I didn’t study at all so of course I had no idea what ethics was. I took a wild guess and semi thought it related to ‘ethNics’. Nup. So wrong. I am going to attempt to get it right this time. So, what actually is ethics?
The meaning of ‘ethics’ is hard to pin down due to people having so many different and unique views about ethics. Many people tend to equate ethics with their feeling. For example, what is right and what is wrong. In simple terms, ethics can be seen as a system of moral principals, effecting how people make decisions and lead their lives. The term ‘ethics’ come from the Greek word ‘ethos’ which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
“what is right can be subjective, which is why different people will have different standards of what is right and wrong, and what is acceptable or unacceptable”
Why in particular is research ethics so important? There are many reasons why it is important to adhere to ethical norms in research. Ethics can promote the aims of research, such as knowledge, truth and avoidance of error. E.g. prohibitions against fabricating, falsifying or misrepresenting research data promote the truth and avoid error. Ethical standards also promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, fairness and mutual respect. This includes copyright policies, guidelines for authorship, data sharing policies and confidentiality rules in peer review. The majority of researchers wish to receive credit for their work instead of someone using their work and stating it as their own – I’m sure we are all familiar with plagiarism. Ethical norms help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the public, help build public support for research and finally promote a variety of moral and social values such as human/animal rights.
There is no denying that ethics isn’t important for the conducting of research; many different professional associations, government agencies and universities have adopted specific codes, rules and policies in regards to research ethics. These codes and policies include:
- Respect for Intellectual Property
- Responsible Publication
- Responsible Mentoring
- Respect for colleagues
- Social Responsibility
- Animal Care
- Human Subjects Protection
Evidently ethics is essential in research. To some ethics may be seen as common sense but it can be worth while to do a bit of research… just in case.
Bbc.co.uk, (2015). BBC – Ethics – Introduction to ethics: Ethics: a general introduction. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml [Accessed 4 Apr. 2015].
Niehs.nih.gov, (2015). What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?. [online] Available at: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/whatis/ [Accessed 4 Apr. 2015].
Scu.edu, (2015). What is Ethics?. [online] Available at: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics.html [Accessed 4 Apr. 2015].
Weerakkody, N D 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91