Ethics: they’re not a legal system so what’s the point of them?
Every industry has a different set of ethical conditions they uphold and more often than not they cover grey areas often in dispute. Most commonly thought of as certain rules that distinguish between right and wrong. These are known as the Golden Rule, a code of professional conduct or a religious affiliation. Basically it is an established norm, but how does this relate to the research process?
Ethics can be thought as the grout of a building process. What I mean by this is, rules, processes and people create a lovely tiled wall, but ethical standards are the very element that finish that wall off, make it look presentable and ensure that its acceptable to a wider group.
So why should ethics be considered within research projects and what difference do they make? First thing, I wish to investigate where ethical standards can be found. The Belmont Report outlines the basic ethical principles in research involving human subjects.
The second is an industry specific code that governs an American P.I. company. Advanced Surveillance Group Inc. have created a list of ethical standpoints that over-arch internal affairs. They set out to create an environment of trust and goodwill both within their own business, but also to the wider public they service.
This then leads me to question the TV show Veronica Mars. Within 3 episodes I was captured hook-line-and-sinker, devouring all 3 seasons quicker than quick. The shows focuses on the sassy Veronica, a private investigator in the making, who against consistent reprimand, seeks to solve crimes and mis-dealings on a regular basis. However, it becomes quite apparent that Miss Mars holds absolutely no regard for the Law, has no problem breaking privacy allowances and will use any means necessary to get what she wants; basically, she an ethical nightmare. Nine times out of ten Veronica gets her man, however, through stepping on the toes of many powerful people and offending a large majority of the town of Neptune, she gains a reputation and therefore many find it hard to trust her.
With this example in mind, a point is raised. Going against the grain may enable a research group to get to their end result, they may achieve certain survey or business objectives. Yet are they disturbing upstanding relationships, are they hindering further investigations from being trustworthy or are they simply creating a negative reputation for themselves?
One last side of ethics that has been used to test standards in research protocols is the Stanford Prison Experiment. Established in 1971, researches sought to see how the human condition, how right and wrong could change depending on circumstances. It is often disputed for being ethically unsound as it change certain social boundaries, however, I disagree. I believe that although the experiment displayed and created unprecedented results in quite a negative fashion, it did not do so deliberately, the participants went into the study willingly and under no false precedent and the actions that came about were of the individuals and not the researchers themselves.
That is the very basis of ethics and why they are so interchangeable and disputed. There are no hard and fast answers for what ethically sound. It is a topic that requires thought and consideration, so, with that in mind, where do you stand?
Comment below for your stand point!
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences 2013, What is Ethics in research & Why is it Important, Resnik D. B., http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/whatis/ Accessed 12th of May 2015
HHS gov 2001, Fedral Policy for the Protection of HUman Subjects (Common Policy), http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/commonrule/, Accessed 12th of May 2015