Ethics in research a primer
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Ethics in Research: A Primer. Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein Department of Philosophy and Religion University of North Dakota UND Graduate Research Assistant Orientation. Ethics. (1) The study of right or proper action. It asks, “What ought I do?”

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Ethics in Research: A Primer

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Ethics in research a primer

Ethics in Research: A Primer

Dr. Jack Russell Weinstein

Department of Philosophy and Religion

University of North Dakota

UND Graduate Research Assistant Orientation.


Ethics

Ethics

  • (1) The study of right or proper action. It asks, “What ought I do?”

  • (2) The study of the Good life. It asks, “What kind of person ought I be?”


1 the study of right or proper action

(1) The study of right or proper action.

  • When Ethics is concerned with action, it assumes that we can determine the propriety of an act based on either (a) intention or (b) consequences. The former attempts to evaluate our motivations; the latter attempts to predict the future.

    All Ethical Standards are Imperfect.

    All Ethical Principles Are Fallible.


2 the study of the good life

(2) The study of the Good life

  • When Ethics is concerned with the Good life, it emphasizes character. It takes a holistic approach, considering people’s actions, their intentions, their desires, and their emotions over time.

    Definitions of the Good life are only possible in a coherent tradition and belief system.

    In this type of ethical theory, principles and standards are imprecise and ambiguous.


What responsibilities do we have towards others

What responsibilities do we have towards others?

  • others as human beings?

  • others as our audience?

  • others as our teachers?

  • others as our students?

  • others as our peers?

  • others as our supervisors?

  • others as our community of inquiry?

  • others as capable agents?

  • others as dependants?

  • others as less informed?

  • others as more informed?


What responsibilities do we have towards ourselves

What responsibilities do we have towards ourselves?

  • ourselves as developing people?

  • ourselves as developing professionals?

  • ourselves as teachers?

  • ourselves as learners?

  • ourselves as the curious or interested?

  • ourselves as those with commitments?

  • ourselves as people with limited time, energy, resources, and capabilities?


What responsibilities do we have towards the truth

What responsibilities do we have towards the Truth?

  • the Truth as uncertain?

  • the Truth as “best knowledge so far”?

  • the Truth as subjective?

  • the Truth as incomplete?

  • the Truth as many-layered and complex?

  • the Truth as multi-disciplinary?

  • The Truth as universal?

  • The Truth as having consequences?


Where do the answers to ethical questions come from and the questions themselves

Where do the answers to Ethical questions come from (and the questions themselves)?

  • Traditions and culture:

    • Sacred texts: For example: The Qur’an, Bhagavad-Gita, The Hebrew Scriptures, The Gospels, The Book of Mormon.

      These rules can be ‘revealed’ or they can be interpreted.


Where do the answers to ethical questions come from

Where do the answers to Ethical questions come from?

  • Traditions and culture:

    • Central texts: For example: The Declaration of the Rights of Man, The Constitution of the Unites States of America.

      These standards can be based on ‘original intent’ or on contemporary interpretation.


Where do the answers to ethical questions come from1

Where do the answers to Ethical questions come from?

  • Natural Law

    • An ethical principle is as true and universal as a mathematical principle. (E.g.: “All people are entitled to freedom of religion” has the same authority as “7 x 5 = 35”)

  • Intuition

    • Our “inner voice” or conscience tells us what to do.


Where do the answers to ethical questions come from2

Where do the answers to Ethical questions come from?

  • Authorities

    • People who know more about our subject area

    • People who have power over us

    • People whose opinions we rely upon


Ethics in research a primer

There are many sources of ethical answers, and which source we choose tells us as much about ourselves as the answers themselves.

Perhaps more.

How we answer any of these questions

is based on many influences,

only some of which we recognize.

Ethics often seems to be the arena in which our biases are strongest and our prejudices are the hardest to see.


Research considerations

Research Considerations:

  • Responsible researchers master the details and the big picture.

    • We must know our proper techniques, but we must also understand our theory, our questions, and our purpose.


Research considerations1

Research Considerations:

  • Our research is very specialized, but it always takes place in a larger context.

    Responsible researchers ought to be aware of both the larger disciplinary purposes and their interdisciplinary connection.


Research considerations2

Research Considerations:

  • Responsible researchers ought to acknowledge their ulterior motives and their conflicts of interest.

    • A researcher wants recognition.

    • A lab and its staff want funding.

    • A student wants a grade or a degree.


Research considerations3

Research Considerations:

  • Research involves people.

    • There are often research subjects who are affected.

    • There are always consequences to individuals, to humanity, and to the world.

      Research cannot take precedence over the people it is supposed to help. Always be aware of relevant IRB guidelines and your Professional Organization’s code of ethics.


Research considerations4

Research Considerations:

  • Research hides falsehoods. Our truths are often built on our ignorance.

    • The most “scientific” research has sometimes been the most sexist, racist, and subjective.

      Suggested Readings: The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J. Gould, and How the Dismal Science Got Its Name: Classical Economics and the Ur-Text of Racial Politics by David M. Levy


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