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Research Ethics. Sheng Zhong 10/02/2006. The study of Ethics. The study of Ethics. Understand professional expectations Examine basis for conventional behavior To get increased consciousness & ethical action. Compliance vs. Ethics . Both necessary for the conduct of responsible research

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Research Ethics

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Research Ethics

Sheng Zhong

10/02/2006


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The study of Ethics


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The study of Ethics

  • Understand professional expectations

  • Examine basis for conventional behavior

  • To getincreased consciousness & ethical action


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Compliance vs. Ethics

  • Both necessary for the conduct of responsible research

  • Compliance means that investigators and institutions follow the rules that are set out for them.

  • Ethics: know the rules and motivated to follow the rules


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Ethical behavior

  • More than simply following the rules

  • The study of how human action affects other humans, sentient beings, or the ecosystem

  • Potential of causing harm and the potential of promoting good


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Research Misconduct

Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.


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  • Fabrication: Making up data or results and recording or reporting them as factual results.

  • Falsification: Manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.


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  • Plagiarism: The appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit, including those obtained through confidential review of others' research proposals and manuscripts.


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Research Integrity Officer

Institutional official responsible for assessing allegations of research misconduct. The Research Integrity Officer at most institutions, is the Vice President for Research, or that person's designee.


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Legally Required

This terminology is used in the course to differentiate actions that are merely in compliance (legally required) from those actions that are ethically permitted.


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General Morality

General morality dictates that it is not acceptable to cause pain, death, disability, or deprive someone of freedom or pleasure without justification. General morality also requires that acts of deception, cheating, promise-breaking, law-breaking and neglect of responsibility be considered examples of wrongdoing unless there is justification for the acts.


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  • Ethically Prohibited: Actions that are contrary to those required by general morality or by reasonable expectations within the research community and are not justifiable. People are blameworthy for acting in ethically prohibited ways.

  • Ethically Permitted: Actions that are consistent with those required by general morality and by reasonable expectations within the research community. It is ethically permitted to do more than follow minimal rules and regulations.


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  • Ethically Required: Actions that follow from the special role-related responsibilities of being a researcher. It is ethically required that researchers be in compliance with federal and institutional rules and regulations.

  • Ethically Encouraged: Actions that are ethically permitted and, in addition, are intended to lessen suffering or lessen the risk of suffering harms.


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Case Study I

  • Repeat the experiment (at a cost of approximately 6 months, 300 animals, and $40,000)

  • Attempt to publish the findings omitting the questionable samples

  • Assign the two samples to their likely groups and publish the statistically significant and convincing results.


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Repeating the experiment is an ethically permitted and ethically encouraged approach. One of the role related responsibilities of scientists is to achieve accurate reproducible results. Whatever the reasons, unless the experiment is repeated, Dr. Leyos cannot attest that the results are accurate or reproducible.


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  • However, the grant that funded this project did not budget for repeat of the experiment. So while Dr. Leyos wants to repeat the experiment, he must now decide among a number of courses of action.

  • Take $40,000 already approved by the funding agency to support a post-doctoral student and use that money to cover the additional experiment.

  • Apply for other funding to repeat the experiment. In the proposal, Dr. Leyos explains that the results are currently just shy of statistical significance, but does not give details about the earlier problems.

  • Explain the problems that have occurred to the funders and request additional funds to support the testing required for statistical significance.


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