Ethics it is often used in association with

Ethics
is derived from the Greek word ethos
that means character. In a broader
context, it is often used in association with the activities of any
organization or a system and if they abide by the professional codes of
conduct. It determines a system of moral principles based on what we perceive
to be good for individuals as well as for our society overall and how should their
interests and rights can be protected. It is dependent on 3 main ideals of
ethical morality; respect for human dignity, respect for basic rights and to be
good citizens (Thiroux & Krasemann, 1980).

In
the world of research, it is prudent to protect the vested interests of the
researchers as well as participants of the study. Often, there is a fine line
between the methods that can be deemed fit or unfit for researching on human
subjects, for example. And therefore, it is important to ensure that these
subjects are protected, and they are responsibly being used for conducting
effective research for advancing our knowledge. Moreover, it is also
simultaneously important that the researchers use scientifically sound
methodologies t conduct their work and do not fabricate the results that can
skew the human understanding or give false hope. It is prudent to ensure that
the fraud cases like that of Woo Suk Hwang are not repeated (Heyden et al.,
2009). Hence, ethics pertains to all ways of behaving and interacting with the
stakeholders involved in the research (including the principal investigators as
well besides the participants) to ensure that there is no abuse of authority or
power. Moreover, ethics and set codes of conducts can delineate the framework
which must be used as the rule to interact with other colleagues and people so
that knowledge can be acquired in a responsible and safe environment and
exploitation of resources is being strictly discouraged (National Health & Medical Research
Council, accessed on 12th December 2017).

Why do people require
ethical approval to undertake research?

In
the world of scientific research, every day a new discovery is being made,
largely owing to the animal and human subjects. Therefore, it is prudent to
think about the harm these subjects are prone to while research is being
conducted and how much of the discomfort can be effectively avoided by adopting
better research methodologies.  Scientific
researchers are in most situations focused on the aims and outcomes of their
work and less about the repercussions their work might have on the live human
subjects. Therefore, ethical approval sets a precedent, forcing the researchers
to pause and think of these consequences and strive towards minimizing the risk
or harm of the study (National Health
& Medical Research Council, accessed on 12th December 2017).

Furthermore,
the process of ethical approval and help researchers in thinking of more robust
methodologies and highlight negatives/pitfalls of their research study and help
them in improving upon their work. It helps to give perspective to the research
objectives in relation to the inherent risk to the participant, and respect to
their rights of autonomy and informed consent (Heyden et al., 2009).

Moreover,
the need to seek ethical approval before undertaking scientific research
ensures that the participants of the study and researchers themselves are both
protected. It ensures that the vested interests of any party do not negatively
influence the way the other party is being asked to participate in the study or
their health etc. It establishes a clear framework to work within and enhance
the ethical and scientific quality of the research being undertaken.
Furthermore, it promotes the transparency of the work being conducted and
ensures dissemination of the research findings as well as the methodology
employed to obtain the results. By monitoring the ethics of scientific research
practice and performance, incidents involving fraud and misconduct can be
avoided and the research can be effectively used for the betterment of the
humankind (National Academy of Sciences, 2009).

 

Part 2: “Case Study 1: Incident
report of a PhD research project – An exploration of the experiences of mothers
who have a premature baby”

From examination of the
case study, analyze what has gone wrong and why?

The
scientific world is based on the solid foundation of trust. The case study
highlights the careless and negligent behavior of the research team who
disregarded the rules and professional code of conduct established by the
Ethics Committee time and again. They hence revoked the trust vested in their
research community. There was falsification of the study since the research is
no longer being represented anymore as compared to their initial study plan
since they disregarded the pool of participants by including fathers of
premature baby in the study and conducting the interviews in venues other than
the delivery room. Since the study clearly states that it is aimed at exploring
the experiences of mothers who have premature baby, the inclusion of fathers in
the study distorts the purpose and scope of the study (National Academy of
Sciences, 2009).

Moreover,
there was a gap in communication between the participants and the researchers
as reflected by the fact that participants did not know that they had to
initial the consent form rather than tick it. This negligence can suggest that
the non-compliance of participant information sheets and consent forms can
possibly lead to the distortion in the way study is being conducted and how the
results will be interpreted eventually (Thiroux & Krasemann, 1980). Moreover,
there has been a breach of confidentiality by not removing the participant’s
information from the transcripts of the interviews, implicating the careless
behavior of the researchers.

Furthermore,
the team undermined their own authority and trustworthiness as researchers by
not communicating the changes in the protocol and clarifications for doing so
to the Ethics Committee. To further complicate the trustworthiness of the
study, the researches failed to communicate the reason for extending the study
and submit the annual progress report to the Ethics Committee. These problems
collectively reflect upon the poor experimental design, careless measurements
and nonchalant behavior of the researchers, putting their hard effort at
collecting data under scrutiny due to improper manipulation (National Health
& Medical Research Council, accessed on 12th December 2017).

 

What may be the
consequences of the violation including how it may affect progress in the field
and possible changes in policy?

Primarily,
the lack of responsible code of the researcher’s team may subject the findings
of the study to be disregarded and put the credibility of the researchers into
questions for all the future as well as previous work that they might be
involved in. Even if the impeachments to the professional code of conduct as
set by the Ethics Committee has been due to an honest mistake, it puts a
greater risk on the progress of the field since the collected data cannot be
efficiently analyzed and used for the betterment of human understanding (National
Academy of Sciences, 2009).

Furthermore,
it can put a great deal of risk on the researchers in cases where the
participants decide to legally pursue the case against them for not being able
to maintain confidentiality and being dishonest/unclear about the rights they
were entitled to after becoming part of the study. Therefore, the
non-compliance with the details approved by the Ethics Committee while
compiling the Participant Information Sheets and the Consent Forms can lead to
indeliberate complications of not being able to keep the participants
adequately informed by the purpose and the scope of the study, which is their
due right. Respect for the autonomy and informed consent of the participants is
the most crucial aspect of conducting any research study (Slowther et al.,
2006). Moreover, the importance of their role might be neglected in the
process. Consequently, the ability to conduct research in this area can become
much more difficult with stringent policies. Even if the researchers continue
to abide by the set code of conduct and research honestly in future, their
reputation would have been harmed, decreasing the impact and reach of their
work (National Health & Medical
Research Council, accessed on 12th December 2017).

However,
on a positive side, the lessons learnt from these mistakes can be
institutionalized and used to improve the process through which the researchers
are trained to conduct responsible research. The process can be further
streamlined with multiple checkpoints during the time the study is being
conducted to ensure effective communication between the participants and the
team of researchers and between the Ethics Committee and the team of
researchers as well. In this way, small negligent mistakes can be rectified
well in time so that they don’t lead up to disregarding the findings of any
study. Increase of peer review and effective communication between the relevant
parties can collectively help in improving upon the process through which
researchers can be taught to practice research in a more responsible way (National Health & Medical Research
Council, accessed on 12th December 2017).

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