Teacher Response to Homework #4

Grades on Blackboard.

Ethics Schmethics

When I talk to people in industry about the ways academics do research, they look at me as though I’ve just said “I love smallpox!” Industry researchers are all about solving problems and they don’t see why anyone would go through all the trouble to develop scripts, file IRB, etc.

Then I ask them what they’re doing and they say something like: “I’ve spent the last 9 months interviewing corporate executives about their workflow to help improve it.”

Me: “Did you reveal their identity to the public?”

Them: “No.”

Me: “Why not?”

Them: “They’re my client. That would be highly unethical.”

Me: “Exactly.”

My point is that everyone is invested in some form of research ethics, whether they realize it or not. Unless you’re a tabloid journalist, when you interview someone, you don’t want to defame them. Unless you’re a used car salesmen, when you survey a bunch of post customers, you don’t use that information to exploit them.

It is arguable that academics do things to extremes by overly bureaucratizing the process and requiring oversight on top of oversight on top of oversight. ECU is the second institution I’ve been at that has a “Committee on Committees,” whose job is make decisions about who’s making decisions.

What we do get right, though (at least most of the time, I hope), is research ethics, which should always protect participants, first, second, third, and forty-third. So, whenever you do a research project for the rest of your life, as yourself: is it in the best interests of your participants? Is there a potential to cause them harm? How can you mitigate that potential?

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