Research is the systematic and objective process of collecting, documenting, analyzing and interpreting data for decision making. Ethics can be defined as ‘the norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.’ Ethical standards govern conduct in medicine, law, engineering and business. Similarly, ethical norms must be followed in any kind of research so that it can serve the aims or goals of research. Ethical norms apply to anyone who conducts scientific research or any other scholarly or creative activities. It is very important to adhere to the ethical norms in research, as lapses in research ethics can significantly harm human and animal subjects, students as well as the common man directly or indirectly.
Ethics promote the basic objectives of conducting research, such as enhancement of knowledge, discovery of the truth and avoidance of error. It also promotes the values that are essential to carry out collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect and fairness in all deals and activities. It also helps to ensure that researchers remain accountable to the public at large which in turn helps to build public support for research. It also promotes a variety of other important moral and social values, such as social responsibility, human rights and animal welfare, compliance with the law, and public health and safety.
Many different professional associations, government agencies and universities at the international level have adopted specific codes, rules and policies relating to research ethics. Many government agencies have ethics rules for funded researchers, e.g.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Other influential research ethics policies include:
- Singapore Statement on Research Integrity,
- American Chemical Society,
- Chemist Professional’s Code of Conduct,
- Code of Ethics (American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science)
- American Psychological Association,
- Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct,
- Statement on Professional Ethics (American Association of University Professors),
- Nuremberg Code and
- World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki.
As researchers, we all must know and follow the research ethics globally accepted by scientific community. However, many times, either due to ignorance, we fail to follow them or simply ignore them as there are no strict regulatory procedures maintained at different levels in our universities and institutions. Here we are mentioning in brief a summary of the globally accepted Ethical Principles (Adapted from Shamoo A and Resnik D. 2015. Responsible Conduct of Research, 3rd ed., New York: Oxford University Press).
A researcher should honestly report data, results, methods and procedures, and the publication status and should never fabricate, falsify or misrepresent data in an attempt to deceive colleagues, research sponsors or the public.
A researcher should try his best to avoid any bias or prejudice in experimental design, data analysis, interpretation, peer review of his/her research, and other aspects of research where impartiality is expected or needed.
One should always keep his/her promises and agreements, must act with sincerity and try hard to keep consistency in thought and action.
Researchers should avoid careless errors and negligence. He/she should carefully and critically examine the work carried out and keep appropriate records of the research activities, such as the collected data, design of experiment and any communication with agencies or journals relating to publication and publicity of the research output.
Research data, methods, tools, results and resources are to be shared with peers and colleagues. One should always remain open to face criticism and to accept new ideas.
Respect for Intellectual Property:
A researcher must honour patents, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property. Unpublished data, methods or results should not be used or divulged without permission of the original worker. Proper acknowledgement or credit for all contributions to research should be given in any form of research publication. Plagiarism must be avoided at all cost.
Researchers should protect the confidential communications, such as papers or research proposals submitted for publication or obtaining grants, personnel records, any kind of trade or military secrets, and patient records.
All important research outputs are needed to be published in order to advance research and scholarship; however, publications should not attempt to advance just the personal career of the researcher.
A researcher or supervisor should always help to educate, mentor and advise students, and should promote their welfare and give them liberty to make their own decisions.
Respect for colleagues:
Colleagues should be respected and treated fairly.
A researcher should strive to promote social welfare and try to protect the society from any harm through his/her research.
Discrimination against colleagues or students on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or other factors not related to scientific competence and integrity must be avoided.
A researcher should always try to maintain and continuously improve his/her professional competence and expertise through consistent effort to learn new things.
Knowing and obeying relevant laws of the land and the policies and regulations in vogue in his/her institution/government is an obligation for a researcher.
One should also show respect and care for animals when using them in research and should never conduct an unnecessary or poorly designed animal experiment.
Human Subjects Protection:
When conducting research on human subjects, a researcher should try to minimize harms and risks to the subjects, and maximize benefits; he/she should respect human dignity, privacy and rights.
The following are some “Other deviations” from acceptable research practices commonly observed:
1.Publishing the same paper in two different journals without telling the editors.
2.Not informing a collaborator of your intent to file a patent in order to make sure that you are the sole inventor.
3.Including a colleague as an author on a paper in return for a favour even though the colleague did not make a serious contribution to the paper.
4.Discussing with your colleagues confidential data from a paper that you are reviewing for a journal.
5.Using data, ideas, or methods you learn about while reviewing a grant or a papers without permission.
6.Using an inappropriate statistical technique in order to enhance the significance of your research.
7.Bypassing the peer review process and announcing your results through a press conference without giving peers adequate information to review your work.
8.Giving the same research project to two graduate students in order to see who can do it the fastest.
9.Overworking, neglecting, or exploiting graduate or post- doctoral students.
10.Failing to keep good research records.
11.Failing to maintain research data for a reasonable period of time.
12.Making derogatory comments and personal attacks in your review of author’s submission.
13.Promising a student a better grade for some favors.
14.Using a racist epithet in the laboratory.
15.Making significant deviations from the research protocol approved by your institution’s Animal Care and Use Committee or Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects Research without telling the committee or the board.
16.Not reporting an adverse event in a human research experiment
17.Exposing students and staff to biological risks in violation of your institution’s biosafety rules
18.Making unauthorized copies of data, papers, or computer programs.
19.Deliberately overestimating the clinical significance of a new drug in order to obtain economic benefits
Let’s try hard to adhere to the afore-mentioned ethics in research at both individual and institutional level in order to guarantee safety and security to everyone, and finally for ensuring social harmony and welfare through our research.