Q: Why is ethics important for social research?

3 Answers to this question

it is important to protect the integrity, respect rights and and privacy of your participants


Any study that involves human subjects, whether interventional or observational, needs to be ethical so as to respect the participants' right to make autonomous decisions and to ensure that participants are protected from harm of any form, be it physical, mental, or emotional. Historically, there have been cases of disastrous ethical breaches in biomedical as well as social research resulting in damage to the participants’ health or psyche. The Tuskegee syphilis study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service (1930s – 1970s) and psychologist Stanley Milgram’s 1963 project concerning “obedience to authority” are instances of ethical breach in medical and social research respectively. Such cases necessitated the creation of ethical guidelines and principles governing research on human subjects. Thus, ethics is critical for research in the fields of biomedical studies, health sciences, as well as social sciences.  

The Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki are two major ethical codes of conduct that protect the rights and interests of human subjects in biomedical research. In The social sciences too have their own set of ethical guidelines to be followed. Organizations such as the American Sociological Association and the American Psychological Association have established clear ethical principles and guidelines. The main aim of such guidelines is to assess the risks against the benefits of participation and to ensure complete transparency to the research participants. Informed consent, voluntary participation, and protection of participants’ identity are some of the important ethical prnciples governing social and biomedical research.  

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