The Ethics of the Scientific Research essay

Introduction

Science and real life are strongly interconnected. On the one hand, the processes in the social reality and the developments in the life of nature are the principal sources for scientific researches. On the other hand, all scientific investigations aim to provide some impact on the life of the society. In this way, researches can influence the way people interact between each other: some of them can discover something new in the relations between different aspects of reality; others may contribute to overcoming some dangerous diseases, etc. All of this determines the enormous responsibility that scientists undertake when they start conducting a research. That is why such responsibility should be treated as a holistic system with the major elements and links between them; moreover, it should have a defined scope. Therefore, there exists the ethics of scientific research. Usually, ethics is understood as a particular set of rules and behavioral models which help regulate the relations between the individuals in the society and avoid conflicts. Generally speaking, ethics makes people distinguish between what is good and bad. Ethical rules are deeply rooted in the consciousness of every individual because the basic moral principles were formulated in ancient times, and along with the development of the history, new rules have emerged in different spheres of human life. Currently, law is the main regulator of the relations between individuals and states, but ethics is still a significant factor that contributes to the effective organization of social interactions. There are specific codes of ethics in every professional activity; furthermore, almost every company, association, or organization elaborates its own list of ethical principles.

Evidently, there is a particular set of ethical rules regarding the conduct of scientific research. The issue of research ethics arose for the first time at international level after the World War II, mainly during the Nurnberg Trial 1946-1947. The segment of this trial concerned doctors who were accused of conducting torturous and cruel experiments on the prisoners in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. During the Nurnberg Trial, the so-called Nurnberg Code, a set of ethical rules for undertaking the research, was developed. Since that time, ethical guidelines have evolved considerably; and now, they are applied not only in medicine but in all fields of scientific knowledge. Strict following of ethical rules is a critical factor for the success of the investigation. The point is that the research is not conducted only by the scientist, but it involves plenty of people. First of all, the scientist cooperates with the participants of the research; there might be either co-authors that have been permanently engaged in the investigation process or participants of the interviews or experiments who have a temporary impact on the research. Moreover, the researcher has the responsibilities toward his mentors and advisors who help him or her to succeed in the scientific work.

Furthermore, the scientist obviously has commitment to the readers influenced by his investigation. In the book On Being a Scientist: A Guide To Responsible Conduct In Research, all these obligations are reduced to three items: “towards other researchers, towards oneself, and towards the public”. There exist some general principles of ethics which are applicable to all sciences; however, it is also necessary to keep in mind that every particular research may require specific guidelines that fit its context and respond to the challenges which could emerge during the process of investigation.

 

General Principles of Ethics

The principles described below are applicable to the research “The Effects of the physical workplace design layout, whether it be at a commercial property or at home, have on project-oriented companies and its efficiency and success”.

  1. Fairness and honesty. One of the key principles of the scientific research is to present fair information on the topic, true results of the investigation, and relevant data. Since the ancient times, searching for the truth has been one of the main features of scientific activities, and the same principle is still relevant nowadays. Therefore, in order to conduct fair scientific investigations and provide considerable social impact, the researcher should avoid any falsification, fabrication, or fraud.
  2. Objectivity. In a scientific work, the researcher should avoid bias. The principal aim of the investigator is to contribute to the development of scientific knowledge and progress of mankind. Therefore, the scholar should strive to introduce different opinions in the work in order to create a holistic image of the subject, regardless of the personal or financial influences.
  3. Use of the clear scientific methods which could be verified. The research acquires real social and scientific significance only if it is possible to verify all the results that the author presents therein. That is why all the methods used during the investigation should be described in detail, and other scientists are able to achieve the same results by applying those methods.
  4. Openness. The researcher has to be ready to perceive the constructive criticism of the work and take into account some useful suggestions and advice. Moreover, the researcher should make the results of the work available for the wide audience within the intellectual property law. In addition, the researcher has to share the acquired knowledge with the students.
  5. Critical assessment of the sources. In order to ensure the objectivity of the scientific research, the author should critically evaluate the sources used during investigations. It means not only evaluating the relevance of the information provided in the sources but also paying attention to the personality and academic status of the contributor of a particular article or book.
  6. Attention to the details. The researcher should be able to critically evaluate his or her own work and endeavor to avoid any negligence, errors, or mistakes. Only high carefulness could provide for the quality of the research.
  7. Respect for human dignity and rights. The majority of scientific researches involve close cooperation between the writer and other participants of the project. The researcher should behave respectfully toward the colleagues, respect the privacy of the participants of the investigation and confidentiality of the information. Furthermore, the scientist should avoid any discrimination on the basis of sex, race, nationality, religion, etc.
  8. Respect for the intellectual property. The researcher has to pay considerable attention to the copyright, patents, and other forms of intellectual property. The scholar should also avoid plagiarism and using unpublished data without proper permission.

Practical Application of Ethical Principles in the Scientific Research

Foregoing rules of ethics create the general framework for ethical and responsible conduct of the research, but it is also necessary to discuss how these guidelines can be applied to some practical matters which may take place during the investigation.

The first issue to be addressed is plagiarism. In the article “Plagiarism in Scientific Writing: Words or Ideas,” Farrokh Habibzadeh and Karen Shashok suggest the following definition of the phenomenon:

Plagiarism refers to the act of appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit… Plagiarism has different forms, but can be categorized into two general distinct categories – plagiarism of ideas and plagiarism of text (verbatim).

Plagiarism is unacceptable in any scientific research, especially when the researcher endeavors to conduct a serious and influential scientific work. The issue of plagiarism touches several principals of ethics in regard to scientific research. First of all, by plagiarizing the ideas of other authors, the scientist refuses to follow the principles of fairness and honesty in the work. Presenting the ideas of others as his or her own, the researcher behaves disrespectfully toward other researchers whose ideas were stolen, toward the reviewers and publishers who want to bring only relevant and original materials to the readers and avoid duplicate publications. Moreover, it is obviously a serious misconduct toward the readers of the investigation who want to receive only trustful and actual information. Furthermore, plagiarism refers to violation of the intellectual property law because stealing of someone’s ideas, data, or results of the experiments is rough ignorance of copyright. To some extent, plagiarism is a form of disregard for human dignity. For example, if the author uses other scientists’ findings which have not been published, it is likely to provide extremely harmful influence on the scientific activity and career of the latter. In regard to the foregoing facts, the dissertation project “The Effects of the physical workplace design layout, whether it be at a commercial property or at home, have on project oriented companies and its efficiency and success” will be based exclusively upon the original investigations and findings made by the author. Without any doubts, in order to create the qualitative research, the author will consult with the outside sources, but all the ideas and data will be properly referenced in accordance with the required standards. Moreover, in order to ease the process of referencing and provide accurate information about the article or book, all the sources involved in the research will be academic and scholarly.  

Another important issue to be mentioned is privacy and confidentiality. The analysis of the impact that the workplace design exerts on the efficiency and success of project-oriented companies requires conducting interviews with the employees and employers of such companies. Therefore, while conducting this research, the problems of protecting the interviewees’ privacy and providing confidentiality of information will arise. In the article “Five Principles for Research Ethics,” Deborah Smith suggests that the best way to assure privacy and confidentiality is by discussing this issue with the potential participants of the research and explaining them how provided information will be used in the work. Moreover, the interviewees should have an opportunity to refuse to answer the uncomfortable questions and cease their participation in the investigation at any moment. In order to encourage the employees and employers to participate in the research, it is necessary to explain in detail the key purposes of this scientific work and show how this investigation may positively influence the working conditions.

In this context, the matter of informed consent emerges. As said in paragraph 3.10 of the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct”:

When psychologists conduct research … they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons, except when conducting such activities without consent is mandated by law or governmental regulation or as otherwise provided in this Ethics Code.

This rule is applicable not only to the investigations performed by the psychologists; it is more comprehensive. Therefore, in the majority of cases, obtaining of informed consent is mandatory; and after receiving such consent, the researcher has to explain to the participants all the necessary details concerning the subsequent interviews and tell them about their rights. Moreover, informed consent should be received for recording the voices and using the images. Such actions and a responsible attitude to them contribute to the ethical conduct of the scientific activity and assure human rights.

Besides all the aspects mentioned above, risk assessment is also an important matter to be taken into consideration. The use of proper methodology is one of the main prerequisites for the success of the scientific work. However, sometimes it is extremely difficult for the investigator to predict if the particular method will meet the objectives of the research and help discover some new sides of the topic. So, while choosing the methodology, the author should pay a lot of attention to the evaluation of possible risks. Therefore, in order to provide for the success and integrity of the dissertation project, the preference will be given to the techniques that have already proved their efficiency in other scientific researches. In this context, the problem of presenting data is also crucial. This question is widely discussed because data fabrication is an extremely widespread form of scientific misconduct. As reported in the article “Irreproducibility in the Scientific Literature: How Often Do Scientists Tell the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth?”:

The first suspicion that this type of misconduct has occurred often comes from a breakdown in scientific reproducibility – the inability of a scientist to reproduce a result obtained by a different individual … and published in the scientific literature.

Therefore, it is preferable that all significant data and findings, which determine the sense of the work be obtained due to the practical activity of the researcher. For this reason, the interviews and experiments held during the investigation process and properly described in the methodology are the most reliable sources of the relevant data.

Generally the issues related to the data are extremely significant in any scientific research because properly gathered and reported data is fundamental to the credibility of the paper. The subsequent dissertation requires holding several surveys and collecting data after the interviews or experiments, thus concerning this matter plenty of ethical issues could emerge. Catherine A. Marco and Gregory Luke Larkin on the article “Research Ethics: Ethical Issues of Data Reporting and the Quest for Authenticity” provide a comprehensive list of the problems, which researcher could face while reporting data. Among them – “inaccurate reporting of missing data points”, “failing to report negative results”, “inappropriate graph labels”, “reporting results of inappropriately applied statistical tests”, “inappropriate use of terminology without precise  definition” etc. All these violations reduces the fairness, honesty and objectivity of the research, they also negatively influence other ethical principal indicated above.  Therefore, all these problems will be taken into consideration while carrying out the surveys and writing a manuscript of the future dissertation. Moreover, in order to safely preserve the data, as the storage will be used a digital cloud. It will help to ensure that the data will not be missed.

All the foregoing factors are of critical importance for the success of the research, but there exists one more factor which assures a systematic approach to conducting an investigation. This is the qualitative and effective mentoring. In the article “A Proficient Mentor is a Must when Starting up with Research,” Keld Kjeldse discusses the importance of mentorship and provides some tips for choosing a good mentor. He states that proficient mentor can help “gain the opportunity of being introduced to an established field of research”. He defines mentor as “an experienced and trusted supervisor or counselor”. Moreover, he says that “influential and sustained mentorship enhances research activity and a researcher’s career”. Indeed, it is hard to overestimate the role of mentorship in the scientific activity. First of all, on the basis of his or her personal experience in the scientific research, a mentor could provide valuable recommendations concerning the conduct of the investigation. Moreover, the mentor is a person who could assure the abidance to the moral principles while performing the research. Furthermore, the advice of the mentor are extremely important in case some errors or negligence occure in the work. Obviously, the author should be very careful to avoid the mistakes during the preparation stage or while writing the research, but the outside opinion of the mentor is significant for the creation of the holistic image of the work.

The sphere of science is extremely regulated, and there exist plenty of requirements both to the conduct of the research and the arrangement of its results. Therefore, addressing of the problem, describing the methodology, and presenting the finding of the dissertation “The Effects of the physical workplace design layout, whether it be at a commercial property or at home, have on project oriented companies and its efficiency and success” will be done strictly in accordance with the Northcentral University requirements for IRB approval.

Conclusion

The first part of this paper is dedicated to some general principles of ethics which could be applied to the future dissertation project. In the second part, the examples how these principles may be revealed in the context of real issues, which could arise during the research, are given. All these facts prove that when the scientist performs an investigation, he or she undertakes a great responsibility. In order to fulfill their duty as ethical scientific researchers, they should realize the moral responsibilities that they have before the parties involved, starting from the participants and finishing with mentors, readers, and reviewers.

People engaged in the scientific activity compose the engine of the society which provides permanent and progressive development. Scientists explore social and natural phenomena in order to ease the adaptation of people to the changeable environment. That is why the main mission of the scientific works is to become a useful social good rather than contribute to the career of the researcher. The complicated process of conducting investigation spawns plenty of the researcher’s obligations toward the people affected by his or her work. All those commitments serve as the element of ethics in the scientific research.

First of all, every scientist has the commitment to the academia: he or she is an integral part of this community. He or she must be aware of the fact that the ethical behavior while conducting the investigation will enhance the positive image of the academia as a whole and prove the significance of the science in the modern world. In turn, the misconduct could provide the negative influence on the public perception of the researchers’ achievements. Furthermore, the scientist should treat people who compose the research team in an ethical and faithful way. It means that he or she has to show respect to them and take into consideration their suggestions concerning the development of the work. The same attitude should be applied in relations with people who contribute to the research as the interviewees and participants of the experiments. In this context, an ethical researcher has to pay special attention to the issues of respecting human rights, dignity, and privacy. 

The second group of obligations relates to the responsibility of the author toward the public. In this realm, the main assignment of the scientist is to provide valuable and trustful information to the readers of the work. Therefore, the researcher must be very careful in collecting and presenting the findings of the investigation, ideas, and data. He or she has to endeavor to provoke the interest of the reader to the particular subject. Moreover, the scientist must be convincing enough and present reliable evidence to make the audience believe in the argument provided in the paper.

Without any doubts, the scientist has the obligations toward himself or herself, especially in the issues of enhancing the reputation and confirmation of his or her competence in the subject. The works should correspond with the academic level and the position that the person possesses in the world of science.

Taking into consideration all the aspects discussed above, it is evident that scientific activity is not only about competence and creating new knowledge. It also involves a lot of ethical issues which must be taken into account if the author has the aim of creating a truly qualitative and relevant research. Furthermore, it is necessary to note that conducting of the research requires great responsibility and carefulness of the scholar.

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The Ethics of the Scientific Research essay

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