Research ethics are the governing bi-laws of how researchers reach the study goal. This is the most common way of defining “ethics”: norms for conduct that distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior (Resnik, par. 1, 2015). More importantly, research ethics attempt to protect people from exploitation and the risk of those who participate are given a choice based on their understanding of the study.
In the case study number 4 with Dr. Wexford, there are several ethical issues that could potential harm. The fact that the dataset included demographic information poses a risk for violation of anonymity and people’s personal information (PPI). Demographic information provides data regarding research participants and is necessary for the determination of whether the individuals in a particular study are a representative sample of the target population for generalization purposes (Salkind, 2010).
If the mishap of the personal information of the participants or the demographic dataset were to become compromised, innocent people could be taken advantage of. In the past, demographic information has been sold for other business purposes causing a theft in identities or have brought about harassment from an entity or organization that may feel threatened by the research. To not insure the privacy of the participants would be an unethical practice for the researcher. Unlike many countries, the United States has no generally applicable federal law that protects this type of data, which is sometimes called personally identifiable information (Cresswell, 2018). Furthermore, the researcher or the research firm would lose creditability in the work and lose the trust with stakeholders.
It seems that there should be a discussion about the importance of protecting participants personal information. The reason for the review of the dataset must be discussed or revealed as well as what will the requestor do with the information. As a responsible party or manager, there would be a meeting scheduled to first discuss the possibilities of harm so that all parties involved can come up with a working resolution. If there are rules that require the dataset to be shared, the appropriate contract and documents will be compiled for both parties. In the case that there are no obligations to share information, the probability of having the requesting party wait until the study is complete may become the resolution with the understanding they can still review the dataset. Meanwhile, both parties will have to present their information, arguments, and agreements to assist with the resolution. Then upon investigation and only if necessary, the user agreement will be established.
Cresswell, R., & McNeal, A. (2018). What’s your fraud IQ? This month: Best practices for
protecting personally identifiable information. Journal of Accountancy, 226(1), 91-92.
Accesed: July 18, 2018. From: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.edmc.edu.
Resnik, D. (2015). What is Ethics in Research and Why is it Important? National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved on: July 18, 2018.
Salkind, N. (2010). Encyclopedia of Research Design. Sage Research Methods. Retrieved on:
July 18, 2018. From: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412961288.n108.
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