Recent events have brought into question whether or not researchers are willing to put their scientific ethics aside in order to achieve their research goals. In fact, some have even gone as far to call this lack of ethical responsibility for others unethical behavior!

The recent scandals involve studies that seem to exaggerate or make false claims about the effectiveness of certain products. For example, a study was done where participants were asked to use either a new mouthwash or a placebo (diluted water) for one week.

After seven days, those who used the mouthwash claimed it was more effective at preventing plaque than the control group. However, there is no evidence that this is true! The investigators may have just paid people to use their product because they received compensation.

This type of fraudulent research has become increasingly common and can seriously damage the credibility of academic institutions and companies that depend on science for success. It also encourages other individuals with questionable motives to do similar things, which only adds to the problem.

Ethical boundaries must be respected

It is important to note that these abuses of power occur because scientists believe that they will get different results when conducting an experiment. This is why you must exercise proper scientific rigor in your experiments and research- otherwise, what’s the point?

However, there are many ways to go about doing experimental research, and some aren’t as rigorous as others.

The importance of ethics in science

As we have seen, ethical issues can arise anywhere you do scientific research. This includes studies that look at health and wellness benefits of new products or treatments, as well as investigations into potentially harmful effects.

Studies that look for potential harms are referred to as safety reviews or risk assessments. Such reviews typically involve testing a few individuals to see if there is any evidence of negative side effects.

If such adverse events occur during testing, then the study should be extended to include larger groups or even a full clinical trial. However, even when this is done, it is still possible to identify cause-and-effect relationships because researchers cannot perform experiments on people without control over all variables.

That is why it is so important to follow rigorous guidelines when designing studies and conducting analyses. When researchers fail to address potential biases appropriately, false conclusions may be drawn.

Examples of unethical research

how do ethics affect scientific research

Recent events have shown that just because something has been done before does not make it ethical! Ethical issues in science come down to one thing: how well you manage your resources.

Resources can be financial, physical or both. For example, if you are conducting an experiment to see whether A is better than B, you need to test A and B enough times to get a good statistical representation of each. You also need to ensure that there will be no contamination between groups- making sure they are isolated from each other.

In the case of testing vaccines for diseases, such as measles, researchers must make sure that those who do not receive the vaccine are separated from people who do. This is important to prevent spread of the disease among the non-vaccinated individuals.

Another type of resource that scientists use is human participant. If your study requires someone to participate, they should give their consent and know what the expectations of the project are. Participants should feel comfortable speaking up if things go wrong or if things seem off.

Scientists also need to consider potential long term effects of their studies on participants’ health. These studies must be conducted with extreme caution so that they don’t cause more harm than benefit.

Examples of ethical research

how do ethics affect scientific research

Recent studies have shown that being honest with participants is one of the most important things for successful scientific experiments. Participants need to know that what they are asked to do will not negatively affect them or hurt anyone else, and that their answers will be kept private unless they give permission to share it.

Scientists must also consider how their personal beliefs may influence results when conducting experiments. For example, if a researcher believes that diet supplements can help people lose weight, she/he should make sure that his/her lab does not promote any specific brands. Similarly, if a researcher feels strongly about a particular political party, he/she should try to remain neutral in the workplace to prevent bias towards either side.

Ethical practices in science should be discussed more frequently than they are currently. Many academic institutions require researchers to go through some sort of ethics training, but these lessons rarely address why certain practices are unethical.

Keep science ethical

how do ethics affect scientific research

As we have seen, ethics play an integral part in how research is conducted. If you are very conscious of where your money comes from and what benefits the products you use provide for people, then it can influence the way you conduct business.

Conscience or sense of right and wrong applies to everyone, no matter who they are or what position they hold. Your moral compass helps determine whether you feel comfortable doing something, and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, chances are you won’t.

As scientists, our work has an extra set of rules that go beyond morality. We must also abide by laws and regulations that ensure the safety of the public, as well as our surroundings.

When there are violations, lawsuits can be filed and workers can get fired or punished.

Review processes in science

how do ethics affect scientific research

A review process is an essential part of doing scientific research. This includes both internal reviews as well as external ones! Internal reviews occur within your own department or lab, while external reviews come from other scientists who work in related fields.

By having these repeated checks, the quality of your research can be verified and protections for you as an individual researcher are put into place. These include making sure your methods are sound, that your results make sense, and that you did not commit academic misconduct (like plagiarizing parts of your paper or taking credit for someone else’s work).

External reviewers will also look at whether your findings are generalizable to the wider population, if you included enough participants, and if you conducted statistical analyses with appropriate levels of precision. They may even ask about potential conflicts of interest you might have had when conducting your experiments. All of this helps ensure the integrity and credibility of the research you performed.

The responsibility of scientists

how do ethics affect scientific research

As researchers, we are ethically obligated to put the interests of others first in our studies. This means not only addressing the effects of our interventions but also making sure that we do not contribute or facilitate harmful behaviors.

As mentioned earlier, research has an ethical obligation to be relevant and significant. When studying risky health behaviors, such as smoking or drinking alcohol beyond recommended limits, there is an important second step to take. Not only should these practices be investigated, but they should be done with careful consideration for how they could affect other individuals who use the same products.

For example, it would be unethical to conduct research on whether smoking cigarettes poses short term health benefits because this would incentivize people to keep smoking. Instead, researchers must consider whether testing out a new cigarette brand might actually increase risk behavior by proving that some brands are more appealing than others.

Similarly, researching the effectiveness of different diets on weight loss may promote unhealthy eating habits, so investigators have an obligation to make their findings accurate while at the same time being honest about the risks of certain diets.

Keep science honest

how do ethics affect scientific research

As we have seen, scientific research depends on trust to ensure that results are reliable and accurate. If people do not feel confident in the researchers conducting studies, or if they perceive the researcher as trying to promote their own product or service, then confidence in the results is lost.

Ethical practices help to keep this trust strong by ensuring that researchers treat study participants with respect and don’t use underhanded methods to achieve an outcome. This includes things like paying attention to how well informed participants are before starting a survey, checking for clear answers ahead of time so respondents will not be surprised by difficult questions, and offering appropriate incentives to encourage participation.

When surveys include sensitive topics, such as asking about symptoms or treatments of mental health conditions, careful consideration must also be given to what answer categories seem acceptable and measurable. For example, asking whether someone has suicidal thoughts may put some individuals at risk of being labeled as having serious depression, even if they never seriously considered killing themselves. Or asking about alcohol intake may inadvertently prompt individuals who plan to drink heavily after the survey to underestimate their drinking due to fear of false negative responses.

Running background checks on potential recruits can confirm academic credentials and determine financial fitness, but may also reveal criminal records or other unsavory information. And while it is important to verify that no competing projects exist when doing intervention research, it is equally essential to make sure that none have been funded recently so that competition does not influence findings.

Ethics committees

how do ethics affect scientific research

As mentioned before, ethical review of research is an important part of conducting scientific studies. These ethics review boards (ERBs) are made up of individuals that have been vetted by their local institutions to be trustworthy moral guides. They check off all required boxes for formal ethical guidelines such as “Does this study contribute to the greater good?” and “Is this study conducted with integrity?”

By having these reviews in place, the general public can feel comfortable about donating or participating in studies. This helps foster trust in the research field!

There are many types of ERB’s around the world. Some only review non-medical studies (like social science experiments), while others also look into medical studies. What differs from one board to another is what they consider relevant information when reviewing studies.

For example, some will not allow studies where participants work for payment, or if the researchers intentionally break the rules to make sure the results come out a certain way.