Ethical research is research that is undertaken using the ethical codes and guidelines constructed to “ensure the researcher is ‘doing the right thing’ by the project” (Weerakkody, 2008). However, what is ‘right’ is subjective and each person has individual ideas and concepts to what is acceptable and what is unacceptable when comes to what is ‘right’. This is a reason why ethical codes and guidelines have been constructed by organisations and governments.
Having these formal guidelines for ethical research is important not just as a guiding principle for what is ‘right’ but to also protect the research project and its participants. The legal and administrative requirements help protect the subject and the project by addressing issues such as “informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, no harm to subjects and anonymity” (Weerakkody, 2008) as well as protecting the organisation’s reputation and any possible legal action from participants.
It is important to ensure that researchers abide by these formal guidelines so we can have faith that any research conducted is credible. I know that not all research is trustworthy, especially in the age of social media and online consumption, but that is exactly the reason why we need it most now.
The 21st Century shows an increasing demand of the internet, and with this, it is harder than ever to identify whether the professional Code of Ethics is being conducted. Most likely, if it is not from a reputable source, then an easy bet is no. Without the use of the professional Code of Ethics how can we trust the research we see on the internet? What gives us reason to believe that this information is accurate and conducted with honesty and fairness? With technology expanding where just about everyone owns a smartphone, anyone can become a photojournalist by taking a photo and posting it on the internet, just like anyone with a computer can become a journalist. This could be dangerous for the future of journalism and the practice of Code of Ethics, as this would not benefit society if ethical practices were exploited.
Journalists are a good example when conducting ethical research. They commit to follow a Journalists’ Code of Ethics that involves “honesty, fairness, independence and respect for the right of others” (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, 2013) and with recognition of this relationship, any reader can guarantee that what they are reading is reliable and trustworthy.
There are many areas in which some ethical issues are involved during the researching process. According to Niranjala Weerakkody, author of Research Ethics in Media and Communication (2008), Table 5.1 shows the ethical issues related to research as seen below:
This table, although a brief outline, can shed some light onto the different areas and issues relating to ethics in research and how the guidelines try to protect or prevent such things.
In conclusion, ethics are important when researching for a number of reasons, some that include the protection of the researching organisation or participant, for confidence in trustworthiness and reliability of research, and for guiding principles to what is right and fair. Without such ethical guidelines, nothing would be credible or trustworthy while conducting research. Therefore, not having credible or trustworthy research means it would become invalid and redundant. Henceforth, ethical research is important when researching.
For Further Reading on Ethical Research:
Hunter, D 2014. ‘Facebook puts ethics of research by private companies in spotlight’, The Conversation, available from http://theconversation.com/facebook-puts-ethics-of-research-by-private-companies-in-spotlight-28798
Journalists’ Code of Ethics, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, 2013 available from http://www.alliance.org.au/code-of-ethics.html
Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91