on research ethics is new, or seems new, to most investigators. In some cases it is an appropriate version of pilot research the investigator would normally conduct but not otherwise publish. It is motivated in various ways and often occurs without funding.
- An ethical problem may need to
be solved to ensure participant cooperation.
- An investigator may introduce
an ethics-related experimental condition, such as anonymity, and observe
respondent behavior or attitude compared to the behavior of those
in the control group.
An investigator may follow
up to learn how subjects perceived their research experience.
A new research topic may
require a new approach, e.g., AIDS intervention research required
the development of community consultation.
An investigator may work
in an area relevant to research ethics, e.g., socialization of scientists,
decision making, or privacy behavior.
An investigator may be embroiled
in an ethical problem, e.g. accused of betrayal of subjects. She may
then conduct research to understand the causes and prevention of this
- An investigator may be puzzled
by an ethical/methodological problem, e.g., how to conduct controlled
experiments on intact organizations, and make development of needed
methodology part of his career.
- An investigator may choose a
career in empirical research ethics.
How do investigators
undertake such research? Several approaches
are currently found in the literature. More
are likely to emerge:
- Pilot studies are built into a
- Post-study evaluation is conducted
via debriefing or follow-up.
- Surrogate subject studies are
- Ethics-related experiments are
nested within larger studies.
- Existing data are reanalyzed for
an ethics-related purpose.
- Multi-site research is a vehicle
for examination of ethical questions, e.g., effects of culture, recruitment,
amount of compensation, or other demographic or experimental variables,
on aspects of subject perception or behavior such as satisfaction,
compliance, or candor.
- Stand-alone experiments, surveys,
ethnography, methodological analysis are conducted.