Suggested Approaches

Empirical research 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. For example:

  • 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 perception.
  • 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 larger study.
  • Post-study evaluation is conducted via debriefing or follow-up.
  • Surrogate subject studies are conducted.
  • 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.
  • Print This Page
  • Bookmark and Share