October 5, 2004

Ethics and Research Quality

This is the small group discussion notes for the
ETHICS AND RESEARCH QUALITY SESSION

Table A:
MULTIMETHOD
1. Maybe the benefit of a multi-method approach is that it can help integrate even incongruent results in a broader, more comprehensive explanation
2. Also, if different methods lead to measurements of different variables (e.g. perception-related vs. behavior related), incongruent results can reflect natural discrepancies between perception and behavior
ETHICS
1. Should researchers post information about ongoing projects on their websites (e.g. contamination vs diffusion of knowledge in the academic community).
2. Risks of contamination derived from respondents´/subjects’ access to other info about researcher - e.g. CV, credentials.
3. Ethical issues related to protection of special categories of research subjects (12-18 years old) across cultures - strictly normative or less regulated?
4. Informed consent: can one establish real demographics of internet users just by virtue of venue, or self-reported identity
5. Privacy protection: should researchers’ concerns be so great as long as cited quotes come from public websites?
6. Lurking and gender differences in expressing willingness to express one’s opinions in public web environments such as weblists

Table B:
-- A general discussion emerged about the ethical dimensions of surveying online material without the research object’s consent. Some research institutions provide ethical guidelines that the researchers are obliged to deploy. However, occasionally research situations occur for which these don't apply. This is especially the case when revealing the research activity would make objective results impossible.
-- The need for a general framework exists. The stoutest limitations are defined by the EU-legislation.
-- Paper of E. Vasileiadou: Methodological issues: Can one sum up the preliminary results in the middle of a project for review by the survey participant without this not affecting the behaviour? Methodological concerns about comparing results of parallel research and comparing the importance of different messages from different researchers.
-- Paper of S. Antonijevic: The group was impressed by Antonijevic' being able to have earned the trust of the research objects. An issue raised in the discussion was the usage of as accurate language as possible: Within the politically sensitive line of topics, failures in this are likely to lead to misunderstandings.

Table C:
-- Do ethics have different ´levels´ depending on the group? As researchers, being aware of all the different research ¨objects¨ (children vs parents) spectrum: from moral to utilitarian, a legal description might be necessary, but will it be enough?
-- Hacking is not a crime (e.g. in brazil) or illegal (other countries); how to protect your sources?
-- How do you get your data: examples on observation AND participation.
Take account of cultural context, not possible on the web? Some information comes out only after participation of another group member -not the researcher! You can get more information than wished, being human -as researcher- might be a risky business.
-- New ethics?: the barrier between personal and private vanishes (home pages)

Table D:
-- What happens when the authorities ask you who or what or where about perceived combatants, criminals or others, particularly in environments where the rule of law may be stretched or non-existent?
-- Do IRBs suppress the opportunity for innovative research in their own lack of knowledge of the demands for speed or margins in reactive and proactive forms of research?
-- The internet can make it easy to be unethical or to engage in seemingly doubtable behavior -- in choosing a data set to accept and a data set to reject what is the relationship of ethics to theory or ethics to the desire to publish positive results or ethics to support research expectations?
-- The debate between responsive and behavioral methods and the validity of acquired data goes on.
-- Advice: find the best story within the data and be honest, accurate and fair to that data and your audience and you will be well on the way to ethical behavior.

(no Table E)

Table F:
• Devil’s advocate statement: The Internet is a public space and anyone using it is therefore consenting to their interactions being used for research purposes
• (This in the context of the extent to which e-interaction is the subject of public scrutiny and private record.)
• Issues of consent concerning research with children as subjects - variations between countries, states within countries, even perhaps between topics of enquiry. (The lawyers always win!)
• Ethical responsibility of the researcher (not ethics boards/committees) to ensure that the picture painted by the research is reasonably faithful. (Eg that the results relating to a chatroom full of children is in fact the result of interactions among children, not, say, 98% adults. This has a bearing on multimethod approaches and triangulation.
• Molecular approaches to human research (Fred!) - how does the deterministic philosophy of this paradigm affects the way in which such research is interpreted and used?

Posted by npaul at October 5, 2004 4:30 PM