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SWK 506: Intermediate Research: Ethics in Research

This subject guide will assist you in finding books, journal articles, and websites, as well as assist you in developing your research skills using the recommended resources.

When working with data, you are expected to be aware of the ethical and legal issues surrounding your data. The management of sensitive data is a part of good research practice as it ensures you maintain high ethical standards to minimize the risk to participants, researchers and third parties including the University.

Responsible conduct of research and good scientific practice should be followed at all times. Each researcher and research group member is responsible for ensuring that their research complies with the generally accepted ethical principles. Ethical review is needed in precisely defined research configurations. 

When is Ethical Review Necessary?

Certain research configurations require an ethical review. These include cases where there is additional risks to research participants, for example when sensitive personal data are collected. An ethical review examines, from the perspective of avoiding risk and harm, how the research will be conducted, what information will be given to subjects, and how data will be collected, processed and stored. The aim of the review is to protect the research subjects and safeguard the researcher's legal protection. Ethical review has to be obtained before the research can begin. In addition, many research funders and publishers require that an ethical review is conducted.

Ethical review in needed if any of the following are true for your research: 

  1. The study involves an intervention in the physical integrity of subjects,

  2. The study deviates from the principle of informed consent (ethical review is not required if the research is based on public documents, registries or archived data),

  3. The subjects are children under the age of 15, and the study is not part of the normal activities of a school or an institution of early childhood education and care, and the data are collected without parental consent and without providing the parents or guardians the opportunity to prevent the child from taking part in the study,

  4. The study exposes research subjects to exceptionally strong stimuli and evaluating possible harm requires special expertise (for example, studies containing violence or pornography),

  5. The study may cause long-term mental harm (trauma, depression, sleeplessness) beyond the risks encountered in normal life,

  6. The study can signify a security risk to subjects (for example, studies concerning domestic violence).

Main Principles

Social and clinical value

Scientific validity

Fair subject selection

Favorable risk-benefit ratio

Independent review

Informed consent

Respect for potential and enrolled subjects

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