TASK 2 – ACADEMIC REPORT Ethics refers to a set of rules that are written or unwritten regarding the acceptable level of behaviour which governs expectations of an individual about another individual

Ethics refers to a set of rules that are written or unwritten regarding the acceptable level of behaviour which governs expectations of an individual about another individual. Ethics also means doing more than what is legal to the society or any related community. The written down professional ethical rules are known as code of ethics which includes fundamental ethical principles such as, honesty, integrity, objectivity, confidentiality, professional competence and due care, transparency and professional behaviour. In general, research studies are expected to be fair and accurate. Researches that deal with human subjects has the risk of being affected by human dignity, privacy, autonomy and so on. Therefore, to minimise these risks, it is recommended that ethical principles are also considered prior to preparing, planning and undertaking a research project.
1. Respect for privacy and confidentiality
Primary research data input is usually from people who are closely related to the variables that are being tested. This leads to a high degree of people involvement in the output of the research findings. “Privacy is the freedom an individual has to determine the time, extent, and general circumstances under which private information will be shared with or withheld from others” (Levine, 1976). Privacy will be invaded when private information such as beliefs, attitudes, opinions and records are disclosed to others without the consent of the original person who shared this information. Private information could only be determined by the original sharer himself. The researcher cannot decide which information is private and he/ she needs to obtain prior consent for disclosure of any information through discussions before investigations begin. This may even apply to report of demographic factors such as age, income, marital status, and other details that the subject may regard intimate. Researchers have identified that invasion pf privacy will result in loss of dignity, friendship or employment, or create feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, guilt or shame to people. Therefore, all possible measures need to be undertaken by the researcher to protect any physical or psychological damage to resource input providers.
Confidentiality refers to protection of anything that has been provided with confidence of the participants of a research programme. This aspect of ethics is closely knitted with privacy as well. Respect should be given to those who has disclosed such information. According to studies on research ethics studies on, the researcher bears the responsibility to “maintain confidentiality that goes beyond ordinary loyalty”. Protecting confidentiality is a moral duty to protect the society rather than a legal obligation (Clarke, 1991). The best focus of the many need to be considered before making an action on any research activity. Qualitative research face more moral obligations related to maintaining confidentiality where the conduct is personal. For the ease of maintenance and data collection, qualitative research also selects smaller samples and direct quotations from interviews are also used. As a control mechanism to ensure confidentiality is protected, it is suggested that interviewed tapes and transcriptions used will be analysed using fictitious names or coding mechanisms (Corti, et al., 2000).
The researchers will require to always bear in mind any implications on psychological and social elements of research data and information providers maybe considered as a breach of confidentiality. Therefore, in order to protect the research participants, sufficient notification must be provided to them when sharing their inputs through the research. The participants must also be informed about the privacy and confidentiality policies that the UK universities provide to protect them and to which extent is the researcher abiding by these policies before any information is gathered or the research is implemented.
2. Vulnerable groups of people
Involvement of vulnerable people is another ethical constraint of social researches that involve people’s participation to gather data and information to generate an output for the research. It has now become a significant ethical consideration whether it is ethically acceptable to involve vulnerable people in social research. By definition, vulnerable people are those that are incapable of protecting their own human rights or welfare (Fisher, 2004). There are various types of people that fall into the category of vulnerable people. These types of people include captive populations (prisoners, institutionalised, students etc.), children, mentally ill persons and aged people, critically ill or dying, poor, persons with learning deficiencies, sedated or unconscious.
These vulnerable people are mentally or physically unfit to patriciate in research conduct activities. Consequently, data and information they provide will be subject to distortion or inaccuracies in the involvement of such persons. Their inability to provide an informed consent and also to their need for further protection and sensitivity from the researcher will result in more work and increased of risk for the researcher (Burnard ; Chapman, 2005). Although researching about vulnerable people will immensely contribute research literature and society, many people are against the involvement of these types of people in social research studies. Therefore, sufficient justification needs to be provided by researcher as to why these type of people are used in the study. An intense analysis of potential risks and benefits should be the first step of starting such a research and careful approach should exist both in acquiring consent and during the research procedure itself. That means, at the planning stages of the research itself, the researcher needs to analyse whether he/ she will be able to access data and information from these parties and will there be consent available to participate these people in his/ her research purposes. To control this situation, the researcher is required to consult the participants for any physical or mental discomforts before the survey commenced and that there will be no effect on the output of the research findings. Furthermore, in the case of using vulnerable people in research surveys, their privacy and confidentiality levels are different. There is high level of vulnerability in the invasion of privacy for these type of people. Proper documentation of information received from participants will be required immensely. Evaluation to Sign Consent (ESC) form is one document that the researcher can use during preparing, planning and implementing stages of a research (Resnick, et al., 2007). The researcher has the responsibility to carefully consider a research topic before rejecting or accepting the kind of research that involves vulnerable people.
3. Informed consent
Informed consent is the major ethical issue in conducting research. Informed consent refers to, “that a person knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently and in a clear and manifest way, gives his consent” to use his/ her input to a specific research programme (Armiger, 1997). Informed consent is one of the key ways in which autonomy is protected of a participant of a research project. Autonomy is defined as the ability for self-determination in action according to a personal plan (Johnstone, 2009). Individuals are capable of providing informed decisions to voluntarily participate in a research only if they possess sufficient knowledge about the research topic and only if they have sufficient information about the possible risks and benefits of the research. Informed consent needs to be disclosed after incorporating sufficient introduction of the study and after explaining the purpose of selecting the particular participants. They should also be explained as to which procedures will be followed in collecting, maintaining and disposing data. If there are any identified physical harm, discomfort, threat to dignity or any level of privacy invasion should be communicated to the participants beforehand in the case of participating in the survey. Moreover, it is also important that the participants for the research are explained about the benefits and knowledge gained to the field of subject or to themselves. The researcher must inform the subjects about the methods which will be used to protect anonymity and confidentiality and indicate a person with whom they can discuss the study. The researcher can also justify and ensure to the participants of the research via a “Non-coercive Disclaimer”. This means that the participants for an interview, survey or a case study of a research is given voluntary option to provide feedback and it is neither mandatory nor any penalties are applicable for any refusal to participate (Academic Affairs; Philadelphia University, 2016).
In addition to that, the researcher need to prepare a background that facilitates the participants to provide their information easily and to the required point. In order to do so, the researcher will need to take account of the audience that will participate in providing data for the research. Accordingly, he/ she needs to ensure that any physical, language, emotional cultural barriers have been addressed in defining the data collection process. This must be adequately planned for in advance. During the implementation process also, the researcher must closely monitor, supervise and assist the participants to make informed decisions in providing feedback for the requirements of the survey. In conclusion, it is clear that disclosure, competency and voluntariness of the participants or information providers are considered as three of the most important parts of consent.