H809: Week 6 - Research Ethics

March 2009

Research ethics is a topic that is pretty much compulsory in any course about how to do research. It is important because we don't want people to use research as justification for behaviour that would otherwise be deemed unethical. It is also useful when people point out ethical angles that you hadn't considered that might make you rethink what you personally consider ethical. But ethics is also an unsatisfactory subject to discuss because ultimately it is about values and values are personal and essentially largely irrational.

However, as this was a topic I hadn't given much consideration to, it was useful to me, both in terms of making me think about what I personally consider ethical and about learning what the research community (and ethics committees) considers ethical.

We were given the task to read The Open University's Research Ethics website and the ethics guidelines of various professional organisations, and also the ethics section of the Exploring Online Research Methods website. The main considerations that came up were:

One thing I thought might be useful on a practical level would be to try to collect together examples of consent forms/information sheets. Here are a few I found:

I also found it useful looking at this site about ethical issues on the JISC Learner Experience Phase 2.

If anybody knows of any handy resources or links along these lines, let me know and I'm happy to add them.