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Ethical Considerations : A Guide

Introductory guide on research ethics including working with animals, humans, and ethical scholarship

Understanding Ethical Behavior

Prior to engaging in a research project involving either human or animal subjects, it is vital that you understand the importance of conducting ethical research and the ethical principles and codes used in your field as well as State and Federal laws. 

Human Participants: One statement of ethical principles by which to follow (at minimum) is The Belmont Report. Agreed upon in 1976 by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, of the  Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, The Belmont Report is intended to " assist in resolving the ethical problems that surround the conduct of research with human subjects". In general, just some of the things to consider when working with human participants include:

  • Informed consent
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Risk benefit and beneficence
  • Vulnerable populations 

Animal Subjects: There is a long historical and ethical debate surrounding the use of animals in scientific and medical experiments. This 2012 PowerPoint and activities from the Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) at the National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture provides a good overview of this debate as well as current policies and information including the Animal Welfare Act. Something one should always take into consideration before engaging in research is the 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine) presented in the 1959 Russell and Burch publication The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique

Government funding agencies, as well as individual Universities all, have information regarding the ethical treatment of human and animal subjects in research. Federal laws and regulations such as HIPPA are also in effect and it is your responsibility as a researcher and member of the scientific community, to conduct research ethically and responsibly. 

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