When determining ethical guidelines for research, most experts agree that cost of conducting the experiment must be weighed against the potential benefit to society the research may provide. While there is still a great deal of debate about ethical guidelines, there are some key components that should be followed when conducting any type of research with human subjects.
Participation Must Be Voluntary
All ethical research must be conducted using willing participants. Study volunteers should not feel coerced, threatened or bribed into participation. This becomes especially important for researchers working at universities or prisons, where students and inmates are often encouraged to participate in experiments.
Researchers Must Obtain Informed Consent
Informed consent is a procedure in which all study participants are told about procedures and informed of any potential risks. Consent should be documented in written form.
Researchers Must Maintain Participant Confidentiality
Confidentiality is an essential part of any ethical psychology research. Participants need to be guaranteed that identifying information and individual responses will not be shared with anyone who is not involved in the study.
While these guidelines provide some ethical standards for research, each study is different and may present unique challenges. Because of this, most colleges and universities have a Human Subjects Committee or Institutional Review Board that oversees and grants approval for any research conducted by faculty members or students. These committees provide an important safeguard to ensure academic research is ethical and does not pose a risk to study participants.