Why do Research Ethics Matter?

Research ethics are always important for students, but maybe for more reasons than you might imagine! Here are the five most important reasons we identified:

  1. To protect our participants. The over riding reason! If participants are giving us their time to help our studies then we must be absolutely sure that we are respecting their privacy and ensuring they are confident in our work. We must protect their data (like email addresses) as well as the information we collect in our research.
  2. To protect us. Thinking about research ethics also helps us to think about what is appropriate for us, as students, to do. That can protect us from wasting our time, difficult situations, or worse!
  3. To improve the quality of our research. If we have thought through our research ethics and can explain and justify all of our actions then we can have confidence that our methods are robust and likely to be effective. Good quality research is always ethical.
  4. To develop skills and knowledge that will be useful beyond our studies. Doing an application for an ethical review requires all sorts of skills which will be used in other areas. Attention to detail, consideration of a wide range of issues, managing complex data in a secure manner, thinking about risk – these are all skills which are going to be useful.
  5. To make sure other students have the same opportunities. Imagine you are a small charity. Imagine every year you get asked by students if they can interview your staff as part of their dissertation. Imagine that you agree to doing this as you think it is valuable for your charity. Imagine one year a student shares confidential information without consent. You are not likely to allow more student interviews in the future!