ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Code of Ethics for Health Research

Social science research involves certain vital ethical issues - respect for all those involved in research, their rights and protection. Ensuring ethics in research, as the ethical guidelines seek to do, would help complement research, rather than hinder it. A debate on the draft code of ethics held in May 2000 sought to evolve a consensus among researchers across the country. These initial steps would help fill long-perceived lacunae as well as seek to resolve ethical dilemmas plaguing researchers.

Ethics in social science research is about addressing crucial issues of respect for all those involved in research, their rights and their protection. Dilemmas and questions are asked. Is focus group discussion the best suitable methodology to research issues related to reproductive health? What are the ethical problems and dilemmas that could arise? Can children have their own right to participate or decline participation? Can they veto the consent given by their parents? Can communities be made identifiable? What if the information associated with this community could prove harmful or cause disgrace to the community, in which case, does the use of pseudonyms suffice? Is not increasing knowledge one of the many aims for undertaking research? Thus not making research available and accessible, defeat one of its main purposes? These and other issues can cause harm or damage not just to the participants of research but to the entire discipline. Not addressing these issues effectively, time and again, can someday lead to an outrage from the participants of research. Moreover, the credibility of social science research can get affected, hindering research. This is contrary to the belief that ethical guidelines could come in the way of doing research. Ethics in research should be seen as complementing research, since that is what it is.

The fact that social science research is a study of human beings by human beings, where the circumstances of research, the background of the participants, the kind of study, the issue being researched, the value system of the participants and that of the researchers themselves, gives social science research the characteristic of giving rise to a myriad of complexities. Some of these complexities could be as methodological or technical, while others ethical. With more and more research conducted in the social sciences today, and the kind of issues that researchers dwell to research in, ethical dilemmas are not only going to arise, but with time even these are bound to get more and more complex. However, this does not imply that these issues have never been considered and that the work done by researchers till date has been unethical. However, what is now required and what is lacking is a common base and similar thinking on these issues, something that has a collective consensus on ethics in research, not only to guide research, but also to anticipate and solve dilemmas.

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