Ethics in Research

Ethics in Research

This week we discussed Biases in our daily life and how, as scientists, we need to be constantly aware that we hold biases and try to be as honest with ourselves about what those may be. I was shocked to hear responses to the Hindsight Bias when it was presented in a research setting.

The idea that “the end justifies the means” isn’t something I’m comfortable with, especially because you often don’t know the “end” of an instance. Maybe its the outcome of a pharmaceutical study as discussed in class but more likely than not its less defined. I realize that for some this may seem trivial but I do research for a living. Its literally why they pay me to go to grad school and the idea that there is any acceptable level of data falsification essentially invalidates a lot of the work I do to create genuine inferences from real data. I am confident that the things you discover through genuine scientific discovery are more interesting than conclusions that say what you want them to but its a bit extremely frustrating to see that it may be true. Even if, in our class example, no one gets hurt and its an effective drug, why then do we have regulatory limits and industry. Unfortunately these came about from individuals taking advantage of each other and that is what seems to be suggested here. Obviously if people die from your mistake it is seen as more egregious but research is what leads to most of our scientific innovation and to discount it is short-sighted.

We need to be careful what we justify as bias and what is unethical. Improving the world relies on the honesty and hard work of others. We have to trust that the medicine we take was accurately vetted and the buildings we work in have steel that passed all necessary deflection tests. An interesting aspect of this course thus far has been that it has made me consider how many people do I have to trust in my daily life and how much of what I use now was formerly research or a scientific development? What I’m getting at is we have to trust each other if we want to live in society. We have to trust that its no ones self interest to cut corners or that there are mechanisms in place to catch these wrong doers. I guess I’m trying to say is it’s important to step back and see why your work or research is important and why people are paying for it. Taking a step back and being able to put life in perspective can only help.

That’s all I got this week.

I would love to here what y’all think about this.



3 Responses

  1. Matt B says:

    I agree with a lot of what is being said here. I think it is paramount that scientific research stays a method based institution, and avoids becoming strictly results based.

    I was actually disheartened when so many of our classmates were okays with the drugs unethical development because it turned out for the better. I feel that in this line of work you have to judge the merits of the methods, and execution of those methods as much as you judge the final result. To me a well developed and executed study that fails to really develop a major conclusion is more important than an ethically compromised study that does.

  2. I was uncomfortable with the drug development example presented in class because of the case study researcher's choice to falsify data to meet the confidence level for the study. Even if, hypothetically, 100,000 people participated in the study, and only 4 additional positive outcomes would statistically guarantee that the drug was safe and effective, I would still not add those additional 4 data points because it is against my principles as a researcher. I would submit the study for publication with the actual, real data–noting the proximity to statistical significance. At the end of the day, the statistical measures with which researchers seek to draw meaning from data are arbitrary.

    Creating knowledge requires public trust, and researchers must be held to the highest standards in an era of "alternative facts." There are no fake facts, only facts themselves. Confirmation bias is frightfully common, and it is so easy to see what we want to see. When it comes to scientific research, discoveries and data should speak for themselves.

  3. Archit says:

    Trust is quite difficult to obtain, often can take years for an individual to truly trust you. Considering that researchers often have undergraduates, research assistants, or others help them with their work, trust is a commodity that they have to believe in. I completely agree with you, unethical behavior in research, in industry and academics, can be very irritating and frustrating for those who do research the right way. I agree with your reasoning that we have to live with each other in the society, and you can’t always believe that someone is purposefully trying to mess with your research. I mean mistakes happen. Probability of mistakes happening for unexperienced researchers is higher, however that does not mean that those with a ton of experience can’t make mistakes. But making intentional changes, i.e. changing data to meet your hypothesis, or faking data, should simply not be an option in academic, or industry, research. Most of what we, as scientists and engineers, are researching on is affecting the public in some way. Falsifying data should not be an option at all in research because one mistake and the whole world could come crashing down.

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