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Monday, December 26, 2016

Reframing Research Ethics: Towards a Professional Ethics for the Social Sciences

Nathan Emmerich
Sociological Research Online, 21 (4), 7
DOI: 10.5153/sro.4127


This article is premised on the idea that were we able to articulate a positive vision of the social scientist's professional ethics, this would enable us to reframe social science research ethics as something internal to the profession. As such, rather than suffering under the imperialism of a research ethics constructed for the purposes of governing biomedical research, social scientists might argue for ethical self-regulation with greater force. I seek to provide the requisite basis for such an 'ethics' by, first, suggesting that the conditions which gave rise to biomedical research ethics are not replicated within the social sciences. Second, I argue that social science research can be considered as the moral equivalent of the 'true professions.' Not only does it have an ultimate end, but it is one that is – or, at least, should be – shared by the state and society as a whole. I then present a reading of confidentiality as a methodological – and not simply ethical – aspect of research, one that offers further support for the view that social scientists should attend to their professional ethics and the internal standards of their disciplines, rather than the contemporary discourse of research ethics that is rooted in the bioethical literature. Finally, and by way of a conclusion, I consider the consequences of the idea that social scientists should adopt a professional ethics and propose that the Clinical Ethics Committee might provide an alternative model for the governance of social science research.

The article is here.