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Case examples

Case studies are a useful way of illustrating problems of ethics and integrity in research in terms of the specific ‘contexts’ in which the problems arose. The generic values, principles and standards we outlined at the start have to be ‘interpreted’ by researchers when in the field, in the laboratory or in the archives. In other words, the context within which ethical decisions have to be taken can vary considerably. So much so that the same principles may be interpreted to take different actions depending on the researchers’ understandings of how they should be applied in a specific setting. We offer some links to sources of case studies and some detailed ones that were written specifically for the PRO-RES project.

DIRECT LINKS TO PROJECTS THAT HELP WITH SPECIFIC INTERESTS

ANTHROPOLOGICAL CASES:

Illustrative examples from the American Anthropological Association

SOCIAL RESEARCH CASES:

UK Social Research Association’s Ethics Consultancy Forum

The UK Social Research Association’s Ethics Consultancy Forum has dealt with a range of requests for advice and opinions about how best to act in certain situations. They offer a series of case examples – real world answers to questions raised by researchers.

PUBLICATION/DISSEMINATION CASES:

COPE-Committee on Publication Ethics

COPE – the Committee on Publication Ethics offers numerous examples of problems of ethics and integrity associated with scientific publication processes:

PRO-RES ONSITE CASE STUDIES:

Issues of ethics and integrity in research can only be fully understood ‘in context’. Each of the following case studies were devised in concert with the Consortium partners and made available as ‘standalone’ illustrations of problems of ethics and integrity in very specific instances or to be employed in training sessions on research ethics. Some cases are ‘real’ while others are devised as ‘stimuli’ to discussion in training events. We welcome further illustrative cases – please send them to us.

Example Cases

CASE 1 Tinder and Travel

Tinder and Travel: A study of the ‘messiness’ of social media research and how ethical decisions have to be taken spontaneously.

CASE 2 Salter’s duck

Salter’s duck: a UK engineering wave power project that suffered from political biases in the early days of alternative technologies having to compete with nuclear power.

CASE 3 Urban Exploration and criminal trespass

Urban Exploration and criminal trespass: a specific illustration of challenging forms ethnography – a ‘study’ of place hacking which entails lawbreaking.

CASE 4 Discovery of high Tc superconductivity

Discovery of high Tc superconductivity: a study of innovations in physics – the race for superconductivity – that raised issues of plagiarism, data manipulation, scientific fraud, questionable research practices and sloppy science, efforts to manipulate researchers by policy makers (based on arguments of national security) and manipulation of researchers by research administrators (based on arguments of economic benefits).

CASE 5 Informed Consent-converted

Informed Consent: a professor using students for research [a hypothetical stimulus case study – useful for training.]

CASE 6 Use of research results-converted

Anticipating the potential for misuse of research results: applying advanced machine learning to publicly available social media [a hypothetical stimulus case study – useful for training.]

CASE 7 Potential misuse-converted

Emerging potential ‘dual use’: possible military applications of research findings in a physics project which arise towards the end of the study [a hypothetical stimulus case study – useful for training.]