Business and Market Research forms a key component of the curricula of almost all MBA programs today. Research design, methodologies as well as advantages of carrying out a well-designed and executed research process are typically explained in detail to the management students. A key component of research which also needs to be incorporated into any course on research in an MBA program is that of “Ethics in Research”.
Ethics can be broadly described as the set of written/ unwritten rules that govern our expectations of our as well as others’ behavior. Research ethics are a set of broad guidelines and norms as to the manner in which research should be carried out and disseminated at research institutions. In the research arena, ethics therefore focusses on the moral principles that any researcher needs to follow in his/ her area of research.
There are several reasons why researchers need to adhere to ethical norms. Firstly, the existence of ethical norms would help in promoting the broad aims of why the research is being carried out - such as the pursuit of knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error. Hence guidelines that aim at prevention of fabrication or misrepresentation of research data and results would go a long way in achieving the goal of promoting truth and avoidance of error.
Secondly, the research being carried out may span across multiple disciplines and institutions and may involve coordination and collaboration among people across different streams of knowledge and across multiple institutions. In such cases, the foundation of successful research would be the adherence to ethical standards which would in turn ensure that there is mutual trust, respect and fairness amongst the multiple parties collaborating to achieve research objectives. For example, research norms such as authorship rights, copyright and patenting rules and guidelines for data sharing and confidentiality are aimed at protecting intellectual property rights while simultaneously promoting and encouraging collaboration.
Thirdly, setting up of ethical guidelines and norms ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the public. For instance, in research involving human and animal subjects, it is absolutely critical to ensure that policies on the manner in which research is conducted, resolution of conflicts of interest if any, in the research process, protection of the rights of the human subjects and ensuring adequate care towards animal use are an integral part of the research process. Ethical lapses and misconducts in research can often significantly harm human and animal subjects. For example, Fabrication of data and results in clinical trials may result in major harm to the trial subjects and in cases where researchers do not abide by regulations relating to safety such as radiation related or biological safety precautions may endanger both the researchers’ health or even life and likewise for all participating parties of the research project.
Fourthly, ethical norms and guidelines in research also help to build public support for research. Funding for the research project becomes easier if potential sponsors believe that they can trust the quality and integrity of research.
The importance of research ethics can therefore be summarized as:

•They support the values required for collaborative work, such as mutual respect and fairness. This is essential because scientific research depends on collaboration between They promote the aims of research, such as expanding knowledge.
•researchers and groups.
•They mean that researchers can be held accountable for their actions. Many researchers are supported by public money, and regulations on conflicts of interest, misconduct, and research involving humans or animals are necessary to ensure that money is spent appropriately.
•They ensure that the public can trust research. For people to support and fund research, they have to be confident in it.
•They support important social and moral values, such as the principle of doing no harm to others.

Given below are a few key guidelines for conducting ethical research:
• Scientific Validity
As mentioned earlier scientific validity is an essential pre-requisite for good research and therefore it is critical that researchers apply rigorous scientific methods and thereby ensure that the research studies do not lack in ethical standards. Research protocols lacking in scientific validity would typically be incapable of producing results that are meaningful and valid. Research projects that risk the wastage of valuable resources or expose participants to inconvenience without resulting in possible benefits from the research typically would lack scientific validity and hence could be construed as unethical.

• Honesty and Openness
Researchers should ensure that they are open and honest in the process followed for the research as well as in the presentation of findings. Many a time, researchers could be tempted to distort findings and outcomes in order to suit political, business or market pressures. This should be completely avoided. Researchers must ensure that the research study clearly outlines the step wise methodology followed, the manner in which the data has been analysed and a clear, concise and truthful statement of the outcomes of the research.

• Informed Consent
Informed consent of all participants in any research study is a clear pre-requisite to conducting research in an ethical manner. To this end, researchers must endeavor to ensure that all participants in the research have a clear understanding of the research objectives, the research design and process, the need for their participation, the manner in which their participation will contribute to the entire research study and the way in which the same would be reported and to whom it would be reported. Consent issues have the potential to derail research studies and hence it is important for researchers to acknowledge the same.

• Benefits and Consequences
Researchers must work toward ensuring that all possible risks arising or expected to arise from the research have been anticipated and steps to minimize the impact of the same have been carried out. Similarly, the research needs to be designed in such a manner that all possible benefits would be maximized. Researchers must endeavor to make sure that the research would generate new knowledge that has the potential to produce benefits for the research participants, other individuals and society at large.

• Privacy and Confidentiality
For any research that purports to adhere to ethical standards, a key issue that must have priority is the protection of privacy of the participants. Research subjects must be accorded appropriate rights to confidentiality and anonymity, unless such rights have been expressly waived by them or in the case of minors, their responsible guardians. In such circumstances, it is always prudent to obtain such waivers in writing. All legal requirements with respect to the use of personal data must be strictly adhered to and researchers need to make certain that the same does not get published on any public platforms thereby leading to a breach of agreed anonymity or confidentiality.

• Accord appropriate acknowledgements
Ethical Research stands on the foundation that wherever, material has been based on original sources, appropriate citations must be given thereby duly acknowledging the original source. It is the duty of every researcher to act responsibly and copyrights, intellectual property and other forms of rights are duly taken care of. Plagiarism in any form, even self-plagiarism i.e. copying one’s own work must be strictly avoided. Likewise, breaking up a large study into slices – popularly known as “salami slicing” should be completely avoided.

• Right to Withdraw
It is the responsibility of every researcher to recognize the rights of any of the participants in the research study to withdraw from the same at any time and for any reason whatsoever. Researchers need to ensure that all participants are informed of this right at the beginning of the research study. It is the ethical duty of the researcher to also attempt to understand whether their actions have in any way caused the participant/s to take the decision to withdraw or disengage from the research process. At no stage, should the researcher resort to coercion or force to persuade participants to remain in the research process. In those cases, where participants of the research study are bound by contractual obligations, researchers may seek recourse to competent authorities to seek compliance towards such contractual obligations.

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