The tri-council policy statement and research in cyberspace: Research ethics, the internet, and revising a 'living document' [Book Review]

Journal of Academic Ethics 1 (4):397-418 (2003)

Increasingly, the Internet is proving to be an important research tool. Today, cyberspace affords researchers easy access to traditionally difficult to reach populations, a host of virtual communities, and a wealth of data created through computer-mediated-communication. This newfound research frontier brings with it, however, a multiplicity of ethical concerns, including: (1) whether the Internet constitutes a private or public space; (2) whether the human subject paradigm is appropriate when considering the ethics of Internet research; and (3) whether cyber participants/‘speakers-as-writers’ and communities should be guaranteed confidentiality and anonymity when researchers contain or consider them in research. This paper examines these specific ethical concerns as they relate to Canada's Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, which, as yet, does not explicitly address ethics involved in Internet research. I propose that in large part the Internet is by definition a public site of activity, and as such, many posters cannot expect their texts to remain confidential, nor their names anonymous, and that the human subject paradigm is highly problematic in terms of regulating ethics involved in some research generated through new information technologies. This is most expressly the case with computer-mediated-communication, which, in light of the Tri-Council Policy Statement, can be viewed as theoretically akin to public entertainment and performance.
Keywords computer-mediated-communication  cyberspace  human subject  internet  Tri-Council Policy Statement
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DOI 10.1023/B:JAET.0000025671.83557.fa
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