Introduction to the special issue: Using our best judgment in conducting human research

Ethics and Behavior 14 (4):297 – 304 (2004)
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The federal regulations of human research were written to permit the use of discretion so that research can fit the circumstances under which it is conducted. For example, the researcher and institutional review board (IRB) could waive or alter some informed consent elements if they deem this the morally and scientifically best way to conduct the research. To do so, however, researchers and IRBs would first have to use mature moral and scientific judgment. They might also have to rely on empirical research to discover the most effective way to act on their moral sense (e.g., to discover how best to approach potential research participants and explain the nature and purpose of the research participation for which they are being recruited, to ensure comprehension and competent decision making). On discovering the most ethical way to proceed, they would then need to look to the federal regulations of human research to discover how to document their decision and justify it within that somewhat flexible regulatory structure. Unfortunately, many IRBs and researchers fail to take these sensible steps to solve ethical problems and proceed immediately to a default requirement of the regulations that places science at odds with the regulations and, ostensibly, with ethics. The following articles in this special issue are about the process of learning to engage in ethical problem solving and using the flexibility permitted by the federal regulations. These articles extricate researchers from the mindset that has gotten them into trouble, and, ideally, provoke them to use mature common sense and moral judgment.



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Empirical research on research ethics.Joan E. Sieber - 2004 - Ethics and Behavior 14 (4):397 – 412.


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