Why do we need a code of ethics?
A quick note on terminology before we get startedThe terms ‘morals’ and ‘ethics’ are often used interchangeably, but they relate to different contexts. Morals are personal values whereas ethics guide values within professions and groups. To be ‘ethical’ is to conform to the norms and standards of a group. Let’s investigate the difference further.Morals refer to your own beliefs and standards about what is right, fair and reasonable. They are shaped by your upbringing, your values and your personal experiences of life and people. Your ‘moral code’ is like an inner compass, guiding your decision making and behaviour. In your personal life, the consequences of these choices lie with you. They reflect on yourself and you alone are personally accountable.What then if you make decisions that relate to your workplace, sporting club, political party or community of practice? If you are in a position of power and your decisions are questionable, the repercussions may have a broader and more damaging impact. Most likely, you will bring your profession or group into disrepute, along with yourself. This is where having different morals becomes sticky and where a defined code of ethics or conduct can assist.
How does a code of ethics help?A code of ethics sets out the ground rules for decision making for people who belong to a group. It is a form of self regulation. The expectation is that you understand and agree to abide by the code of ethics as a condition of belonging to a profession or community of practice.
Want to keep
Griffith University online course,
Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research
- take advantage of a vulnerable research participant
- use confidential information unethically
- manipulate research data
- discriminate against certain research participants.
The inherent power imbalance in researchWhen we talk about a ‘power imbalance’, we’re referring to an unequal distribution of personal power between two parties.The party with less power is seen to be more vulnerable, as they don’t have the same level of control over what occurs within the relationship.The party with more power is seen to be the dominant one. They are in a position to exert their power over the vulnerable party with their conduct and decision making.In research, the most vulnerable parties are your participants. The power imbalance is significant when we consider these are the people you are hoping to:
- observe, interview and record
- test your theories on
- collect personal information from
- involve in your experiments and trials.
Your taskSelect the comments link below and share at least one example in your own life where you were surprised to encounter a different moral code to your own. This may have been in a family, school or work setting. If nothing comes to mind for you personally, feel free to share a story of someone else’s experience.
Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research
Our purpose is to transform access to education.
We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.
We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.