Ethical and legal considerations in business research.

Ø Ethical principles:

  • Discussion about ethical principle in business research tends to revolve around certain issues that recur in different guises. However, they have been broken down into four main areas:
  1. Harm to participants:
  • Harm can entail a number of facets: physical harm; harm to participants’ development or self-esteem; stress; harm to career prospects or further employment etc.
  • It is the responsibility of the researcher to assess carefully the possibility of harm to research participants, and, to the extent that it can be, the possibility should be minimized.
  1. Lack of informed content:
  • This issue is most hotly debated within the business research ethics.
  • It focuses on what is variously called disguised or covert observation. Such observation can involve covert participant observation or simple or contrived observation, in which researcher’s true identity is unknown.
  • The principle means that prospective participants should be given as much information as might be needed to make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to participate in a study.
  • Covert observation transgresses that principle, because participants are not given the opportunity to refuse to cooperate. They are involved whether they like it or not.
  1. Invasion of privacy
  • This third area of ethical concern relates to the issue of the degree to which invasions of privacy can be condoned.
  • Privacy is very much linked to notion of informed consent, because, to the degree that informed consent is given on the basis of a detailed understanding of what the research participant’s involvement is likely to entail, he or she in a sense acknowledges that the right to privacy has been surrendered for that limited domain.
  • It therefore, recommends that the researcher treats each case sensitively and individually, given respondents a genuine opportunity to withdraw.
  • Covert methods are usually deemed to be violations of the privacy principle on the grounds that the participants are not being given the opportunity to refuse invasion of their privacy.
  • While covert research may pose certain kind of problem regarding the invasion of privacy, other methods of business research are implicated in possible difficulties in connection with anonymity and confidentiality.
  1. Deception:
  • Deception occurs when researchers represent their research as something other than what it is.
  • Researchers often want to limit participants’ understanding of what the research is about so they respond more naturally to the experimental treatment. This is when deception arises.
  • The ethical objection of deception seems to turn on two points:

a)First, it is not a nice thing to do, it is hardly desirable.

b) Secondly, there is the question of professional self-interest.

Ø  Other ethical and legal considerations:

  • There are other ethical and considerations that need to be taken into account in planning and research project
  1. Data management:
  • The routine collection and storing of digital data and the practices of data sharing raise new concerns about confidentiality and other ethical issues.
  • The raise questions about the extent to which information can legitimately be used for research purposes that may be different from the original reason for collecting the data.
  • It raises issues relating to data security, the extent to which data needs to be protected from unauthorized access or usage, particularly if they contain personal information relating to individuals, such as name, address, occupation, and photograph.
  1. Copyright:
  • Copyright is an intellectual property right that protects the owner of the copyright from unauthorized copying.
  • Most research publications, reports, and books as well as raw data are protected by copyright. For employed researchers, the first owner of copyright id usually the employer.
  • If you want to share your data with other researchers, you will need to get copyright clearance from the interviewee at the time of the interview.
  • There are also certain copyright issues pertaining to the use of digital data. E.g. in order to reproduce a photograph in publication, consent may be required from the subject in the photograph as well the person who took it, who usually is the first owner of copyright, in such case copyright is jointly shared.
  1. Reciprocity and trust:
  • Here, the responsibility on researchers for taking action that helps to overcome the power inequalities between themselves and research participants and for ensuring that the research benefits are for them both.
  • The concept of reciprocity, the idea that research should be of mutual benefits to researcher and participants and that some form of collaboration or active participation should be built into the research project from the outset.
  • This encourages a view of the research relationship as a mutually beneficial exchange between researcher and participants who see each other as moral beings and enforce on each other adherence to a set of agreed-upon moral norms.

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