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Disaster-zone research needs a code of conduct – Nature (JC Gaillard & Lori Peek | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on December 10, 2019
 

Study the effects of earthquakes, floods and other natural hazards with sensitivity to ethical dilemmas and power imbalances.

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake rocked Anchorage, Alaska, in late November 2018. Roads buckled and chimneys tumbled from rooftops. Business operations were disrupted. Schools were damaged across the district. This was the largest earthquake to shake the region in a generation, and there was much to learn. What was the state of the infrastructure? Might further quakes occur? How did people respond? Teams of scientists and engineers from across the United States mobilized to conduct field reconnaissance in partnership with local researchers and practitioners. These efforts were coordinated through the clearing house set up by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in Oakland, California, which provided daily in-person and online briefings, as well as a web portal for sharing data.

This discussion is especially relevant at the moment given the bushfires/megafires raging in Australia (and California) and the volcano eruption on White Island, New Zealand.  Our sincere best wishes and hopes to anyone affected by these awful disasters.

But researchers are not always so welcome in disaster zones. After the deadly Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004, hundreds of academics from countries including Japan, Russia, France and the United States rushed to the region to collect perishable data. This influx of foreign scientists angered and fatigued some locals; many declined researchers’ requests for interviews. The former governor of Aceh province, Indonesia, where more than 128,000 people died, described foreign researchers as “guerrillas applying hit-and-run tactics”1. Yet research on tsunami propagation and people’s response to the event has led to improved warnings and emergency-response plans.
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When, on 28 September 2018, an earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, dozens of researchers found themselves unable to enter the country2. Indonesian law now requires foreign scientists to obtain a special visa before they can begin research. Data-collection protocols must be submitted to the government in advance and projects must have an Indonesian partner. Violators could face criminal charges and even prison.
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Disgraced tracheal transplant surgeon is handed 16 month prison sentence in Italy (Papers: Michael Day | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on December 5, 2019
 

Disgraced surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who faked research relating to dangerous and largely discredited tracheal transplants, has been handed a 16 month prison sentence in Italy for forging documents and abuse of office.

Macchiarini made headlines around the world after claiming a major breakthrough for patients with failing windpipes, by “seeding” an artificial scaffold with a patient’s own stem cells, to generate a functioning trachea.

But excitement at the prospect of a genuine medical advance turned to scandal when it emerged that Macchiarini had falsified results and misled hospital authorities regarding the health of those receiving the experimental procedures. The revelation prompted his research centre, the Karolinska Institute, to eventually disown his …

Day, M. (2019) Disgraced tracheal transplant surgeon is handed 16 month prison sentence in Italy. BMJ. 367:l6676. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l6676. No abstract available. PMID: 31767600
Publisher: https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l6676

What’s the Harm? The Coverage of Ethics and Harm Avoidance in Research Methods Textbooks (Papers: Shane Dixon and Linda Quirke | June 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on December 3, 2019
 

Abstract
Methods textbooks play a role in socializing a new generation of researchers about ethical research. How do undergraduate social research methods textbooks portray harm, its prevalence, and ways to mitigate harm to participants? We conducted a content analysis of ethics chapters in the 18 highest-selling undergraduate textbooks used in sociology research methods courses in the United States and Canada in 2013. We found that experiments are portrayed as the research design most likely to harm participants. Textbooks overwhelmingly referred to high-profile, well-known examples of harmful research. Chapters primarily characterize participants as at risk for psychological and physical harm. Textbooks engage in detailed discussions of how to avoid harm; informed consent figures prominently as an essential way to mitigate risk of harm. We conclude that textbooks promote a procedural rather than nuanced approach to ethics and that content in ethics chapters is out of step with scholarly research in research ethics.

Keywords
ethics, research methods, textbooks, harm, participants

Dixon, S., & Quirke, L. (2018). What’s the Harm? The Coverage of Ethics and Harm Avoidance in Research Methods Textbooks. Teaching Sociology, 46(1), 12–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X17711230
Publisher (Open Access): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0092055X17711230

Wildlife Cameras Are Accidentally Capturing Humans Behaving Badly – Nature (James Dinneen | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 25, 2019
 

Scientists face an ethical dilemma over what to do with their ‘human bycatch’

To study wildlife, Dr. Nyeema Harris, an assistant professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Michigan, uses camera traps — remotely triggered cameras that take pictures when they detect movement and body heat. Harris, a wildlife biologist, is not typically interested in humans, but sometimes they still end up in her photographs.

This is another example of researchers who may not be accustomed to thinking about human research ethics matters (in this case wildlife research and accidentally capturing images of people) and the question of how to inform their practice. This is really useful and important discussion. The issues in play are no different to government and others using CCTV, which they do without consent. We have created a somewhat artificial divide between research and real life. Any useful research reflects and interacts with real life. In this case, the capture is identifying some bad behaviour which is useful to know about and to act upon. The social good outweighs privacy rights. We should all be discussing this more.

Between 2016 and 2018, Harris led the first published camera trap survey ever conducted in Burkina Faso and Niger, originally conceived to focus on the critically endangered West African lion. But Harris ended up capturing so much human activity that she expanded the focus of her study to include how humans were using the area. Research on human activity in the wildlife preserve had typically relied on humans reporting their own actions, but with the cameras, Harris could see what they were actually doing. “The data emerged to be a really interesting story that I felt compelled to tell,” Harris says.
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Even in studies conducted in remote nature reserves, meant to capture wildlife at its wildest, people showed up.
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When camera traps inadvertently capture human activity, it’s called “human bycatch.” And according to a 2018 University of Cambridge study, Harris is far from the only researcher to have ended up with humans in the data. The study included a survey of 235 scientists across 65 countries about their experiences with human bycatch, and 90% of them reported capturing some images of people in their most recent projects. Even in studies conducted in remote nature reserves, meant to capture wildlife at its wildest, people showed up.
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As in Harris’s study, this human data doesn’t always stay “bycatch.” Nearly half of respondents to the Cambridge survey said they had used images of people apparently involved in illegal activity to inform wildlife management efforts. Many of them had reported images to law enforcement, others to conservation staff, and some to the media. All this, despite only 8% of projects having set out to capture images of people.
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