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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

A real-life Lord of the Flies: the troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment – The Guardian (David Shariatmadari | April 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 17, 2018

In the early 1950s, the psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together a group of boys at a US summer camp – and tried to make them fight each other. Does his work teach us anything about our age of resurgent tribalism?
……Read an extract from The Lost Boys

July 1953: late one evening in the woods outside Middle Grove, New York state, three men are having a furious argument. One of them, drunk, draws back his fist, ready to smash it into his opponent’s face. Seeing what is about to happen, the third grabs a block of wood from a nearby pile. “Dr Sherif! If you do it, I’m gonna hit you,” he shouts.

A useful example of the degree to which such work not only fails modern ethical standards, its results were cherry-picked and stage managed. We note again our caution about using such cases to justify current human research ethics/research integrity arrangements. Also see James Kehoe recent post.

The man with the raised fist isn’t just anybody. He is one of the world’s foremost social psychologists, Muzafer Sherif. The two others are his research assistants. Sherif is angry because the experiment he has spent months preparing for has just fallen apart.
Born in the summer of 1905 and raised in İzmir province, Turkey, during the dying days of the Ottoman empire, Sherif won a place at Harvard to study psychology. But he found himself frustrated by the narrowness of the discipline, which mainly involved tedious observation of lab rats. He was drawn instead to the emerging field of social psychology, which looks at the way human behaviour is influenced by others. In particular, he became obsessed by group dynamics: how individuals band together to form cohesive units and how these units can find themselves at each other’s throats.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

3 Strategies for Accountable, Ethical Online Behavior Research – Medium (J. Nathan Matias | November 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 13, 2018

Help CivilServant develop ways to inform people about their participation in online research and hold us accountable

In 2014, after researchers worked with Facebook to test the effect of newsfeed adjustments on the emotional tone of people’s future posts, academics took a closer look at the ethics of online behavioral research, in the midst of a wider public debate over the power of online platforms in society.

A very interesting (made even more topical by the Facebook/Cambridge/Kogan media storm) discussion about consent, privacy and ethical review for social media and other web2.o research. We’ve included links to a trove of other resource items. These topics have huge impacts far beyond a news cycle and the human research ethics sphere.

Two ideas were central to these conversations: consent and debriefing. In consent-based models of research, people are asked in advance if they are willing to participate in the study. Individual consent often works best under controlled, lab-style studies or surveys and interviews, where it’s easy to decide which people are part of a study and which people aren’t. Debriefing is a process where people are told after the study. Debriefing is also a way to identify any unexpected, harmful effects that the researchers weren’t looking out for, so the harms can be addressed.
In field research, which tests ideas out in the world, individual consent and debriefing can be hard to acquire. For example, consider this study that tested the effect of lawn signs on voter participation rates. It wouldn’t be possible to obtain the advance consent of every single driver who passed by the signs; it would be impossible to predict exactly who would drive by. Even if you could obtain consent, you wouldn’t be able to show or hide the sign for people who hadn’t consented to the study. Likewise with debriefing: a researcher might be able to place a camera next to every sign in order to figure out the license plate, identity, and address of everyone who passed by, but in the effort to contact everyone in the study about ethics, the ethics procedure might become more risky and intrusive than the original study.

Read the rest of this guidance piece

Dealing with Un(Expected) Ethical Dilemma: Experience from the Field (Papers: Zaleha Othman and Fathilatul Zakimi Hamid | 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 10, 2018

Despite the growing interest in qualitative research and discussion of ethics, there has been little focus in the literature on the specific ethical dilemmas faced by researchers. In this paper, we share our fieldwork experiences regarding the ethical dilemmas that we encountered while doing research on a sensitive topic. Specifically, we share some of the ethical dilemmas, that is, concerning confidentiality, anonymity, legitimacy, controversial data, interpretation and off -the-record data, which emerged from the research. Most importantly, this paper shares ideas concerning how researchers might deal with ethical issues while preserving their integrity in the research process. Overall, this paper suggests approaches that qualitative researchers can adopt when doing research on sensitive topics. the paper contributes towards closing an existing gap in the literature, making visible the challenges frequently faced by qualitative researchers, that is, the vulnerability of researchers while preserving research integrity. Finally, this paper concludes with the suggestion that ethical dilemmas are part of the research process in doing qualitative research. However, it is suggested that future research should focus on ethical issues from the perspective of the researchers as well as the respondents.

Ethical Dilemma, Research, Sensitive, Qualitative Research, Con dential, Anonymity

Othman Z. & Abdul Hamid, F. (2018). Dealing with Un(Expected) Ethical Dilemma: Experience from the Field. The Qualitative Report, 23(4), 733-741. Retrieved from
Publisher (Creative Commons):

(South Africa) University of Pretoria Code of Ethics for Research (Released 2007, updated 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 5, 2018

We were impressed by the Pretoria Code because of its approach to social responsibility. Together with the discussion of how social responsibility as a component of research ethics operates in South Africa, it is interesting, particularly the need to engage with, but also remain independent of, government priorities. The recognition that there are different concepts of justice is more sophisticated than discussions in many other national frameworks (including the Australian National Statement).


The University of Pretoria gives high priority to research as one of the primary functions of the university community.

It pursues a research ethos that promotes excellence as well as ethical responsibility in the search for and the creation, conservation and transfer of knowledge.

Consequently, researchers at the University are required to pursue the highest standards of excellence and ethical behaviour in all their research activities…

Access the Code






1. The rights of researchers

1.1 Academic freedom
1.2 Research environment
1.3 Facilities, services and other resources

2. The responsibilities of researchers

2.1 Social responsibility
2.2 Justice
2.3 Benevolence
2.4 Respect for the individual
2.5 Professionalism
2.6 Refraining from discrimination
2.7 Refraining from abusing supervisory authority
2.8 Refraining from sexual harassment


1. Researchers and South African society

1.1 South African society
1.2 The government of the day
1.3 The environment

2. Researchers and clients or funders of research

2.1 Conflict of interests
2.2 Confidentiality of research results
2.3 Financial obligations
2.4 Equipment control
2.5 Funds for new fields of research

3. Researchers, the University and the broad science community

3.1 General conduct
3.2 Academic misconduct
3.3 Conflict of interests
3.4 Intellectual property

4. Researchers and their colleagues or collaborators

4.1 Authorship
4.2 Selecting research partners
4.3 Assisting with the research of others
4.4 Health and safety