New guidelines for undergraduates to properly treat their study subjects fuels debate over net gain for science
A Canadian research association has published guidelines for the ethical conduct of undergraduate research, reviving a simmering debate over whether such rules do more to discourage scientific exploration than to improve it.
These Canadian guidelines for human research ethics professional development are a sensible move and other jurisdictions should emulate them. We especially like the fact that these guidelines were developed by academics, with a solid eye on pedagogy, rather than governance. This can only be a help when some students transition to doing research as postgraduates.
Its authors are advisers at four of Quebec’s junior colleges, known as Cégeps, and their work is intended as an undergraduate-relevant summary of the government’s complex rules on key ethical issues in research, such as obtaining informed consent from test subjects and ensuring the confidentiality of their responses.
Its advocates include Karen Robson, an associate professor of sociology at McMaster University who has long argued that government guidelines on research ethics – especially with the most recent revision in 2018 by the federal Panel on Research Ethics – have grown in complexity to the point of becoming counterproductive.