Ethics & the Responsible Researcher

When we conduct research responsibly, we are making decisions and acting in ways that uphold core values in research — such as honesty, accountability, openness and fairness — and that ensure the reproducibility, reliability and trustworthiness of our work.

UBC, funding agencies, mentors and others can offer procedures, protocols and resources that can help you to conduct research responsibly, including those provided on this site. But what should you do when faced with a decision that cannot be addressed by those procedures or protocols? How can you make judgments that are both ethically sound and that safeguard scholarly integrity?

Conducting responsible research relies on us to commit to engaging in conversations about the ethical dimensions of our work, to develop our skill at making ethically sound decisions and to ultimately act with integrity.

A Framework for Making Ethical Decisions

Determining what is the most ethical choice isn’t always cut-and-dried. When it isn’t, we can make the decision-making process easier by applying certain methods and frameworks. We can use these methods to help us distinguish between competing choices, to consider potential consequences when evaluating courses of action and select the best option.

The framework provided below, adapted from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, incorporates five approaches to ethical standards. Review the framework and consider how it may be helpful to you in situations where existing policies, procedures or standards are unable to provide a clear answer to the challenge you face.

Read more: A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Case Studies 

Use the framework provided above to review the following case studies independently or as part of a facilitated discussion.

Use these case studies as an opportunity to engage in the process of ethical decision-making and to articulate and refine your thinking on topics associated with ethical and responsible research practices.

We thank our colleagues at UBC and beyond who provided perspectives and feedback that greatly improved the relevance of these case studies to members of our research community. Their contribution and support are central to our efforts to promote education on and raise awareness of, the importance of the responsible conduct of research.

Reproduction of this material for teaching and research purposes is encouraged, with attribution to UBC's Scholarly Integrity Initiative.




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