Data and Ethics

Ethics – an overview

All researchers are expected to work ethically.  It is very important that we understand the potential damage that research can do and think through its implications.

We all have personal ethical positions that we are aware of or sometimes are unaware of.  As researchers it is impossible to completely separate our personal ethical positions from our research work.

As researcher however we are expected to understand and follow codes of practice.  Some of these such as data protection we have a legal obligation to behave in a certain way.

Some of the codes of practice are a direct response historic issues that within research. For example research conducted on indigenous peoples has been used to implement policies that have impacted on peoples writes and living conditions.

Ethical concerns are seen as critically important when working with and researching people.  This means that ethical review is very important within medical , education and the  social sciences.

To understand ethics on a research project it is important to know what you think about something from your perspective.  However it is critical to know about procedure, legal requirements and the policy of both the University and the organizations you are working with.


My research is taking place within an adventure playground.  Some of the families that use the playground are new arrivals to the country and the adults and young people have very little English. As part of my ethical procedure I am required to get written informed consent from Parents or significant adults and verbal assent from young people.  Think of three possible strategies I could use to work ethically with these families.

An ethical dilemma is a situation where it may be impossible to make a decision that balances the benefits of a decision against the potential damage.  In conducting research and assessing risk a researcher is often faced with an ethical dilemma.


Can you think of a situation in your life where you felt you were in an ethical dilemma?  It could be quite simple such as telling someone you know  about a surprise party.