Final Thoughts

This ethics module offers a few concrete recommendations – like "do no harm" – but overall what it emphasises is that research ethics are contested, both within and across disciplines. Everyone may agree on fundamental principles like "do no harm," but there is significant debate about what constitutes "harm" and how to calculate the risk-benefit ratio. The case studies we have reviewed show that researchers have reached completely different conclusions about a range of issues, including what research collaboration should look like, how to give back to the community you research, whether deception in research can ever be ethical.

The historical and contemporary controversies reviewed, from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to Gang Leader for a Day, shows that there is no triumphant, linear progress towards ethical enlightenment. Despite the international spread of ethics regulatory regimes and surveillance, research ethics scandals and controversies are unfolding as we speak. This training program presents ethics as set of conflicts to negotiate, conundrums to consider, and a personal relationship that researchers develop with colleagues, informants, collaborators, mentors, and friends in their field site.

You may or may not agree with our treatment of particular issues, but either way, we hope that it is a useful resource for prompting debate and discussion about research ethics. The text and many of the photographs are licensed through a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license, so they can be used to develop your own educational materials. We welcome feedback at  .

Many thanks to Lisa Wynn for her help with modifying her original module; here are her acknowledgements:

This training module was funded by a Teaching and Learning Award from Macquarie University. Thanks to Provost Judyth Sachs for her support for this project, and to the Macquarie University Learning & Teaching Centre for their fabulous graphic design. A big shout out to all those who generously contributed photographs to illustrate the website, including Philip Zimbardo, Sudhir Venkatesh, Julienne Corboz, Anne Monchamp, Pál Nyíri, Jessie Zhang, Sarah Andrieu, Arman Abrahamyan, Jorge Cham, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Stanford University, the State Library of South Australia, the U.S. National Archives, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Open Society Institute, the U.S. Department of Defence, and all the fabulous people who have licensed their Flickr photos with Creative Commons.

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