Initiative for Maximizing Student Development

Your questions answered: Ethics

You asked, we answered!

Question 1:

When research on human subjects are done in developing countries, sometimes ethical standards in these studies are lower than those in the US. How should we address this issue?
While human research regulations vary from country to country, there is a push to develop regional an international sets of standards for conducting human research. A great deal of information can be found about accrediting organizations, international recommendations to guide human subjects research in other countries, and international regulatory bodies at the University of Michigan’s Ethics and Compliance website (HERE)

While many of these bodies give recommendations for human subjects research, the burden of implementation lies on the researching institution and the country where the research is being conducted. With that said, the Council for International Organizations of Medical Science (CIOMS) was founded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and has developed a set of guidelines to be used when conducting international research (HERE).

Question 2:

Who do you ask if an issue is in a gray area?
As you might imagine, many ethical issues fall in “gray areas,” and these are the ones that most often arise in a laboratory setting. In general, if you run into a questionable area, start taking your query up the chain of command, first to your daily mentor, then your PI, the department head, etc. If one of these individuals is involved, such that you are not comfortable having that conversation with them, GSU has an entire office dedicated to Responsible Conduct of Research at the Institution. On their website (, you can find more information about different areas of research compliance along with a form for anonymously reporting anything you observe that raises red flags.

Question 3:

I would like to know more about dilemmas researchers face when deciding what is right or wrong.
Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) is of major importance when it comes to conducting research at any level. As such the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) require RCR training for all individuals on grants funded through their institutions. In order to more fully prepare researchers for the dilemmas they might face when conducting research, there are lots of online resources available that describe ethical dilemmas that scientist might face. Here are a couple of great sites:

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jshreckengost • October 20, 2016

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