Organisational research

Baumrind identified the core ethical dilemma common to organisational research: researchers [whether insider or outsider] are continuously striving to balance [their] career and scientific interests against the interests of [their] prospective subjects (p.1108). They present a solution to this ethical dilemma faced by insider and outsider researchers in organisations is the use of databanks. Here there is often no consent sought at all, informed consent is often not even considered.

Again, the researcher may uncover sensitive information and will have to consider whether it is ethical to use or withhold this information.There will be minimal contact between the researcher and employees of the organisation[s] involved… employees…

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unwittingly become participants [and] the study results often have potential consequences for the employees (p.1109). Wright et al.

(1999) continue to suggest that employees in this position are removed to being outside stakeholders and often they are not perceived as stakeholders at all. Ethically, this is a question, not only of informed consent, but also databanks may be created as a result of prior research, thus it is also an ethical issue of the control and use of data after it has been collected. Wright et al. suggest the use of committed-to -participant (CPR) approaches to research.

In this approach,The overall well-being of the research participants was a stated project goal… Unfortunately, this CPR approach does not appear to be widely used and, as a consequence, organizational research is often perceived as being out of step with the very needs of the people we propose to study (p.110). I would also suggest that it is a result of this view that ethical debates and deliberations are becoming increasingly prevalent in organisational literature.

Do codes of ethics produce their own ethical dilemmas? There is a tentative debate, which I referred to earlier, over whether codes of ethics are themselves ‘ethical.’ The researcher may use them to protect their own position and to persuade participants to take part in the research. Homan suggests that ethical codes or boards allow individuals to surrender ethical responsibility to a consensus.

Ethical codes can never be final as with Tickle’s experience of action research, in which he had to alter his ethical code to deal with unexpected results. Homan feels strongly that ‘ethical codes, like other legalistic formulations, tend to set out procedures rather than stress the values which they are designed to safeguard’ (p.325). Ethical codes may contain clauses over privacy, they may stress that in an interview situation the participant had the right to refuse to answer specific questions.

I would suggest that this is virtually impossible to enforce. Homan believes that unethical behaviour in this situation is almost unavoidable,But those who use open methods report as an achievement that their subjects forget that research is the basis of their relationship… Investigators report that some of their most valuable data were collected once participants forgot that they were speaking on the record (p.326) If a privacy clause has been included in a code of ethics, I would suggest that it is unethical for the interviewer to use qualities of trust and charm to entice a participant to part with information. Ultimately, Homan believes that for ethical codes to be acceptable and for ethical dilemmas to be avoided and participants protected as a result, the moral codes behind the ethical ones need to be recalled.Many suggest that codes of ethics and ethical boards are created to protect against ethical issues that the researcher may have overlooked.

Small (2001) agrees with Homan in suggesting that they remove the moral responsibility from the researcher to conduct ethical research. Small also acquiesces to the views of Ladd, who states that ‘a code of ethics may itself have harmful effects. Since it sets only a minimal standard of ethical conduct, people are likely to condone whatever is not expressly dealt with by its provisions’ (p.391).The title of McNamee’s article ‘Whose ethics, which research?’ demonstrates the shifting nature of ethical concerns to different researchers and in different research settings. McNamee suggests that if one perceives codes of ethics as only ever partially completed products. ‘A code can at best represent some inelegant consensus and not a fully coherent theoretical structure awaiting application’ (p.

315). if a researcher views a code of ethics in this, which I would suggest is a more responsible light, they will have to consider individual ethical dilemmas as and when they arise and to seek the advice of others whist not surrendering responsibility to them.References:J. Bell, (1999) Doing your research project (Buckingham, O.U.P.

)L. Blaxter, (2001) C. Hughes and M. Tight, How to research 2nd edition (Buckingham, O.U.

P)D. Bridges, (1998) ‘Research for sale: moral market or moral maze?’ British Educational Research Journal Vol. 24 no.

5D. Bridges, (2001) ‘The ethics of outsider research,’ Journal of the Philosophy of Education Vol. 35 no. 3R. Homan, (2001) ‘The Principle of Assumed Consent: the Ethics of Gatekeeping,’ Journal of the Philosophy of Education Vol. 35 no.

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