When is not doing any harm an ethical dilemma? #MRX

As a researcher, I do my best to be aware of whether the research I’m conducting has the potential to do harm. Whether it’s observational social media research or survey panel research, I try to identify and fix occasions where people might be offended by being a part of my work.

But how often do we think about the ethics of a study in terms of how much of someone’s time we ‘waste.’ Obviously, the researcher’s point of view will always be that time answering a survey was meaningfully and well spent.

But what about from the responder’s point of view? How often do you review your research in terms of more than just harm. Aren’t overly boring, overly long surveys disrespectful and harmful in their own way?

What about interventional research where unknowing participants ‘waste’ time that they would have spent doing something else if only they had known?

I came across a great example of this issue by a well known statistician, Andrew Gelman. Read this excerpt and then his full post linked below and decide for yourself whether the research you’re doing is bothersome and unethical.

P.S. Some might say that it is mean of me to send such a sarcastic email to two evidently serious researchers. If I had been asked to participate in the study, I would respond more discreetly, but the unsolicited nature of the project seemed to demand an equivalent response. I am indeed sensitive to the ethical difficulties of survey research, but this does not stop me from feeling that my helpful impulses toward inquiring students are being abused by this sort of study, which I think belongs in the trash heap of ill-advised research projects along with Frank Flynn’s notorious survey from a few years ago when he tried to get free meals out of NYC restaurants by falsely claiming food poisoning. What is it with Columbia Business School researchers?

Read the full article here via $63,000 worth of abusive research . . . or just a really stupid waste of time? – Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.
FYI The language in his post may be offensive

2 responses

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