Perceptions of Ethical and Unethical Behavior in Recreation Research

Article excerpt


Research is an integral component to the advancement of any profession. Through directed research efforts, professions establish unique bodies of knowledge that serve to further understanding of phenomenon and provide direction for decision making. As such, research should be conducted and disseminated based on established principles that guide its execution.

At minimum, research should be executed in accordance with the principles of honesty and competence (Riddick & Russell, 2008). In the event that human subjects are involved in a research project, ethical principles guiding research should be expanded to address participant protection (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2002).

Literature addressing research ethics commonly focuses on principles such as honesty, justice, beneficence, respect, justice, nonmaleficence (Riddick & Russell, 2008), and other areas related to action and decision-making common to the research process, including but not limited to: authorship; fraud; plagiarism; fragmentation; duplication; external sponsorship/conflict of interest; collegiality, the use of Institutional Review Boards (Price, Dake, & Islam, 2001); and the collection, integrity, ownership, and storage of data (Mitra & Lankford, 1999; Riddick & Russell, 2008).


The principle of honesty is associated with trust. Research should be free of deception or the misrepresentation of information (Riddick & Russell, 2008). In addressing issues relevant to the principle of trust, Riddick and Russell (2008) highlight that deceptive practices can commonly include plagiarism; not being forthright with study participants about the purpose of a research project; inadvertent or intentional errors in data collection, analysis, or reporting; and fraud.


The principle of competence is related to the skills and abilities of a researcher. Generally speaking, "competence means that an individual is qualified by training and experience to conduct the research study. Researchers should know their limitations, engage in continuous education activities, and seek assistance when necessary" (Riddick & Russell, 2008, p. 238).

Participant Protection

Participant protection includes the principles of respect for persons, beneficence, justice, and nonmaleficence (McCrone, 2002; NIH, 2002) According to the NIH (2002) the principle of respect for persons is associated with study participants being treated as autonomous agents and the protection of persons with diminished autonomy, beneficence refers to an obligation researchers have to maximizing participant benefits and minimizing participant harm, while justice refers to the equitable distribution of participant benefit and risk. Finally, nonmaleficence speaks to the obligation a researcher has to prevent any unnecessary harm to participants (McCrone, 2002).


Ethical issues related to authorship most commonly arise when multiple individuals consider writing a manuscript (Erlen, 2002). While single authorship is still prevalent, collaborative research publications have steadily increased (Price, Dake, & Oden, 2000). Often in collaborative research situations questions arise related to who should be considered as an author of a manuscript and how authorship should be ordered (Erlen, 2002). According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (2008), the following three criteria should be met to receive authorship on a research manuscript: 1) a substantial contribution to a significant part of the study, such as its conception or design, data acquisition, data analysis, or data interpretation; 2) involvement in the drafting, revising, or critical review of the manuscript; and 3) approval of the final manuscript version to be published.

Based on the above criteria for authorship, two possible situations could occur in which ethical research behavior could be called into question. …