SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS
IN SOCIAL RESEARCH
The social sciences share with all scientific endeavors the need to balance scientific zeal with other values that derive from the social context in which all scientific work takes place. To some extent, the scientific ideal of objectivity inevitably conflicts with humanistic values, and all scientists must at some time come to grips with this conflict. The issue, however, is particularly acute for social scientists because the focus of their research is the behavior of other human beings, and thus not only the goals of research but the very process of data collection is subject to value conflicts. This chapter first considers those ethical issues that are related specifically to research with human respondents and then focuses on the more general issues of concern to all scientists in their choice of research problem and strategy of data reporting.
Because the subject matter of the social scientist is human behavior and the processes that mediate that behavior, it is inevitable that scientific interests will conflict at times with values placed on the rights of individuals to privacy and self-determination. The guidelines for behavioral and social research set by the American Psychological Association's Committee on Ethical Standards (1983; 1992) and by the President's Panel on Privacy and Behavioral Research (Surgeon General's directive, 1967) stress the idea of recruiting participants for research on the basis of informed consent —that is, that participation be voluntary and with the volunteer's full knowledge of what participation will involve. However, it is recognized that many phenomena could not be researched at all if this ideal were fully met, and that the rights of participants must be weighed against the potential significance of the research problem. Resnick and Schwartz (1973), for example, demonstrated in a verbal conditioning experiment that a complete description of methods and hypotheses eliminated the phenomenon they were attempting to investigate.