Social Science Research Methods

It is important to be aware of stakeholders’ rights and wishes when dealing with ethical conflicts in the field or during research.
Choose one of the three ethical dilemmas and write a one-page response in your journal.

1. You are an epidemiologist and have just proposed a grant to a large government institution. After a few months of waiting, you discover the government has accepted your proposal—this is the research offer of a lifetime. You will receive the entirety of your requested funds ($250,000) to run a three-year project examining the differences in rural homes’ and urban dwellings’ access to clean water sources in Haiti and its impacts to overall human health. During your final year of research, you realize that after your results are published, the study sites will be greatly impacted—people’s homes will be torn down and they will be forced to move from lands that are special to their culture. You know that getting access to clean water will eventually help their families survive, but the present generation will likely suffer the consequences of government relocation. What do you do?

2. You are a sociologist studying gang violence on the fringes of a large American urban city. The people you interview and their families have a high likelihood to suffer increased levels of violence if they are seen communicating with you. Your reports must be published and interviewees must sign an institutional review board (IRB) form, so there is potential for word to spread of their involvement with you and your institution. You believe that the neighborhood will undoubtedly benefit from a social scientific examination of how violence affects childhood development, but you are putting yourself and other families at risk in the present. How do you choose to conduct your research and gather data in such a high-risk area?

3. You are a cultural anthropologist who has been looking for a research position for six months, and your finances are stretched to the breaking point. To your surprise, you are contacted by a major network TV company for a funded opportunity to document the “untouched tribes” of Brazil. With the approval of the Brazilian government already established, do you make contact with a group of peoples who have not had interaction with much (if any) of the Western world in order to be published and receive a substantial paycheck? Do you deny the opportunity altogether knowing that someone else will likely fill your position? Do you accept in hopes that you will make contact as sensitively as possible, not trusting someone else to do it? Is it even your place to protect the cultural environment of people you do not know?

As you respond to the specific ethical dilemma, consider the role of the IRB. What is an IRB? What is its purpose? Would the IRB protect everyone involved in your research? If so, how?

For additional details, please refer to the Ethical Responsibilities and Professionalism Journal Guidelines and Rubric document in the Assignment Guidelines and Rubrics section of the course.

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