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Research Ethics

Research Ethics - Robert J. Levine, M.D., Yale University

Dr. Robert Levine of Yale University provides an overview on the events that led to the formation of research ethics.

Yale University (2011).  Research ethics [Video]. YouTube.

What are Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity?

Research ethics is the practice of using discipline-defined norms and standards in conducting research and generating new knowledge.  Research ethics can be applied to any discipline, whether it is in the arts and humanities, social sciences, health and medical sciences, engineering, or physical or biological sciences.  

Scientific integrity is similar to research ethics and is the result of following professional values and practices when conducting scientific research and applying its results.

Research ethics and scientific integrity ensures the following:

  • Objectivity
  • Clarity
  • Reproducibility
  • Utility
  • Transparency
  • Accountability

They are also important for minimizing or avoiding:

  • Bias
  • Fabrication
  • Falsification
  • Outside Interference
  • Inadequate Research Procedures and Security of Data
  • Other legal (e.g., copyright infringement) or unethical actions (e.g., plagiarism)

Why are these important?

Research and discoveries add to a body of knowledge.  They frequently lead to new creations, products, services, treatments, and various innovations.  When ethics and integrity are compromised, it has negative effects in many areas:

  • Erroneous or invalid information:  other researchers may base their studies on flawed research which may affect their studies' validity and outcomes.
  • Wastes of funds, time, or resources.
  • Identifying misconduct:  research misconduct often takes a long time to identify after it happens.
  • Public trust:  the public's trust in research and scholarly activity can diminish, impacting their support or regard for it. 


Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity

The following documents describe the development of research ethics and refer to the historical occurrences that initiated them.

The nature of research or scholarly inquiry being done and the involvement of people in the processes determines what is subject to regulations and institutional review.  The National Institutes of Health defines human subject research as, "research involving the collection, storage, or use of private data or biological samples from living individuals by means of interactions, interventions, surveys, or other research methods or procedures."

Federal regulations regarding research and human subjects distinguishes research from practice in the following ways:

  • Research is a systematic activity and involves a plan that tests a hypothesis and structures the approach.  This can include qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research.
  • Pilot and preliminary studies that may include research development, testing, and evaluation
  • The intention of research is to contribute or develop information to a body of knowledge.

Certain types of inquiry such as literary criticism, historical scholarship, and journalistic or intelligence-gathering activities are not defined as being research in the 2018 update of the Common Rule (45 CFR 46.102).  However, keep in mind that those methods are subject to following the norms and ethics within their academic or professional disciplines.

Source:  CITI Program (2022).  IRB reference resource.


Informed Consent

Vulnerable Populations

Some federal-level regulations and policies are used by various entities to guide their conflict of interest policies.  See the following for their guidance and recommendations.  Some agencies may require disclosing significant financial or other interests when submitting a grant proposal.

FAU Research Integrity Offices and Policies

Last updated on May 10, 2024 3:06 PM