The case against ethics review in the social sciences

From Research Ethics

For decades, scholars in the social sciences and humanities have questioned the appropriateness and utility of prior review of their research by human subjects’ ethics committees. This paper outlines criticisms and limitations of ethics committees. It suggests there are better options. Most critics of the current system of ethics review acknowledge the dangers of unethical research in the social sciences and humanities, but they see the current system of ethics review as a poor way to address those dangers. Embedded in their criticism are a number of potential alternatives to the status quo.

Abstract

For decades, scholars in the social sciences and humanities have questioned the appropriateness and utility of prior review of their research by human subjects’ ethics committees. This essay seeks to organize thematically some of their published complaints and to serve as a brief restatement of the major critiques of ethics review. In particular, it argues that 1) ethics committees impose silly restrictions, 2) ethics review is a solution in search of a problem, 3) ethics committees lack expertise, 4) ethics committees apply inappropriate principles, 5) ethics review harms the innocent, and 6) better options exist.

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Article details
ZACHARY M. SCHRAG (2011). The case against ethics review in the social sciences Research Ethics, 7 (4)

     
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