Ethics Working Committee Draft. Do Not Distribute. For Review Only.

Broad Ethical Considerations

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The greater the vulnerability of the community / author / subject, the greater the obligation of the researcher to protect the community / author / subject.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Because ‘harm’ is defined contextually, ethical principles are more likely to be understood inductively rather than applied universally. That is, rather than one-size-fits-all pronouncements, ethical decision-making is best approached through the application of practical judgment attentive to the specific context (what Aristotle identified as phronesis4).

Permalink for this paragraph 3 Because all data at some point involves individual persons, human subject considerations may be necessary even if it is not immediately apparent how and where persons exist in the information stream.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 When making ethical decisions, researchers must balance the rights of subjects (as authors, as research participants, as people) with the benefits and rights to research of researchers and of research. In different contexts the rights of subjects may outweigh the benefits of research.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Ethical issues arise and need to be addressed during all steps of the research process, from planning to publication.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Ethical decision-making is a deliberative process, and researchers are well-served to consult as many people and resources as possible: fellow researchers, people participating in or familiar with contexts/sites being studied, research review boards, ethics guidelines, published scholarship (within one’s discipline but also in other disciplines), and, where applicable, legal precedent.5

  1. For further discussion of phronesis as applied to Internet research ethics and to  digital media ethics, see for example Ess (2009) and McKee and Porter (2009). []
  2. The AoIR discussion list and archives (http://listserv.aoir.org/listinfo.cgi/air-l-aoir.org) provide many examples of researchers seeking advice from a world-wide community. []
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