Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 21–29 | Cite as

Do we Need a Special Ethics for Research?

  • Sven Ove Hansson
Original Paper


Research is subject to more stringent ethical requirements than most other human activities, and a procedure that is otherwise allowed may be forbidden in research. Hence, risk-taking is more restricted in scientific research than in most non-research contexts, and privacy is better protected in scientific questionnaires than in marketing surveys. Potential arguments for this difference are scrutinized. The case in its favour appears to be weak. A stronger case can be made in favour of a difference in the opposite direction: If perilous or otherwise problematic activities have to be performed it is usually better to perform them in a research context where they are properly evaluated so that guidance is obtained for the future. However, retreating from current ethical demands on research is not a desirable direction to go. Instead, research ethics can serve to inspire the introduction of more stringent ethical principles in other social sectors.


Research ethics Boundary problem Applied ethics Professional ethics Clinical trials Military ethics Data mining Privacy Risk 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and the History of TechnologyRoyal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

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