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Do we Need a Special Ethics for Research?


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.

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Correspondence to Sven Ove Hansson.

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Hansson, S.O. Do we Need a Special Ethics for Research?. Sci Eng Ethics 17, 21–29 (2011).

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