ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH IN HEALTH
Rights and Responsibilities of Researchers and Institutions
III.1. Relationship between researchers and institutions
III.1.1. Institutions have a responsibility to respect the autonomy of researchers and the ethical guidelines for research.
III.1.2. Institutions should create and maintain an environment with adequate support systems to enable researchers to follow ethical guidelines.
III.1.3. Institutions have a responsibility to take appropriate and adequate steps for protection against pressures inimical to the observance of ethical guidelines for research.
III.2. Protection and promotion of integrity in research
III.2.1. Researchers have a right, as well as a responsibility, to refrain from undertaking or continue undertaking any research that contravenes ethical guidelines, violates the integrity of research and/or compromises their autonomy in research, including design methodology, analysis and interpretation of findings and publication. If they feel that their rights are being violated, or that the study is unethical, they should make all possible efforts at making corrections. In the event of failure of remedial measures they should exercise their right to terminate the study or to opt out of it.
III.2.2. Researchers should undertake only such research that according to their understanding will be useful to society or for the furtherance of knowledge on the subject.
III.2.3. Researchers should not undertake secret or classified research, any secret assignment under the garb of research nor research whose findings are to be kept confidential. Researchers have a right as well as responsibility to make all necessary efforts to bring the research and its findings to the public domain in an appropriate manner.
III.2.4. Researchers have a responsibility towards the interests of those involved in or affected by their own work. They should make reasonable efforts to anticipate and to guard against possible misuse and undesirable or harmful consequences of research. Researchers should take reasonable corrective steps when they come across misuse or misrepresentation of their work.
III.2.5. Researchers should ensure that there is honesty and transparency at every stage of research as these are indispensable for good and ethical research.
III.2.6. Researchers should ensure that there is no fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or other unethical practices at any stage of the research; and that the findings of research are reported accurately and truthfully. They should also ensure protection of historical records and preservation of study material.
III.2.7. All parties involved in research and dissemination of its findings should inculcate and practice sensitivity and respect for culture and other aspects of the group or community studied.
III.2.8. Researchers must ensure respect, protection and promotion of rights of participants. Criteria for the selection of participants of research should be fair, besides being scientific.
III.2.9. Peer review should be an essential part of every research endeavour or initiative, and should be sought at various stages of research.
III.3. Relationship among researchers
III.3.1. Principal researchers are responsible for the ethical conduct of research by all juniors, assistants, students and trainees. At the same time juniors, assistants, students and trainees have an equal responsibility for ethical conduct and observance of ethical guidelines.
III.3.2. The juniors, assistants, students and trainees have a right to receive, and principal researchers have a responsibility to provide/impart, proper training and guidance regarding all aspects of research, including ethical conduct. The principal researchers should delegate to the juniors, assistants, students and trainees only those responsibilities that they are reasonably capable of performing on the basis of their education, training or experience, either independently or under supervision.
III.3.3. No researcher should engage, personally or professionally, in discriminatory, harmful or exploitative practices, or any perceived form of harassment. Nor should the researcher impose views/beliefs on or try to seek personal, sexual or economic gain from anybody, including other researchers, juniors, assistants, trainees and students.
III.3.4. Researchers should not deceive or coerce other researchers, including juniors, assistants, trainees and students into serving as research subjects/participants, nor use them as cheap labour.
III.3.5. Researchers should be co-operative, responsive, honest and respectful about the interest, opinion/view, capability and work of other researchers, including juniors, assistants, trainees and students.
III.3.6. While working in the team on a research project, at the outset, all members of the team have a right to know and document all aspects of research including ownership of the data. This procedure also applies to the participation of students doing their own research in a project team. Students should have the right to opt out of a research project without having to face adverse consequences.
III.3.7. In addition to researchers, other individuals such as administrative staff of the organisation conducting research or that of the research setting, etc may be associated, in some way, with the research. All of them should be briefed on ethical issues and the guidelines, including the need to protect the rights of participants and the confidentiality of identifiable data.
III.4. Data Sharing
III.4.1. Sharing of data should be done in a form, which is in consonance with the interests and rights of the participants. Researchers who have conducted the study and the institution where the study is conducted are fully responsible for ensuring the protection and promotion of the interests and rights of participants while sharing or making public available data in any form.
III.4.2. The researchers involved in a particular research and the institution where the research is conducted, have a joint right over and ownership of all raw data, including those identifying the participants. Along with this right, they are fully responsible for ensuring that when such data, including those that identify participants, are shared with other researchers, all necessary measures are taken and followed to maintain confidentiality, by those researchers with whom data are shared.
III.4.3. Data that do not identify participants and their whereabouts, in the form of anonymous or abstracted facts, may be commonly shared, if necessary even before the publication of the study, among researchers, peer reviewers, or may even be made available to the public.
III.4.4. As far as possible, researchers and institutions should ensure that relevant summary findings of the research are taken back to the research participants in a form and manner that they can understand. In this process they should take into consideration the possible social harm that such information might cause to the research participants.
III.5. Reporting and publication of research
III.5.1. Reporting of research and its results is the right as well as duty of every researcher and institution that conducted the study. When they agree to delegate this responsibility to funder(s)/sponsor(s) or any other individual(s)/organisation(s), they should do it only if they have received mutually agreed and expressed commitment to publish/disseminate the results/report within a stipulated period.
III.5.2. The results should be reported irrespective of whether they support or contradict the expected outcome(s). Researchers should also disclose in their publications, the source(s) of funding and sponsors, if any, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. The findings should also explain the methodology used, as well as how, in actual practice the ethical guidelines were followed, ethical dilemmas encountered and resolved, etc.
III.5.3. Authorship credit: The following guidelines should be followed for giving authorship credit while reporting the research in any form:
(i) Authorship, and its sequence in case of more than one author, should be based on the quantum of contribution made in terms of ideas, conceptualisation, actual performance of the research, analysis and writing of the report or any publication based on the research. Authorship and its sequence should not be based on the status of the individual in the institution or elsewhere.
(ii) All other individuals not satisfying the criteria for authorship but whose contribution made the conduct and completion of research or publication possible should be properly acknowledged.
(iii) A student should be listed as principal or first author on any multiple authored publication that substantially derives from the student's dissertation or thesis.
(iv) Appropriate credits should be given where data or information from other studies or publications is quoted or otherwise included.
III.5.4. Researchers should avoid dissemination of the results of research before they are peer-reviewed or published in appropriate journals. When such results are disseminated through the popular media, extra care should be taken to ensure that even those media persons not specifically trained in social science and health issues and research, are able to comprehend the limitations and implications of research results. Journalists and the media that publish these research results have a responsibility to do so truthfully and honestly.
III.5.5. When institutions and/or researchers publish a report or any other documents based on research, they should make adequate efforts to ensure their easy availability and accessibility.
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