Ethical scrutiny

September 8, 2006

Your report of the restrictions on covert social science research ("Ethics guards are 'stifling' creativity", August 25) may fuel an overreaction to the concern for improving ethical scrutiny. I too have had a covert research proposal rejected by an ethics committee since, in its view, covert research "is inherently unethical". Of course it isn't. There are ways of managing it that can minimise potential harm. The point about ethical review is to debate openly the costs and benefits of conducting research dependent on both the topic and the technique. Ethical scrutiny will continue to grow. Social scientists need to be involved with it and should not assume that responsibility for our research conduct needs no oversight.

Ron Iphofen
University of Wales, Bangor

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