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Psychology 242
Research in Psychology
Dr. David J. McKirnan

Week 4.
Research Ethics

Miss Ever's Boys

Lecture notes

Be sure to take the CITI Research Ethics training this week. The link for instructions is here.

This week we talk about ethics in research.  Key issues:

Your discussion group reading (and lecture) also addresses whether the "business" of research creates incentives for fraud or shortcuts.

We will talk about the Tuskegee study, a 40 year study of syphilis in rural Alabama that led to over 400 poor, largely uneducated African-American men being left untreated. Tuskegee is the basis for some of our human subjects protections, and remains the most salient example of unethical research in the United States.   Wikipedia has a nice overview of the study here.

We will spend a fair amount of time discussing the Common Rule, eight principles or procedures that underlie ethnical research

I will briefly touch on the Belmont Report and its conclusions; the CITI training will introduce that in more depth. I will also introduce the American Psychological Association rules for informed consent and IRB approval: you will all be including an informed consent document in your paper!

Lecture notes are here.

Discussion sections will meet in computer labs week 5.
Places to be announced.


This is a few more pages than most weeks, but these raise compelling question about research.

Diederik StapelFirst is an NYT piece on a massive scientific fraud in Social Psychology. Diederik Stapel faked 20 years(!) of research, producing 55 journal articles and 10 dissertations with made-up data. How did he go undetected for so long?

He was obviously a gifted con artist, but the investigating committee also noted "...a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data [in Behavioral Science]." "What may be most troubling about the research culture the committees describe in their report are the plentiful opportunities and incentives for fraud."

Even though outright fraud is rare, "cutting corners" or "spinning" results in a favorable way may be widespread.

Clinical research in developing countries discusses controversy HIV research in Malawi. Women in the control group of a parenatal (mother to child) HIV transmission study were given no treatment, even though effective treatments are available. Can investigators in a developing country use procedures that would be considered unethical in the developed world?  

Recommended Text: Ethics.

Discussion Group Assignment

Torture image (Click for a Word copy of Week 4 assignment).

Research ethics

We will discuss the readings in discussion group this week, as well as ethics generally. To get ready, answer the following questions using not more than one typed page.

Readings 1: How skeptical should we be about findings in Psychology? Do you think the system "worked" in the case of Diederik Stapel, or are the temptations for ethically dubious shortcuts (or actual fraud) just too great?

Reading 2:

Your review sheet for Week 4 is here.