prioritizing ethics

Thinking about research ethics this week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a comment that stuck with me from a class last year (I think it was from one of the final lectures in INF1001) – something along the lines of it’s ironic that everyone always says ethics are so important, yet we tack discussions about ethics onto the end of courses like an afterthought. In this course, the ethics discussion hasn’t been left until the very end, but pretty close. Yet the readings and guest lecture this week reiterated just how crucial ethics review is to the research process. At UofT, you can’t conduct any human-based research activities without getting clearance, even if it’s for a class project. I used to think of ethics clearance as just a bureaucratic hurdle to clear and forms to sign, but I am beginning to see that the entire research design hinges on consideration of ethical issues. Some of the questions asked at the end of yesterday’s lecture related to exactly that point: what ethical implications might result from the choice of method(s)? This might be a chicken and egg scenario, because you can’t really understand the implications of a method you don’t know anything about, but I wonder whether it makes more sense to talk about ethics earlier in a course like this. 
– Cynthia

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