Call for Ethics Cases in Social Science Research

Whilst there are ethical concerns common to most social scientific research many of the issues that arise in the course of conducting such projects are highly contextual and even idiosyncratic. As such it can be difficult to fully grasp the ethics of social science research. As with everyday life, the field’s ethics are resistant to being captured by succinct, conceptually tight, principles that can be used to frame and analyse research proposals and difficulties that arise in the course of conduct research. Whilst five generic ethical principles resulted from the work recently undertaken by the Academy of Social Science’s Research Ethics Group, and have influenced the recent revision to the ESRC’s Framework for Research Ethics, they have a more discursive nature than their biomedical counterparts

As many have noted, it would be helpful if a library of illustrative ethics case studies were available for researchers to draw on. Given that a set of such cases would reflect and compliment the existing Case Studies in Research Methods built up by Sage over the past few years, I have agreed to select and edit a series of short (3-5,000 words) essays focused on the ethical dimension of specific research projects and relate ‘what actually happened.’ The purposes of these cases is not to offer a dry ethical analysis or to reduce a case to its principles. Rather the aim is to illustrate and illuminate the ethical dimension of social scientific research as it is conducted or practiced.