MeCCSA Statement of Research Ethics Guidelines
In view of the wide diversity of disciplinary orientation, methodological approach, and conceptual foundation of research in our field, MeCCSA does not publish a detailed code of research practice. It is for this reason that bodies such as the ICA and IAMCR have similarly not published such a Code (though the latter is considering doing so).
The Association believes that where research in our field has certain special characteristics, for example in its frequent commitment to the concerns and needs of the vulnerable or less powerful, that should inform its research practice. This view, however, states a position on the politics rather than conduct of research. We distinguish between a code designed to provide ethical guidelines for the conduct of empirical research, and one which addresses wider issues of the purpose, social implications, or policy application of research in our field.
The Research Councils do not collectively or individually have a prescribed Code, but simply, and perhaps rather vaguely, state that “The Research Organisation is responsible for ensuring that ethical issues relating to the research project are identified and brought to the attention of the relevant approval or regulatory body”.
We do wish to promote a brief set of broad principles that state why research in our field is important, and that it will always seek to comply with research codes relevant to its focus of interest. The broad principles the Association supports are as follows:
- Research undertaken by higher education staff and students in media, communication and cultural studies should adhere to the highest possible standards of research practice and ethics, and in doing so should have regard to the guidelines on research practice and ethics published by the subject association or body of most direct relevance to the particular research project.
- Research results, data and conclusions should be made available in the public domain wherever and to the greatest extent possible.
- Wherever possible policy-making in fields relevant to our research competence should be informed by such research, and researchers should seek to ensure that relevant research is available to and informs the practice of policy makers.
- The conceptualisation, design, formulation and conduct of research should be guided by the theoretical or applied concerns of the researchers rather than by the immediate or pragmatic needs of commissioners or funders of research, and should be independent of and unimpeded by those needs.
- The interpretation of research findings should be undertaken by the researchers, who should ensure, and be allowed to ensure, that their analysis and explanation of research findings should be available to anyone with access to or using the research.
- Research should always seek to develop new knowledge and understanding through original investigation, regardless of prevailing orthodoxies, assumptions, or authoritative social and cultural views uninformed by such research.
- Where researchers feel unable to adhere to these principles or to appropriate research practice guidelines they should feel able to address their concerns, in confidence if need be, to the Association, which will investigate and address the matter on their behalf as appropriate.
We wish to draw to members’ attention the following sets of research practice Guidelines from various associations, which we believe may be of value in the conduct of members’ research. Members may also be interested in the relevant site of the International Communication Association, since this lists links to a number of codes, and also states that “While affirming our commitment to such widely recognized broad principles, ICA has not established a comprehensive code of professional practice providing detailed guidelines on ethical issues. Given the interdisciplinary diversity of research encompassed by ICA, a comprehensive code of ethics for ICA that would address this range of research methods and scholarly approaches would be cumbersome”.
- British Sociological Association Code [PDF]
- British Psychological Society Code [PDF]
- The Social Policy Association Code [PDF]
- The Social Research Association has both a Code and relevant discussion documents [PDF] which are very helpful
- Another valuable overview developing a code for ‘all socio-economic research’ is the ‘Respect project’
- For the Market Research view of this see the Market Research Society Code of Conduct
- For a European dimension to the market research view see the ICC ESOMAR Code [PDF]
- ESOMAR also publish their guidelines on ‘social media’ research [DOC]
- The ESRC publishes a research ethics framework [PDF]
- The AHRC publish only a very brief note on this topic
- Members may find it helpful to see the guidance given by the Association of Research Ethics Committees
- Internet research poses many of its own difficulties and the AOIR has produced a relevant code [PDF]. However, do note that this was produced in 2002.
- Members may find it helpful to read the chapter on research ethics in D. Deacon et. al. Researching Communications (2nd. edn. Edward Arnold, 2007).