Ethics in research: follow-up 2

I’m afraid that I can’t offer any practical examples of ethical dilemmas from my own practice, because the issue of ethics in social sciences in Japan is for the moment a non-starter. In Module 5, for example, candidates need to submit to UofLiverpool an ethics approval form signed by someone in their home institution. Not having an ethics committee at our (national) university, I approached our faculty dean, who was bemused by my request.

However, you begin by reiterating your point regarding the ethics of care and the need to share truth. I’d like to talk to that a bit. I wonder if there is an ethical consideration the timing and its availability of publication? By this I mean that currently anyone who has access to journals can read all the content. Typically, this access is available to HEIs and also to the press media. However, much of hard science and social science publication is at the preliminary stage of vetting (Thompson, 2014). Any scholar can publish on an idea, and the veracity or acceptability of that idea can be supported or challenged by others in the field. Information may be simultaneously contradictory and preliminary (Thompson, 2014), raising the questions of who is able to usefully manage that information and should unconfirmed or unclarified projects be made available to the public? Vaino (2013) shows the uses of three kinds of anonymity (thanks for that great resource, Lyn!), but perhaps a fourth type could be added: anonymity of research until verified by the body of scholars? This could add a mechanism that would protect stakeholders in any research project. HEIs could know about the publications in the usual way, but the dissemination to the public via the press media could be delayed. I can see difficulties with this suggestion including the problem that time-sensitive research would be hindered. However, the idea of limiting access to particular types of scholarship to a restricted audience may have benefits in terms of the ethics of care. Undemocratic? Perhaps, but then democracy is not known for its kindness (cf UK/ EU).


Thompson, R. J. J. (2014). Beyond Reason and Tolerance: The purpose and practice of higher education. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vainio, A. (2013). Beyond research ethics: anonymity as “ontology”, “analysis” and “independence.” Qualitative Research, 13(6), 685–698. doi:10.1177/1468794112459669

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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