Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.~Jane Addams
The year of 1978 was a significant year-it was the year of my birth! However, this post is not about me, it is about another historical event, the issuance of the Belmont Report in September of 1978. Fast forward 37 years later to the present and current consideration for proposed changes to these guidelines that inform ethical standards in research, as we know them.
I personally believe knowledge informs change. Therefore, as knowledge has informed current research practices, thus resulting in new and additional approaches, a revision to the ethical standards is overdue. While reflecting on the topic of ethics, the quote by Jane Addams, “action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics,” resonates. The ethical principals that guide one’s profession should be expressed in the every day actions of that professional. While the Belmont Report regulates research processes and my future responsibilities when conducting research, I am also upheld on a daily basis, to the social work Code of Ethics. Both the word “community” and “communities” are reflected in the social work Code of Ethics. Therefore, as a social work researcher I am in strong agreement with the proposed changes to include “community” in the Belmont Report. In addition, one of the specific recommendations is to change research “subject” to research “participant.” This proposed change is also aligned with the current wording in the social work Code of Ethics.
Two recent posts related to research ethics and the Belmont Report pertains to children’s role and experiences in research.
In the first post by Michelle Dean, “Monkey day care: Growing up as a child research subject” is a narrative of a woman’s pursuit to put together the story that currently exists as sketchy memories lacking detail of her experience in a research study as a young child. Ultimately, she is not able to get any more details to answer her burning questions or to confirm what she has carried as distant memories of her childhood experience in this research study.
The second post, “Children’s views should shape how research is conducted, says ethics body” discusses a current conversation in the United Kingdom, stemming from a report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics around children having a voice and decision making role as research advisor in the field of research. Together these two posts provide an additional perspective that the Belmont Report proposed changes are not largely focused on and someone else may argue have possibly overlooked, which is the ultimate impact and influence children’s voices can have in the research process and the implication of this for improving their lives. Overall, there are many changes proposed and ultimately the solicitation of input and feedback from all interested individuals on this issue is taking a giant step in the RIGHT direction.