Our Code of Practice
For more than two decades, SRDC has been applying high ethical standards to how we conduct ourselves in all our research activities, but particularly in how we deal with the participants in our social experiments. We have developed a formal Code of Practice, based on the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
In the area of Privacy and Confidentiality, our Code goes beyond Tri-Council guidelines. SRDC has implemented policies and imposed structures to ensure the proper management of data and protection of the personal information that comes in its possession. Furthermore, as part of our Designated Organization Screening through the Canadian and International Industrial Security Directorate (CIISD), SRDC holds a Facility Security Clearance at the SECRET level.
SRDC’s work has been approved by numerous school boards and post-secondary institutions’ research ethics boards. On occasion, SRDC’s board of directors has assumed the role of a research ethics committee to scrutinize some of our research projects more thoroughly.
The following general principles guide the conduct of SRDC research activities.
Respect for human dignity.
The cardinal principle of modern research ethics is respect for human dignity. This principle aspires to protecting the multiple and interdependent interests of the person — from bodily to psychological to cultural integrity. It is unacceptable to treat persons solely as means (mere objects or things), because doing so fails to respect their intrinsic human dignity and thus impoverishes all of humanity. The welfare and integrity of the individual remain paramount in research involving humans.
Respect for free and informed consent.
Individuals are generally presumed to have the capacity and right to make free and informed decisions. Respect for persons means respecting the exercise of individual consent, and the principle of respect for persons translates into a requirement for free and informed consent on the part of all participants in research, including the right to withdraw from research without penalty.
Respect for vulnerable persons.
Respect for human dignity entails high ethical obligations towards vulnerable persons — those whose diminished competence or decision-making capacity make them vulnerable. Children, institutionalized persons or others who are vulnerable are entitled, on grounds of human dignity, caring and fairness, to special protection against abuse, exploitation, or discrimination. Ethical obligations to vulnerable individuals who are involved in research require the use of special procedures to protect their interests.
Respect for privacy and confidentiality.
Respect for human dignity implies the principles of respect for privacy and confidentiality. Privacy and confidentiality are considered fundamental to human dignity. Thus, standards of privacy and confidentiality must be applied to protect the access, control and dissemination of personal information. In doing so, such standards help to protect the mental or psychological integrity of individuals.
Respect for justice and inclusiveness.
Justice connotes fairness and equity and concerns the distribution of benefits and burdens of research. On the one hand, distributive justice means that no segment of the population should be unfairly burdened with the harms of research. It thus imposes particular obligations toward individuals who are vulnerable and unable to protect their own interests in order to ensure that they are not exploited for the advancement of knowledge. On the other hand, distributive justice also imposes duties neither to neglect nor discriminate against individuals and groups who may benefit from advances in research.
Balancing harms and benefits.
The analysis, balance, and distribution of harms and benefits are critical to the ethics of research involving humans. The foreseeable harms should not outweigh anticipated benefits. Research participants must not be subjected to unnecessary risks of harm, and their participation in research must be essential to achieving scientifically and societally important aims that cannot be realized without the involvement of human participants. This means that overall risk of harm should be kept to the minimum necessary to ensure scientifically valid data.
Respect for interests of the wider society.
Greater access to well-grounded information should serve, rather than threaten, the interests of society. Respecting the interests of wider society requires consideration of the consequences of all research activities for funders, operational partners, other researchers and evaluators, and all others who may be affected by those activities. No research should be undertaken that is predisposed toward a particular outcome. Funders should be provided with an impartial assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of available methods for addressing each research question. Funders and operational partners should be notified of the protocols, standards and guidelines under which the research will be undertaken.
Respect for the broad dissemination of research findings.
Research most contributes to the public good and to the advancement of knowledge when it is shared with a broad audience. Therefore, consideration must be given to ways in which research data and findings can be shared with the general public, with funders, with research participants, and with colleagues. Findings should be made available in the context of independently published and easily accessible reports. Additionally, and within the limits imposed by confidentiality requirements, information regarding methods and data quality should be disclosed to permit procedures, techniques and findings to be assessed by other researchers and evaluators.
Respect for high standards of evidence.
The analysis of all research data is guided by a commitment to raise the standards of evidence that are used in assessing social policies and programs. This commitment implies the use of the best available technology, methodology, or practice appropriate to each research project.
Respect for truth.
Respect for the truth requires that data be accurately gathered, recorded, and preserved and the results of research be reported fairly and honestly. Information will not be knowingly misinterpreted or used in inappropriate ways.