Unwarranted Participant Questions and Virtuous Researcher Lies

TitleUnwarranted Participant Questions and Virtuous Researcher Lies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDavis, P
JournalResearch Ethics
Volume7
Issue3
Pagination91-99
Date Published2011
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsarcher , Integrity , lying , Privacy , research , SCIENTISTS , Truthfulness , VIRTUE
AbstractMost writing on research ethics is about researcher treatment of participants. This essay considers a participant threat to researcher privacy and integrity. It is based partly upon a real-life sport research case, and discusses a participant request to know if the researcher supports a particular and popular football team. The researcher does support this team, but felt disinclined to answer truthfully, and so lied. It is argued, with the help of analogous cases, that the participant question is what Borge calls ‘unwarranted’, despite the football fan culture of allegiance disclosure. It is further argued, again following Borge, that refusal of the question would have generated a conversational admitture, resulting in the participant truly believing what the researcher correctly believes he has no right to know. The researcher is therefore justified in lying. This justification is buttressed by Swanton's virtue ethical account of right action, according to which an action is right if it is ‘overall virtuous’ (OV), and that entails that it is the (a) best possible action in the circumstances. Here, actions which are typically right, such as truth-telling, are sometimes not, and may even on occasion be wrong-making qualities of actions. It is argued, however, that honesty retains a positive moral value and dishonesty a positive moral disvalue, and it is therefore to be regretted that the OV course of action involves lying. The researcher should therefore regret the OV lie, should ponder if he could have done anything to prevent the situation, and should consider what he can do to prevent its recurrence. A global prescription to protect researchers is probably out of reach, but one suggestion for this sort of case is that the researcher tells the participant at the outset, in appropriately hospitable tones, that he is unable to disclose anything of his own affections. 
NotesDavis, Paul 1; Affiliation: 1: University of Sunderland. Darwin Building, Chester Road, Sunderland, SR1 3SD, UK paul.davis@sunderland.ac.uk; Source Info: Sep2011, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p91; Subject Term: RESEARCH -- Moral & ethical aspects; Subject Term: TRUTHFULNESS & falsehood; Subject Term: RESEARCH subjects (Persons); Subject Term: SCIENTISTS; Subject Term: PRIVACY; Subject Term: INTEGRITY; Author-Supplied Keyword: archer; Author-Supplied Keyword: integrity; Author-Supplied Keyword: lying; Author-Supplied Keyword: privacy; Author-Supplied Keyword: virtue; Number of Pages: 9p; Document Type: Article
DOI10.1177/174701611100700304

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