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Why ethics?

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A short presentation outlining ethics and its importance in educational research, especially from the perspective of 'openness'

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Why ethics?

  1. 1. Why ethics? Dr. Robert Farrow Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, UK
  2. 2. Why ethics? Dr. Robert Farrow Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, UK @philosopher1978 @oer_hub
  3. 3. Image:https://www.flickr.com/photos/lemasney/5211610431/
  4. 4. What is ethics?
  5. 5. The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/
  6. 6. What is ethics? We all have moral intuitions and a sense of right and wrong, but can find it hard to explain the basis for these Ethics is the attempt to systematically understand moral experiences; to extract the underlying principles; and to prescribe the rightness or wrongness of actions Essentially, ethics attempts to tell us what we should (or shouldn’t) do, but crucially also why we should (or shouldn’t) do it Instances of applied ethics (such as professional ethics) can be more like a set of rules that are to be followed
  7. 7. Ethics has a very long history, beginning with the Ancient Greeks in the Western European tradition. There has been a lot written about it, as you might expect.
  8. 8. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  9. 9. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  10. 10. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  11. 11. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  12. 12. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  13. 13. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  14. 14. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  15. 15. http://superscholar.org/history-of-philosophy/
  16. 16. Given this long history, it’s tempting to assume that research ethics also has a long history. But there wasn’t really any formal discourse about research ethics until after Word War II.
  17. 17. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD-YCDE_5yw Post World War II, war crimes trials produces Nuremberg Code (1947) for research involving human subjects Belmont Report (1979) sets out the principles of ethical research & still acts as basis for experimental research Criticised by Shore (2006) for failure to recognize difference (gender, ethnicity, culture, geography, etc)
  18. 18. It’s not just about getting your project signed off by the ethics committee. You have to be constantly thinking about the ethical implications of your practice throughout the research process.
  19. 19. To find out whether the psychological states of its users can be manipulated Facebook ran a study which involved showing users either only ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ status updates and seeing whether this would affect their mood (it did). Expert opinion is divided over the acceptability of Facebook’s actions. • What are our expectations of use of online information? • Can we reasonably consent to our own harm? • What role is technology playing in the pedagogical situation; of what should we be aware? • Mirror with ethical responsibilities around distance learning Facebook: ‘Emotional Contagion’ Study
  20. 20. So what difference might open be making?
  21. 21. Increased risk?
  22. 22. “[T]he information society has been brought about by the fastest growing technology in history […] No previous generation has ever been exposed to such an extraordinary acceleration of technical power over reality, with corresponding social changes and ethical responsibilities” Prof. Luciano Floridi (Philosopher of Technology)
  23. 23. Greater moral obligations?
  24. 24. The ethics of open education “When educational materials can be electronically copied and transferred around the world at almost no cost, we have a greater ethical obligation than ever before to increase the reach of opportunity. When people can connect with others nearby or in distant lands at almost no cost to ask questions, give answers, and exchange ideas, the moral imperative to meaningfully enable these opportunities weighs profoundly. We cannot in good conscience allow this poverty of educational opportunity to continue when educational provisions are so plentiful, and when their duplication and distribution costs so little.” (Caswell, Henson, Jensen & Wiley, 2008)
  25. 25. Farrow, R. (2016). A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education. Open Praxis, 8(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpr axis.8.2.291
  26. 26. A framework for an ethics of open education
  27. 27. Principles of ethical intervention Respect for participant autonomy (fair treatment; recognizes human dignity) Avoid harm / minimize risk Full disclosure (interventions should be understood by those affected) Privacy & data security (respect for confidentiality) Integrity (meeting recognized professional standards) Independence (objectivity) Informed consent Extracted from BPS, BERA, ESRC guidance
  28. 28. Modern philosophers usually distinguish… • Meta-ethics (the meaning and use of ethical language) • Normative Ethics (principles/standards that regulate conduct) Deontological ethics (duties, rules & obligations) Consequentialist ethics (consequences, outcomes) Virtue ethics (development; personal excellence) • Applied Ethics (analysis of specific moral controversies) WikimediaCommons/NotFromUtrecht
  29. 29. Modern philosophers usually distinguish… • Meta-ethics (the meaning and use of ethical language) • Normative Ethics (principles/standards that regulate conduct) Deontological ethics (duties, rules & obligations) Consequentialist ethics (consequences, outcomes) Virtue ethics (development; personal excellence) • Applied Ethics (analysis of specific moral controversies) WikimediaCommons/NotFromUtrecht
  30. 30. A framework for an ethics of open education
  31. 31. phronēsis phronēsis aristotle ethical, practical reason developed through reflective experience
  32. 32. Conclusion Philosophical ethics is the attempt to rationalise and make systematic our moral intuitions Research ethics systematises these ethical principles into codes of practice We don’t have a choice about whether or not to be ethical: ethical demands are made upon us whether we choose to recognise and act upon them
  33. 33. Conclusion In a research context we have processes and check and balances to make sure that the work we do meets high ethical standards Working in open contexts (e.g. open research data) can mean that risk becomes harder to assess since complexity and uncertainty increase To develop better judgement it’s important to remain ethically engaged with the work you’re doing and take responsibility for the outcomes
  34. 34. Further reading Blackburn, S. (2003, 2nd ed.). Being Good: A Short Introduction to Ethics. Cambridge University Press. Farrow, R. & Pitt, B. (2013). OER Research Hub Ethics Manual. https://oerknowledgecloud.org/content/oer-research-hub-ethics-manual National Institutes of Health (undated). Protecting Human Research Participants. https://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php Norman, R. (2003, 3rd ed.). The Moral Philosophers: An Introduction to Ethics. Oxford University Press. Singer, P. (ed.) (1994). Ethics. Oxford University Press. OER Hub (2015). Open Research. https://courses.p2pu.org/en/courses/3230/open-research- 2015/
  35. 35. • Research into open education and strategies for building worldwide open education research capacity • Available for research & consultancy (short & long term) • Current projects include: oerhub.net

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