A Call for Structured Ethics Appendices in Social Science Papers
Ethics in social science experimentation and data collection are often discussed but rarely articulated in writing as part of research outputs. Although papers typically reference human subjects research approvals from relevant institutional review boards, most recognize that such boards are not comprehensive ethical assessments. We propose a structured ethics appendix to provide details on the following: policy equipoise, role of the researcher, potential harms to participants and nonparticipants, conflicts of interest, intellectual freedom, feedback to participants, and foreseeable misuse of research results. We discuss each of these, and some of the norms and challenging situations of each. We believe that discussing such issues explicitly in appendices of papers, even if briefly, will serve two purposes: more complete communication of ethics can improve discussions of papers and can clarify and improve the norms themselves.
We are grateful to Gharad Bryan, Shawn Cole, Andrew Foster, Christina Gravert, Steve Glazerman, Julian Jamison, Heather Lanthorn, Jeff Mosenkis, William Pariente, Kate Vyborny, and especially to Douglas Mackay, for comments and discussions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.