Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Ethics and Experiments

Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals, 1st Edition

Edited by Scott Desposato


322 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138909168
pub: 2015-12-21
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pub: 2016-03-18
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pub: 2015-12-22
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For most of political science's history, discussions about professional ethics had nothing to do with human subjects. Professional ethics involved integrity in the classroom, fair tenure and promotion rule, and the careful avoidance of plagiarism. As most research was observational, there was little need for attention to how scholarly activities might directly affect the subjects of our work. Times have changed. The dramatic growth in the use of experiments in social science, especially overseas, is generating unexpected ethical controversies. The purpose of this volume is to identify, debate, and propose practical solutions to the most critical of these new ethical issues.

A leading team of internationally distinguished political science scholars presents the first examination of the practical and ethical challenges of research with human subjects in social science and policy studies.

Part 1 examines contextual challenges provided by experiments conducted overseas - questions of culture, religion, security, and poverty.

Part 2 examines questions of legal constraints on research, focusing on questions of foreign review of international experiments.

Part 3 tackles the critical issues in field experiments, including deception and consent, impact on elections and careers, the boundaries of the public officials' exemption, and the use of partner organizations to avoid Institutional Review Body (IRB) review.

Part 4 considers strategies for the future, including training and education, IRB reform, institutional changes, and norm development.


'A must-read for researchers and practitioners who use experiments.' - Emily Beaulieu, University of Kentucky, USA

'The notion that social science research is minimal risk research is no longer valid in many regions of the world today. Meeting the needs of the international research community facing ethical challenges emanating from global political, religious, cultural and economic diversity, this volume provides empirically driven guidance and policy recommendations for the ethical conduct of social science research on a global scale. The book’s many scholarly contributions by social and political scientists an important resource for Institutional Review Boards, policy makers, and social scientists responsible for the ethical conduct of international field research in a dynamic geopolitical landscape.' - Michael P. Caligiuri, University of California, San Diego, USA

'This anthology makes significant contributions to the ethics of experimental political science. The authors identify troubling issues, propose best practices, and, most importantly, encourage future dialogue on ethical issues that will arise in experimental political science. Anyone conducting experiments in political science must read this book.' - Trisha Phillips, West Virginia University, USA

Table of Contents

1. Introduction Scott Desposato Part 2:Contextual Challenges for Experimentalists 2. The Ethics of Exclusion When Experimenting in Impoverished Settings Kim Yi Dionne, Augustine Harawa, and Hastings Honde 3. Ethics for Experimental Manipulation of Religion Richard A. Nielsen 4. Religion, Experiments, and Ethical Concerns Rebecca Morton and Jonathan Rogers 5. Prison States and Games of Chicken Jesse Driscoll Part 3: Local Ethical Review when Conducting Experiments Internationally 6. The Value and Challenges of Using Local Ethical Review in Comparative Politics Experiments Jennifer L. Merolla and Raul Madrid Jr. 7. Ethical Challenges in Comparative Politics Experiments in China Xiaobo Lü 8. Local Review: Confronting the Brazilian Black Box Saul Cunow and Scott Desposato 9. Ethical Perspectives in Countries without an Institutional Review Board: The Case of Mexico Rosario Aguilar Part 3: The Ethical Challenges of Field Experiments 10. Obligated to Deceive? Aliases, Confederates, and the Common Rule in International Field Experiments Michael Findley and Daniel Nielson 11. Considering the Political Consequences of Comparative Politics Experiments Joshua R. Gubler and Joel S. Selway 12. Information and Power: Ethical Considerations of Political Information Experiments Brigitte Zimmerman 13. Conducting Research with NGOs: Relevant Counterfactuals from the Perspective of Subjects David W. Nickerson and Susan D. Hyde 14. Manipulating Elites Edmund J. Malesky 15. Field Experiments on Elected and Public Officials: Ethical Obligations and Requirements Christian R. Grose Part 4: Strategies for Moving Forward 16. Human Subjects Protection and Large-N Research: When Exempt is Non-Exempt and Research is Non-Research Mitchell A. Seligson 17. Ethics and Research in Political Science: The Responsibilities of the Researcher and the Profession Elizabeth J. Zechmeister 18. Journal Editors as Ethics Sheriffs Rick K. Wilson, William Mishler, and John Ishiyama 19. Conclusion and Recommendations Scott Desposato

About the Editor

Scott Desposato has held positions at the University of Zurich, the University of Arizona, as well as the Harvard Academy, and is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at University of California, San Diego, USA. His research interests include American and comparative elections, institutions, voting behavior, and methodology.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Experimental Political Science

Advisory Board: Howard Lavine (University of Minnesota), Joshua Tucker (NYU), Rick Wilson (Rice University), Elizabeth Zechmeister (Vanderbilt University)

Political scientists are increasingly using experiments to study important political and social phenomena.  The logic of experimentation makes it an appealing and powerful methodological tool that enables scholars to establish causality and probe into the mechanisms underlying observable regularities. Experiments, because of their transparency, also enable researchers to communicate their findings to a broad audience.  Although highly technical knowledge is not necessary for understanding the gist of experiments, experiments must be designed, administered, and analyzed with care and attention to detail. 

The Routledge Studies in Experimental Political Science was developed to publish books that educate readers about the appropriate design and interpretation of experiments and books that showcase innovative and important applications of experimental work. We are particularly interested in scholarly monographs, but proposals for edited volumes will also be considered.

The series will showcase experimental work in political science in at least two ways:

  1. Pedagogy: Books that provide pedagogical guidance on the design, administration, and analysis of experiments, particularly tailored for a political science audience.  Such books would be targeted at advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members.
  2. Applications: Books that use experimental methods, particularly innovative experimental methods, to understand important causal relationships in political and social settings.

Learn more…

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