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NCJ Number: 76380 Find in a Library
Title: Confidentiality in Criminological Research and Other Ethical Issues
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:27  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1981)  Pages:345-361
Author(s): M E Wolfgang
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 17
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Ethical issues associated with confidentiality in criminological research, the issuance of public or social policy statements, evaluation research, the use of research funds, and teaching criminology are discussed.
Abstract: Criminological research frequently involves the obtaining of data from persons who could be criminally prosecuted based on the information given to researchers. Although researchers may not be legally immune from revealing their sources and producing research information deemed confidential by the researchers, the ethical commitment of the researcher should be to those who have provided the research data with the understanding that no adverse consequences would attend their participation. Whether a research staff is immune from contempt for failure to submit files to examination or impounding upon a court order is undecided in case law. Should such an occasion arise, litigation to protect the names of its sources should be pursued by the researchers. Researchers are often called to testify in court to reveal scientific findings that have relevance to an issue before the court (e.g., whether discrimination is prevalent in the application of the death penalty in particular States). Researchers should particpate in such proceedings, even though the presentation of findings may be abused or distorted by persons involved in the case. As probability statistics have become increasingly admitted into litigation, some judges have come to accept the P value of .05 as nearly sacred in determining what is acceptable science. Neither scientists nor judges should be so wedded to the .05 notion as to ignore consistent patterns of P values a bit more than .05. Regarding the ethical dilemmas likely to attend receipt of research funds from various sources, the researcher should be particularly careful that study findings are not slanted to cater to the self-intererst of the sponsor. In teaching criminology, it is the obligation of the teacher to make clear to students to particular biases that influence the perspectives the teacher presents in class. Footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Behavioral science research; Code of ethics; Confidential records access; Criminology; Legal privacy protection; Professional conduct and ethics
Note: Earlier version of this paper was presented at the Conference on Ethics, Public Policy and Criminal Justice, Center for the Study of Values, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, October 23-25, 1980.
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