October 19, 2011
Typically, neuroscientists, or among all scientists, fail to provide full disclosure of the project to a participant in order to obtain valid knowledge on the phenomena being investigated. Although this methodology is widely used by many scientists, it however proves to be an ethically controversial topic. The idea of deception in human experimentation becomes unethical as the informed consent required by the individual is not completely transparent of the research, thus lacks a degree of respect for the persons utilized in the experiment. Hence, how can the vast majority of psychology and neuroscience projects be approved by ethic committees if deception is a common methodological theme? Are participants rights triumphed by the knowledge gained by the experimentation? To what extent are unethical methods permitted by ethic committees and what makes one idea allowed and another not? These are questions that we should be asking ourselves, knowing that science should not be independent of ethical and moral values.
It comes to my attention that a capacious amount of published articles using deception as a method to obtain valid knowledge by the participant is not specifically stated so in the journal article. Without blatantly stating that this form of research utilized deception, a person that is unaware of ethical issues within research may not realize that some participants were not given proper information.
Understandably, deception in research is a methodology that is not going to leave science any time soon. Therefore, it is necessary to make it prevalent to the public that this occurs and for readers of the research articles to be fully aware of the use of deception. I believe that it is pertinent that if a researcher decides to integrate deception into the procedure, it should be clearly stated within the Materials and Methods section of the journal article. Overall, I believe that the nature of the research should be explained to the participates after the experimentation, such that it will soften the overarching ethical dilemma. This may ultimately limit the participant pool, but it does give a degree of respect from the researcher to the participants that is truly deserved.
Personally, I believe that it is our right and our duty, as readers and future neuroscientists, to take this matter seriously. We should not allow researchers to infringe upon participants rights to be tested when there is a lacking of transparency of the nature of the research. We should encourage our colleagues and higher authorities to demand that experimental deception included in the research should be explicitly stated within published articles and individuals be debriefed of the entirety of the project. Adding these boundaries to published articles will not only provide a more ethically sound publication, but will promote respect for science among readers that are not familiar with the field when full disclosure of the experimentation is available to the public eye.
Original article: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/28/19/4841.full.pdf