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Research Integrity

A guide outlining Library support available to Researchers and HDRs on aspects of research integrity.

Ethics and Responsibility

Responsible research metrics involve more than just the careful collection and computation of data - there are ethical questions that also need to be considered. In Gazi Islam and Michelle Greenwood's editorial essay in the Journal of Business Ethics, "The Metrics of Ethics and the Ethics of Metrics" this very topic is addressed:

"The analytic distinction between representation and performativity is obscured in practice when metrics become targets, indeed much of the social power of metrics comes from their use as targets. Hence, we should pay attention to the world of practice in which measuring and doing are entangled. However, we should not lose sight of the limitations of measurement and the possibility that there are areas of ethical life best left unmeasured."

For Islam and Greenwood, the crucial consideration is of "performativity", the notion that, in their words, "our knowledge, ideas, analytic tools, theories, and the like are not merely reflections of, but shape, our social world". The political and ideological dynamics of research and data collection are often invisible yet must not be ignored. For example:

"Seemingly democratizing ratings systems instantaneously available at the touch of a smart phone (e.g., product reviews, crowd sourced feedback) may paradoxically drive inclusion/exclusion, reconfigure interpersonal relationships, and conceal organizational control"

Islam and Greenwood's conclusion push against the totalizing "everything is data, everything is metrics" attitude gaining currency in our evolving landscape. 

"What the limits of measurement are, if any, and whether there are areas of ethical life that are best left unmeasured. If so, how should we speak of such areas in our scholarship, maintain them in our awareness, and sustain that aspect of their value that resists measure? This question broadens our scope to one that lies at the core of ethical scholarship, to the question of how one should represent in the mind what must be done in the world. For now, however, our task has been to engender discussion."

While Islam and Greenwood's consideration focuses on business ethics, their conclusions are broadly applicable across many fields. For other scholarly considerations of ethics in a research framework, one might also consider Wiley's ongoing journal Ethics & Human Research.