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A Call for Structured Ethics Appendices in Social Science Papers (WP-21-02)

Edward Asiedu, Dean Karlan, Monica Lambon-Quayefio, and Christopher Udry

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. The authors 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. They discuss each of these, and some of the norms and challenging situations of each. They 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.

This paper is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Edward Asiedu, Lecturer, Department of Finance, University of Ghana

Dean Karlan, Frederic Esser Nemmers Distinguished Professor of Economics and Finance and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Monica Lambon-Quayefio, Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Ghana

Christopher Udry, Robert E. and Emily King Professor of Economics and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

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