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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


MONDRAGON BARRIOS, Liliana. Ética de la investigación psicosocial. Salud Ment [online]. 2007, vol.30, n.6, pp.25-31. ISSN 0185-3325.

The aim of this manuscript is to open up a space for thinking about and debating the issue of ethics in psychosocial research. The ethics of research is put forward in order to identify, deliberate and to a certain extent mitigate the dilemmas arising during the process of generating knowledge. In research, the main questioning focuses on how to behave ethically at the various stages of research, in one's relationships with other scientists and in considering the social responsibility of science.

The ethics of research in human beings becomes important when one admits that all kinds of studies contain dilemmas that constitute risks for those that participate in it. However, not all research in human beings is the same; the risks and benefits of biomedical experimentation differ from those that arise in studies in the psychosocial area.

Social science research, including psychosocial research, generally entails emotional risks that may trigger mental health disorders and social risks, such as the discrimination or stigmatization of the subjects involved.

The ethical dilemmas of social studies are different because they are conceived of in a morally heterogeneous context; in the relativist essence of social sciences; in the canons of scientific objectivity and methodological rigor; in the primacy of subjectivity and the recognition of otherness; in the processes of individuation and the social order; in historicity and culture; in the exercise of power and in the will to know. In other words, in the elements those represent and are inherent to social research.

In general, these conflicts are expressed when researchers begin to wonder what to prioritize at the moment of choosing a research issue and the way the latter is undertaken. They also arise over the issue of what to publish and when considering the importance of the problem for the community, mainly at the time of giving back the information to those that participated in the study.

As a result of the above, first must be questioned both the design of the work, the method and techniques to be used in achieving objectives and the impact of the study for the scientific and social community. The latter is crucial, since it determines whether or not social intervention policies that are important in people's lives can be implemented.

The dissemination of information has often been an issue of great interest and ethical debate, since it involves confidentiality as well as the need for publication and the dissemination of results. In this respect, intellectual honesty and the guarantee that the results of the study will be properly used by researcher are crucial.

It is therefore essential to take ethical reflection to other fields of action, where the different ethical implications are difficult to deal with, such as community studies, at-risk or minority populations, as well as the various research methods, such as the qualitative approach.

At the same time, ethical problems encountered by social researchers tend to be avoided, perhaps because they are not interpreted as such or because, in the majority of cases, they can be regarded as mistakes or deficiencies by the researcher himself, who is not prepared to reveal them to the scientific community or perhaps because the recognition of a dilemma may influence the acceptance of a research project.

Thus social scientists usually only recognize those displayed in biomedical experimentation as ethical dilemmas and therefore do not subject themselves to the ethical codes of these disciplines. It may also be because psychosocial research should not really have to apply ethical standards applied in other disciplines, whose object of study is different from that of social sciences. If it did so, it would be a non-reflexive way of understanding the construction of knowledge derived from social research.

On the contrary, the ethics of psychosocial research attempts to problematize and generate reflection and interpretation, from the epistemological and ontological consistency characteristic of the social disciplines, where the ethical conflicts represented in everyday practices are obviated and become unquestionable in research, which is why one has to rethink the responsibility and commitment involved in social science.

Thus, psychosocial research should propose its own ethical requirements, without having to make declarations or establishing principles that end up as ethical codes. The point is not to establish norms for the critical behavior of researchers or to recommend universal ethical guidelines. The point is for ethical requirements to arise from the inherent needs of social research, through constant dialog and consensus, the recognition of the ethical dilemmas that emerge and the critical work conducted in this area.

The point is to provide rather than establish knowledge, skills and abilities in the interaction with people, to understand the duties of professionals and the rights of participants and to develop the sensitivity to be able to recognize the different cultural nuances, the expressions of group diversity and the vulnerability of the human condition.

Unless the issue is examined in depth, ethics in the social field will be threatened by an ethical imperialism that imposes unilateral evaluation criteria on psychosocial research. It would be an ethics whose requirements would become excessively bureaucratic and complied with solely for the purpose of obtaining grants for research.

At present, ethical concerns are only entrusted to institutions (Ethical committees) or financing organizations, whether national or foreign, since researchers regard them merely as an imposition that happens to be in vogue, rather than assuming that they are the ones that have the capacity and sensitivity, based on their experience, to identify and mitigate ethical dilemmas.

This shows the importance of ensuring that researchers accept the rigorous, ethical review of their work during the entire research process, even at the time of the publication and presentation of results. Hence the need for an ethics committee, whose dialogic function operates with a variety of visions and opinions, that do not prevent debate and instead promote reflection, and which is far removed from belief, intuition, dogma, doctrine and fundamentalism, which would hamper dialog and tolerance and the creation of a space where moral and above all, ethical responsibility should prevail.

Ethical dilemmas are inherent to psycho-social research, which is why the main challenge would be to ensure respect for autonomy, bearing in mind the fact that informed consent must be voluntary, individual and/or collective, verbal or written, but above all, a process that only ends after research has been completed. At the same time, researchers must protect the confidentiality, privacy and common good of those being researched, and avoid damage, discrimination and stigmatization. In short, efforts must be made to maximize benefits, in other words, to protect the rights and well-being of research subjects.

In psychosocial research, one is ethically obliged to problematize and critically reflect on one's work and the way one behaves, in other words, one's ethos as researchers, with responsibility and moral commitment towards those being researched.

Palavras-chave : Ethics; research; psychosocial sciences.

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