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Wassenaar, D., & Mamotte, N. (2012). Ethical issues and ethics reviews in social science research. In M. M. Leach, M. J. Stevens, G. Lindsey, A. Ferrero, & Y. Korkut (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of international psychological ethics (pp. 268–282). Oxford University Press.


Although the ethics of social science research has not enjoyed as much scholarly attention as the ethics of biomedical research, social scientists continue to debate the relevance of research ethics and ethics review to social science research. Like social scientists, biomedical scientists have also objected to ethical review of biomedical research, and much has been gained from the ensuing debates. This chapter reviews much of this recent debate, and proposes the application of a framework developed by Emanuel, Wendler, and Grady (2008). We argue, however, that social scientists are generally inadequately trained in research ethics and may still espouse a dangerous view, common among behavioral scientists in the 1950s, that ethical concerns reflect a kind of methodological or scientific naiveté. We provide grounds for arguing, further, that social science research, with a few clear exceptions, should be rigorously ethically reviewed, and that research ethics committees have an obligation to be competent in the appropriate review of social science research, including qualitative research. Although the chapter refers largely to social science research, we include psychological research as a major domain of social science research.