Potential risks associated with social and behavioral science research
One of the major concerns of researchers and Institutional Boards (IRBs) is to evaluate the risk of harm associated with their research. But the risk of potential harms on taking part in social and behavioral sciences (SBE) is less predictable and more ambiguous as well.
The common reason for the risk of harm in SBE also includes the reaction of individuals to certain questions or even events. It seems to be a small reason but the impact could be pretty overwhelming. Thus, it is essential to handle such researches to a growing body of research literature on risks associated with it.
Well, the risk of harm in social and behavioral sciences generally fall into three categories which are
- Invasion of Privacy: – This category is probably the top among the risks which may harm social and behavioral researches. It occurs when the personal information is by any means accessed by an individual without any knowledge or consent of the subject.
For an instance, a researcher studying the interaction pattern of a meeting conducted by an organization without revealing her real identity. The researcher is safe until the interaction is in a good flow and nobody notices that she is learning the pattern.
But, if the group participants notice that she is a researcher trying to study their interaction pattern, the whole flow disrupts. Besides, the participants will start to feel that their privacy has been invaded by the researcher.
This often occurs when the participation of a subject is revealed even after assuring that the subject will not be revealed. One of the common incidents that may occur in this regard is recording the complaint of a sexually abused woman.
Being a sensitive matter, the subject surely won’t want it to reveal to the world. But when a group of people moves from the place where the story of the woman has been recorded, her privacy is invaded. Such a scenario may lead to severe unpredictable acts.
- Breach of confidentiality: – An unauthorized release of the data that shouldn’t be revealed as assured to the subject is termed as breach of confidentiality. Any kind of disclosure of the information out of the research setting can lead to a confidentiality breach and can bring instant impacts to the subjects.
The impacts of breach of confidentiality in social and behavioral sciences include the impact on social, psychological, or economic status, etc.
For an instance, an employee could lose the job after sharing the attitudes of the managers working in top positions. The impact doesn’t need whether the information is disclosed by the researcher or an unauthorized person.
- Study Procedures: – Of all risks, this category can be predictable to some extent but the negative impact of this risk can be unimaginable. Simply taking part in the studies can put the subjects at risk.
For an instance, interviewing a gang of robbers about one of their leaders can risk the researcher’s life. Well, the impact need not be only from the leader. Sometimes, the subject may attack when the researcher can’t guarantee confidentiality.