Published 2018. This Issues in Ethics statement is a revision of Ethics in Research and Scholarly Activity (revised in 2008 and 2014) and Ethics in Research and Professional Practice (2002), and incorporated the previous Issues in Ethics statement, Protection of Human Subjects (2014). It has been updated to make any references to the Code of Ethics consistent with the Code of Ethics (2016). The Board of Ethics reviews Issues in Ethics statements periodically to ensure that they meet the needs of the professions and are consistent with ASHA policies.
From time to time, the Board of Ethics (hereinafter, the "Board") determines that members and certificate holders can benefit from additional analysis and instruction concerning a specific issue of ethical conduct. Issues in Ethics statements are intended to heighten sensitivity and increase awareness. They are illustrative of the Code of Ethics (2016) (hereinafter, the "Code") and are intended to promote thoughtful consideration of ethical issues. They may assist members and certificate holders in engaging in self-guided ethical decision making. These statements do not absolutely prohibit or require specified activity. The facts and circumstances surrounding a matter of concern will determine whether the activity is ethical.
This Issues in Ethics statement provides guidance to ASHA members so that they may engage in ethically appropriate research and scholarship activities. The breadth of research and scholarship within the Association and within members' activities has necessitated change in the Code, such that research and scholarship are integrated throughout. This breadth includes research both within and across disciplines.
Research and scholarly activities constitute a professional focus for many, although clinical practice is the primary professional activity of a great majority of Association members. In addition, practicing clinicians often participate in research to increase the evidence base for clinical services they provide. Further, all ASHA members and certificate holders are encouraged to critically evaluate research as it applies to their professional activities. Research and scholarship embrace all participants, both human and animal, and all settings in which the continuum of these activities (e.g., data gathering, analysis, reporting, etc.) occur, including but not limited to
It is therefore fitting that the Association's Code provides guidance when members and certificate holders engage in or use research and other scholarly work. The Code approaches research and scholarship through the themes of (a) ethical treatment of research participants (human and animal); (b) compliance; (c) honesty; and (d) supervision of research staff, practitioner collaborators, and students.
The ethical treatment of research participants (human and animal) requires informed consent for human participants, humane treatment of animals, nondiscriminatory practices, and confidentiality.
Informed consent constitutes consent by persons served, research participants engaged, or parents and/or guardians of persons served to a proposed course of action after the communication of adequate information regarding expected outcomes and potential risks. Failure to obtain written consent from individuals participating in research, or from the parents/guardians of individuals participating in research, represents an ethical violation of the following Principles and Rules:
A foundational principle of research is the inclusion of the varied demographics of the population under study. An additional foundational principle is the fundamental respect for individual differences by those who design, execute, and report research. Discrimination in the selection and treatment of human participants may be the result of explicit or implicit bias. One example would be excluding a specific group (e.g., individuals who identify as bisexual) because of personal bias when that variable (sexual orientation) would not influence the research study’s outcome(s). Doing this violates Principle of Ethics I, Rule C, which states, "Individuals shall not discriminate in the delivery of professional services or in the conduct of research and scholarly activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, culture, language, or dialect."
Sharing information that can be used to identify a research participant is a violation of the Code. Even disclosing minimal information (e.g., initials of participant’s name, disorder, address of participant, aspects of treatment) through any form of communication, including social media, may allow others to identify the participant and may be a violation of the following Principles and Rules:
Regardless of the research setting (e.g., university, school, industry, private practice), each project involving human or animal participants must undergo an initial review to ensure compliance with applicable local, institutional, state, and federal regulations. Failure to conduct research without this review violates the following Principles and Rules:
In order to ensure that research results are accurate, safe, and reliable, research must be conducted using commonly accepted principles regarding equipment maintenance and calibration. Failure to conduct research in such a manner violates Principle of Ethics II, Rule H, which states, "Individuals shall ensure that all technology and instrumentation used to provide services or to conduct research and scholarly activities are in proper working order and are properly calibrated."
Individuals who are aware that those conducting research, either in their professional area or other professional areas, are in violation of the Association’s Code or standards of care appropriate for other professions have a responsibility to report those activities or they will be in violation of the following Principles and Rules:
Individuals conducting research or other scholarly activities are expected to do so within their areas of competence. Failure to adhere will be a violation of Principle of Ethics I, Rule A, which states, "Individuals shall provide all clinical services and scientific activities competently."
Conflicts of interest in research and scholarly activity can involve personal or commercial interests, or financial arrangements. If a researcher is offered, or receives, gifts or incentives—even something as minor as a free lunch—there may be a conflict of interest that may violate Principle of Ethics III, Rule B, which states, "Individuals shall avoid engaging in conflicts of interest whereby personal, financial, or other considerations have the potential to influence or compromise professional judgment and objectivity." Consideration of the de minimis nature of a gift also is relevant, however.
Honesty refers to being accurate and truthful about one’s self, one’s work, and the work of others. For example, while conducting research and scholarly activity, misrepresenting a Clinical Fellow or a student as either a practicing audiologist or speech-language pathologist would violate the following Principles and Rules:
The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines research misconduct as "fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results," and further states that "research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion."
ORI defines fabrication as "making up data or results and recording or reporting them." Examples of fabricating research data or results and recording or reporting them include creating spreadsheets that contain demographic information and performance results for research participants who do not exist, and creating figures for public presentation that contain results of physical measures of sound outputs for auditory devices that cannot produce these levels. These examples may be a violation of the following Principles and Rules:
ORI defines falsification as "manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record." Examples of falsifying research data and/or reporting such data include (a) reporting data that were not collected, (b) altering data collected to achieve a particular outcome, (c) reporting only data that support your hypotheses and/or interests, and (d) making false claims in promotional materials about what one’s research has demonstrated or supported. These examples may be a violation of the following Principles and Rules:
ORI defines plagiarism as "the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit." Representing any part or parts of another’s work as one’s own is considered plagiarism and may be a violation of Principle of Ethics III, Rule A (see above) and Principle of Ethics IV, Rule K, which states, "Individuals shall reference the source when using other persons' ideas, research, presentations, results, or products in written, oral, or any other media presentation or summary. To do otherwise constitutes plagiarism."
Failing to recognize students or any other contributors as authors of research or scholarly work, or assigning authorship credit to an individual who has not contributed to research or scholarly work, may result in violation of Principle of Ethics III, Rule A (see above) and Principle of Ethics IV, Rule J, which states, "Individuals shall assign credit only to those who have contributed to a publication, presentation, process, or product. Credit shall be assigned in proportion to the contribution and only with the contributor's consent."
Using direct quotes or paraphrasing published research to suggest that the author(s) of the research endorsed a product, treatment, or product may violate the following Principles and Rules:
Supervision of research staff, collaborators, and students is an integral part of scholarly activity and research. All individuals involved in research must be held to the highest levels of ethical conduct. Supervisors must ensure that all individuals involved in the research project receive appropriate training and are competent to conduct assigned research activities. The research supervisor shall maintain professional supervisor–supervisee relationships and assign credit appropriately.
Failure of individuals in supervisory or administrative roles to delegate research responsibilities appropriately to students or staff may result in violation of the following Principles and Rules:
Failure of individuals in supervisory or administrative roles to maintain appropriate relationships with all those involved in the research process may result in a violation of the following Principles and Rules:
ASHA members and certificate holders conduct research, scholarly activities, and protect human and animal participants in a variety of settings with multiple disciplines. For some individuals, these are considered primary activities; for others, these activities are completed in conjunction with other professional activities, including clinical practice. The above scenarios are only a few examples of ethical challenges. Many other challenges may arise, and individuals must remain alert and should consult the Code for guidance on appropriate courses of action.