Elizabeth Buchanan

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Date Submitted: 01/28/2013 10:34 AM

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Elizabeth Buchanan

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA

Q. Virtual research ethics-What is this general area of virtual research ethics and why is it important? How does it relate to traditional notions of research ethics?

A. Virtual research ethics takes traditional principles of research ethics-justice, beneficence, and respect for persons-and situates them in virtual realms, Internet-mediated spaces, such as MUDs, Moos, chat rooms, discussion fora, and so on. Just as researchers have a responsibility and obligation to conduct ethical research in face-to-face setting, this does not change in the virtual. There are different ways of interacting with subjects, and different ways of conducting research, such as virtual ethnography, or online content analyses. But, traditional principles of ethics remain intact: subjects have rights and deserve to be treated fairly, equitably, and ethically. Of course, things are different in the virtual: subject solicitation takes on different forms; who owns the words or content from a discussion forum? What procedures must a researcher take to gain entrance to a virtual community? These are but a few of the questions explored in "Readings in "Virtual Research Ethics: Issues and Controversies".

Q. Growing use of online research-How prevalent is the use of virtual research? What disciplines are using it and how?

A. The use of Internet-mediated research is growing exponentially; in particular, the emergence of the WWW in the 1990s sparked this growth. One landmark event occurred in June 1999 when the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convened a panel to discuss and make recommendations surrounding virtual research ethics.

Disciplines, coming from the social sciences to humanities, are using various forms of Internet spaces to conduct experiments and research. Some, for instance, in psychology, are using the Internet to conduct surveys. Online surveys have become extremely popular. Too,...