There are many stakeholders in research, whether it is quantitative or qualitative. It is important to look at ethical issues in relation to each of them. The various stakeholders in a research activity are:
- the research participants or subjects;
- the researcher;
- the funding body.
Who should be considered as a research participant varies from profession to profession. Generally, all those with direct and indirect involvement in a research study are considered as research participants, hence stakeholders. In addition, those who are likely to be affected by the findings of a study are also considered as stakeholders. In the fields of medicine, public health, epidemiology and nursing, patients and non-patients who become part of a study and those who participate in an experiment to test the effectiveness of a drug or treatment are considered as research participants. Service providers, service managers and planners who are involved in either providing the service or collecting information relating to the study are also stakeholders in the research. In the social sciences, the participants include individuals, groups and communities providing information to help a researcher to gain understanding of a phenomenon, situation, issue or interaction. In social work and psychology, participants include clients as well as non-clients of an agency from whom information is collected to find out the magnitude of a problem, the needs of a community or the effectiveness of an intervention; and service providers, social workers and psychologists, when they provide information for a study. In marketing, consumers as well as non-consumers of a product provide information about consumption patterns and behaviour. In education, subjects include students, teachers and perhaps the community at large who participate in educational research activities. Similarly, in any discipline in which a research activity is undertaken, those from whom information is collected or those who are studied by a researcher become participants of the study.
Researchers constitute the second category of stakeholders. Anyone who collects information for the specific purpose of understanding, consolidation, enhancement and development of professional knowledge, adhering to the accepted code of conduct, is a researcher. S/he may represent any academic discipline.
Funding organisations responsible for financing a research activity fall into the third category of stakeholders. Most research is carried out using funds provided by business organisations, pharmaceutical companies, service institutions (government, semi-government or voluntary), research bodies and/or academic institutions. The funds are given for specific purposes.
Each category of stakeholders in a research activity may have different interests, perspectives, purposes, aims and motivations that could affect the way in which the research activity is carried out and the way results are communicated and used. Because of this, it is important to ensure that research is not affected by the self-interest of any party and is not carried out in a way that harms any party. It is therefore important to examine ethical conduct in research concerning different stakeholders under separate categories.
Source: Kumar Ranjit (2012), Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners, SAGE Publications Ltd; Third edition.