Research Methods
Ten Points of the Nuremburg Code

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Point Comment
1. Research on humans absolutely requires informed consent. You cannot do research on people who are not able to give voluntary, informed consent. This requires that they be sufficiently aware of their rights to be able to make a choice that is good for them. You are also not allowed to use undue influence or power you have over a person. The individual must know what risks might be involved.
2. The experiment must have the possibility of contributing to our body of knowledge. You should not perform research that has no chance of being useful to society. This does not mean that an investigation has to produce major results, but the outcome should add to the accumulation of knowledge about human and nonhuman behavior.
3. Researchers should be informed about the topic they investigate to maximize the likelihood that the results will be useful. Especially for biomedical research, scientists should design their research based on previous work that has been conducted using animals. In addition, the scientist must be competent enough to design a study whose results will justify the experimentation.
4. The experiment should avoid unnecessary physical and mental suffering. Sometimes research by its nature involves discomfort of some kind (e.g., a study of sleep deprivation). Researchers should design their work to minimize the extent of the discomfort should it be necessary. Embarrassment and frustration are examples of mental suffering that might be associated with psychological research.
5. No experiment should be conducted if there is good reason to believe that death or serious injury will occur. When an investigation involves high levels of potential risk, this restriction can be relaxed if the researchers serve as participants in this research.
6. The degree of risk must be less than the potential gain from the research. Scientists must perform a cost-benefit analysis. If the costs exceed the potential benefits, the research is inappropriate.
7. Prior arrangements must be in place for responding to an emergency that occurs during a research project. The investigators must make provisions for emergencies that they can reasonably foresee. Sometimes a participant may suffer harm because of an entirely unforeseen circumstance. In such a case, the researcher might not be seen as acting unethically. Points 2 and 3 relate to this–a researcher should be sufficiently well informed to know what risks are likely.
8. The investigator must have appropriate training to conduct the research. Researchers have to know what they are doing. If a researcher fails to anticipate dangers that an expert would recognize in advance, that researcher might be judged as acting unethically. Researchers must also ensure that workers subordinate to them are qualified to carry out the tasks assigned to them.
9. Research participants must be free to terminate their involvement at any time. When an individual has reached the point that he or she no longer feels comfortable participating in research, the person has the right to leave without penalty.
10. The experimenter must terminate a research project if he or she believes that continuing the study will lead to injury or death. The investigator has to be aware of the dynamics of the research situation. If he or she recognizes that there is an elevated level of risk, the investigator must end the study.

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Barney Beins, Department of Psychology
Ithaca College

(Last modified August 2, 2005)