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Entrepreneurship: Top 5 Ethical Research Guidelines

This guide supports UCI’s innovation and entrepreneurship community by connecting users to relevant resources used to conduct research throughout the entrepreneurial process.

Top 5 Ethical Research Guidelines

1. Think from the participant's perspective.

  • What information would you be willing to share, and under what circumstances?
  • What would make you feel comfortable answering the questions that the researcher is asking?
  • How would you feel if you work at Company X, and you learn that the information being gathered will benefit your competitor, Company Y?

2. Introduce yourself and the research.

  • Identify yourself honestly, and explain your objectives for conducting the research, including:
    • how the information collected will be used.
    • who will benefit from the information.
    • whether or not participants and their responses will remain anonymous. If not, why?
  • Do not misrepresent yourself as a customer or client, especially if seeking information from a competitor company.

3. Consider confidentiality and data security.

  • Protect participants’ responses and personal information (see: Working with Sensitive Data).
  • Only collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) if it is absolutely necessary.
    • PII refers to “information that, when used alone or with other relevant data, can identify an individual. PII may contain direct identifiers (e.g., passport information) that can identify a person uniquely, or quasi-identifiers (e.g., race) that can be combined with other quasi-identifiers (e.g., date of birth) to successfully recognize an individual." (Source)

4.  Be careful with personal health questions!

  • Avoid asking directly about a person's physical or mental health status.
  • Avoid asking directly about a person's health condition(s), medication(s), etc.
  • Avoid combining health questions and questions that ask for personally identifiable information.
  • See also: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
    • HIPAA protects the confidentiality and security of personally-identifiable information that arises in the course of providing health care.

5. You might need Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.

  • The IRB is responsible for reviewing human subject research and ensuring compliance with federal regulations, state laws, and UC/UCI policies, to protect the safety and welfare of human subjects.
  • If you are doing primary research for a class assignment or an entrepreneurial project, you probably don't need IRB approval. If you plan to publish your research (i.e., develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge), talk with your professor(s)/advisors.

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