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J Evid Inf Soc Work. 2018 Jul-Aug;15(4):351-370. doi: 10.1080/23761407.2018.1478756. Epub 2018 May 29.

The status of research ethics in social work.

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a College of Social Work , Florida State University , Tallahassee , USA.


Research ethics provide important and necessary standards related to the conduct and dissemination of research. To better understand the current state of research ethics discourse in social work, a systematic literature search was undertaken and numbers of publications per year were compared between STEM, social science, and social work disciplines. While many professions have embraced the need for discipline-specific research ethics subfield development, social work has remained absent. Low publication numbers, compared to other disciplines, were noted for the years (2006-2016) included in the study. Social work published 16 (1%) of the 1409 articles included in the study, contributing 3 (>1%) for each of the disciplines highest producing years (2011 and 2013). Comparatively, psychology produced 75 (5%) articles, psychiatry produced 64 (5%) articles, and nursing added 50 (4%) articles. The STEM disciplines contributed 956 (68%) articles between 2006 and 2016, while social science produced 453 (32%) articles. Examination of the results is provided in an extended discussion of several misconceptions about research ethics that may be found in the social work profession. Implications and future directions are provided, focusing on the need for increased engagement, education, research, and support for a new subfield of social work research ethics.


Research ethics; responsible conduct of research; social work ethics; social work research

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