The Ethics of Health Professions Education Research: Protecting the Integrity of Science, Research Subjects, and Authorship

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The author was invited to write a commentary on the ethics of health professions education research. Based on the author's own experiences, published guidelines, and discussions with international colleagues, the author found that research ethics can be roughly grouped into 3 distinct areas, each with its own distinct aims: protecting the integrity of science, protecting the integrity of research subjects, and protecting the integrity of authorship. The focus of this commentary is to provide some guiding thoughts on each of the 3 areas for mentors of emerging health professions education scholars. While any framing logic is arbitrary, the 3 areas of research ethics can be illustrated by 9 distinct breaches of ethical principles, ranging from outright fraud to strategic authorship practices, and 27 practical lessons for learners to counter these and shape ethical research conduct. In general, the international variations in habits, rules, and regulations do not strike the author as being substantially different, but there are cultural variations in terms of what is emphasized and regulated. The ethics of research in health professions education has developed quite extensively in the past few decades, following advances in biomedical and other research domains, and are now grounded in several useful and authoritative guidelines. At the end of the day, however, ethical research conduct is a matter of internalized rules and regulations that researchers must develop over time. Emerging scholars need both instruction and role models to develop their own moral compass to navigate the rules, regulations, and purposes of research ethics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-17
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges
Issue number1
Early online date14 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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