Social responsibility and beneficence

Social responsibility and Beneficence

All professions exist within the context of human society. This means that all researchers have a shared collective duty for the welfare of human and non-human beings.

The principle of beneficence has two elements - positive beneficence and utility beneficence. Positive beneficence means doing positive good in the sense that the research has some value scientifically, practically or educationally - in other words it must address an important question. Utility beneficence refers to the requirement that the researcher ‘balances benefits and drawbacks’ to produce the best overall results [Beauchamp and Childress 2001:165]. In other words, an assessment has to be made about whether the benefits of the research justify the level of effort, resources, costs or risk of harm to the research participants and the community.  

Knowledge must be generated and used for beneficial purposes. This means purposes that not only support and reflect respect for the dignity and integrity of persons (both individually and collectively) but also contribute to the ‘common good’.
Researchers must be able to work in partnership with others (including professional colleagues, research participants, and other persons); be self-reflective; and be open to challenges that question the contributions of knowledge to society.
Researchers need to be aware of their personal and professional responsibilities, to be alert to the possible consequences of unexpected as well as predicted outcomes of their work, and to acknowledge the often problematic nature of the interpretation of research findings.

Beauchamp T L  and Childress J F  (2001) Principles of Biomedical Ethics.  5th Edition. Oxford University Press

These pages have been adapted from the GCU code of good practice in research, the GCU research ethics booklet, and the BPS code of human research ethics.