Sections 12 - 20.06
12. Informed Consent
Informed consent is a basic ethical tenet of scientific
research on human populations. Sociologists do not involve a
human being as a subject in research without the informed consent
of the subject or the subject's legally authorized
representative, except as otherwise specified in this Code.
Sociologists recognize the possibility of undue influence or
subtle pressures on subjects that may derive from researchers'
expertise or authority, and they take this into account in
designing informed consent procedures.
12.01 Scope of Informed Consent
(a) Sociologists conducting research obtain consent from
research participants or their legally authorized representatives
(1) when data are collected from research participants through
any form of communication, interaction, or intervention; or (2)
when behavior of research participants occurs in a private
context where an individual can reasonably expect that no
observation or reporting is taking place.
(b) Despite the paramount importance of consent, sociologists may
seek waivers of this standard when (1) the research involves no
more than minimal risk for research participants, and (2) the
research could not practicably be carried out were informed
consent to be required. Sociologists recognize that waivers of
consent require approval from institutional review boards or, in
the absence of such boards, from another authoritative body with
expertise on the ethics of research. Under such circumstances,
the confidentiality of any personally identifiable information
must be maintained unless otherwise set forth in 11.02(b).
(c) Sociologists may conduct research in public places or use
publicly available information about individuals (e.g.,
naturalistic observations in public places, analysis of public
records, or archival research) without obtaining consent. If,
under such circumstances, sociologists have any doubt whatsoever
about the need for informed consent, they consult with
institutional review boards or, in the absence of such boards,
with another authoritative body with expertise on the ethics of
research before proceeding with such research.
(d) In undertaking research with vulnerable populations (e.g.,
youth, recent immigrant populations, the mentally ill),
sociologists take special care to ensure that the voluntary
nature of the research is understood and that consent is not
coerced. In all other respects, sociologists adhere to the
principles set forth in 12.01(a)-(c).
(e) Sociologists are familiar with and conform to applicable
state and federal regulations and, where applicable,
institutional review board requirements for obtaining informed
consent for research.
12.02 Informed Consent Process
(a) When informed consent is required, sociologists enter into
an agreement with research participants or their legal
representatives that clarifies the nature of the research and the
responsibilities of the investigator prior to conducting the
(b) When informed consent is required, sociologists use language
that is understandable to and respectful of research participants
or their legal representatives.
(c) When informed consent is required, sociologists provide
research participants or their legal representatives with the
opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of the research, at
any time during or after their participation in the research.
(d) When informed consent is required, sociologists inform
research participants or their legal representatives of the
nature of the research; they indicate to participants that their
participation or continued participation is voluntary; they
inform participants of significant factors that may be expected
to influence their willingness to participate (e.g., possible
risks and benefits of their participation); and they explain
other aspects of the research and respond to questions from
prospective participants. Also, if relevant, sociologists explain
that refusal to participate or withdrawal from participation in
the research involves no penalty, and they explain any
foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing.
Sociologists explicitly discuss confidentiality and, if
applicable, the extent to which confidentiality may be limited as
set forth in 11.02(b).
(e) When informed consent is required, sociologists keep records
regarding said consent. They recognize that consent is a process
that involves oral and/or written consent.
(f) Sociologists honor all commitments they have made to research
participants as part of the informed consent process except where
unanticipated circumstances demand otherwise as set forth in
12.03 Informed Consent of Students and Subordinates
When undertaking research at their own institutions or
organizations with research participants who are students or
subordinates, sociologists take special care to protect the
prospective subjects from adverse consequences of declining or
withdrawing from participation.
12.04 Informed Consent with Children
(a) In undertaking research with children, sociologists obtain
the consent of children to participate, to the extent that they
are capable of providing such consent, except under circumstances
where consent may not be required as set forth in 12.01(b).
(b) In undertaking research with children, sociologists obtain
the consent of a parent or a legally authorized guardian.
Sociologists may seek waivers of parental or guardian consent
when (1) the research involves no more than minimal risk for the
research participants, and (2) the research could not practicably
be carried out were consent to be required, or (3) the consent of
a parent or guardian is not a reasonable requirement to protect
the child (e.g., neglected or abused children).
(c) Sociologists recognize that waivers of consent from a child
and a parent or guardian require approval from institutional
review boards or, in the absence of such boards, from another
authoritative body with expertise on the ethics of research.
Under such circumstances, the confidentiality of any personally
identifiable information must be maintained unless otherwise set
forth in 11.02(b).
12.05 Use of Deception in Research
(a) Sociologists do not use deceptive techniques (1) unless
they have determined that their use will not be harmful to
research participants; is justified by the study's prospective
scientific, educational, or applied value; and that equally
effective alternative procedures that do not use deception are
not feasible, and (2) unless they have obtained the approval of
institutional review boards or, in the absence of such boards,
with another authoritative body with expertise on the ethics of
(b) Sociologists never deceive research participants about
significant aspects of the research that would affect their
willingness to participate, such as physical risks, discomfort,
or unpleasant emotional experiences.
(c) When deception is an integral feature of the design and
conduct of research, sociologists attempt to correct any
misconception that research participants may have no later than
at the conclusion of the research.
(d) On rare occasions, sociologists may need to conceal their
identity in order to undertake research that could not
practicably be carried out were they to be known as researchers.
Under such circumstances, sociologists undertake the research if
it involves no more than minimal risk for the research
participants and if they have obtained approval to proceed in
this manner from an institutional review board or, in the absence
of such boards, from another authoritative body with expertise on
the ethics of research. Under such circumstances, confidentiality
must be maintained unless otherwise set forth in 11.02(b).
12.06 Use of Recording Technology
Sociologists obtain informed consent from research
participants, students, employees, clients, or others prior to
videotaping, filming, or recording them in any form, unless these
activities involve simply naturalistic observations in public
places and it is not anticipated that the recording will be used
in a manner that could cause personal identification or harm.
Research Planning, Implementation, and Dissemination
Sociologists have an obligation to promote the integrity of
research and to ensure that they comply with the ethical tenets
of science in the planning, implementation, and dissemination of
research. They do so in order to advance knowledge, to minimize
the possibility that results will be misleading, and to protect
the rights of research participants.
13.01 Planning and Implementation
(a) In planning and implementing research, sociologists
minimize the possibility that results will be misleading.
(b) Sociologists take steps to implement protections for the
rights and welfare of research participants and other persons
affected by the research.
(c) In their research, sociologists do not encourage activities
or themselves behave in ways that are health- or life-threatening
to research participants or others.
(d) In planning and implementing research, sociologists consult
those with expertise concerning any special population under
investigation or likely to be affected.
(e) In planning and implementing research, sociologists consider
its ethical acceptability as set forth in the Code of Ethics. If
the best ethical practice is unclear, sociologists consult with
institutional review boards or, in the absence of such review
processes, with another authoritative body with expertise on the
ethics of research.
(f) Sociologists are responsible for the ethical conduct of
research conducted by them or by others under their supervision
13.02 Unanticipated Research Opportunities
If during the course of teaching, practice, service, or
non-professional activities, sociologists determine that they
wish to undertake research that was not previously anticipated,
they make known their intentions and take steps to ensure that
the research can be undertaken consonant with ethical principles,
especially those relating to confidentiality and informed
consent. Under such circumstances, sociologists seek the approval
of institutional review boards or, in the absence of such review
processes, another authoritative body with expertise on the
ethics of research.
13.03 Offering Inducements for Research Participants
Sociologists do not offer excessive or inappropriate financial
or other inducements to obtain the participation of research
participants, particularly when it might coerce participation.
Sociologists may provide incentives to the extent that resources
are available and appropriate.
13.04 Reporting on Research
(a) Sociologists disseminate their research findings except
where unanticipated circumstances (e.g., the health of the
researcher) or proprietary agreements with employers,
contractors, or clients preclude such dissemination.
(b) Sociologists do not fabricate data or falsify results in
their publications or presentations.
(c) In presenting their work, sociologists report their findings
fully and do not omit relevant data. They report results whether
they support or contradict the expected outcomes.
(d) Sociologists take particular care to state all relevant
qualifications on the findings and interpretation of their
research. Sociologists also disclose underlying assumptions,
theories, methods, measures, and research designs that might bear
upon findings and interpretations of their work.
(e) Consistent with the spirit of full disclosure of methods and
analyses, once findings are publicly disseminated, sociologists
permit their open assessment and verification by other
responsible researchers with appropriate safeguards, where
applicable, to protect the anonymity of research participants.
(f) If sociologists discover significant errors in their
publication or presentation of data, they take reasonable steps
to correct such errors in a correction, a retraction, published
errata, or other public fora as appropriate.
(g) Sociologists report sources of financial support in their
written papers and note any special relations to any sponsor. In
special circumstances, sociologists may withhold the names of
specific sponsors if they provide an adequate and full
description of the nature and interest of the sponsor.
(h) Sociologists take special care to report accurately the
results of others' scholarship by using correct information and
citations when presenting the work of others in publications,
teaching, practice, and service settings.
13.05 Data Sharing
(a) Sociologists share data and pertinent documentation as a
regular practice. Sociologists make their data available after
completion of the project or its major publications, except where
proprietary agreements with employers, contractors, or clients
preclude such accessibility or when it is impossible to share
data and protect the confidentiality of the data or the anonymity
of research participants (e.g., raw field notes or detailed
information from ethnographic interviews).
(b) Sociologists anticipate data sharing as an integral part of a
research plan whenever data sharing is feasible.
(c) Sociologists share data in a form that is consonant with
research participants' interests and protect the confidentiality
of the information they have been given. They maintain the
confidentiality of data, whether legally required or not; remove
personal identifiers before data are shared; and if necessary use
other disclosure avoidance techniques.
(d) Sociologists who do not otherwise place data in public
archives keep data available and retain documentation relating to
the research for a reasonable period of time after publication or
dissemination of results.
(e) Sociologists may ask persons who request their data for
further analysis to bear the associated incremental costs, if
(f) Sociologists who use data from others for further analyses
explicitly acknowledge the contribution of the initial
(a) In publications, presentations, teaching, practice, and
service, sociologists explicitly identify, credit, and reference
the author when they take data or material verbatim from another
person's written work, whether it is published, unpublished, or
(b) In their publications, presentations, teaching, practice, and
service, sociologists provide acknowledgment of and reference to
the use of others' work, even if the work is not quoted verbatim
or paraphrased, and they do not present others' work as their own
whether it is published, unpublished, or electronically
15. Authorship Credit
(a) Sociologists take responsibility and credit, including
authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed or
to which they have contributed.
(b) Sociologists ensure that principal authorship and other
publication credits are based on the relative scientific or
professional contributions of the individuals involved,
regardless of their status. In claiming or determining the
ordering of authorship, sociologists seek to reflect accurately
the contributions of main participants in the research and
(c) A student is usually listed as principal author on any
multiple authored publication that substantially derives from the
student's dissertation or thesis.
16. Publication Process
Sociologists adhere to the highest ethical standards when
participating in publication and review processes when they are
authors or editors.
16.01 Submission of Manuscripts for Publication
(a) In cases of multiple authorship, sociologists confer with
all other authors prior to submitting work for publication and
establish mutually acceptable agreements regarding submission.
(b) In submitting a manuscript to a professional journal, book
series, or edited book, sociologists grant that publication first
claim to publication except where explicit policies allow
multiple submissions. Sociologists do not submit a manuscript to
a second publication until after an official decision has been
received from the first publication or until the manuscript is
withdrawn. Sociologists submitting a manuscript for publication
in a journal, book series, or edited book can withdraw a
manuscript from consideration up until an official acceptance is
(c) Sociologists may submit a book manuscript to multiple
publishers. However, once sociologists have signed a contract,
they cannot withdraw a manuscript from publication unless there
is reasonable cause to do so.
16.02 Duplicate Publication of Data
When sociologists publish data or findings that they have
previously published elsewhere, they accompany these publications
by proper acknowledgment.
16.03 Responsibilities of Editors
(a) When serving as editors of journals or book series,
sociologists are fair in the application of standards and operate
without personal or ideological favoritism or malice. As editors,
sociologists are cognizant of any potential conflicts of
(b) When serving as editors of journals or book series,
sociologists ensure the confidential nature of the review process
and supervise editorial office staff, including students, in
accordance with practices that maintain confidentiality.
(c) When serving as editors of journals or book series,
sociologists are bound to publish all manuscripts accepted for
publication unless major errors or ethical violations are
discovered after acceptance (e.g., plagiarism or scientific
(d) When serving as editors of journals or book series,
sociologists ensure the anonymity of reviewers unless they
otherwise receive permission from reviewers to reveal their
identity. Editors ensure that their staff conform to this
(e) When serving as journal editors, sociologists ensure the
anonymity of authors unless and until a manuscript is accepted
for publication or unless the established practices of the
journal are known to be otherwise.
(f) When serving as journal editors, sociologists take steps to
provide for the timely review of all manuscripts and respond
promptly to inquiries about the status of the review.
Responsibilities of Reviewers
(a) In reviewing material submitted for publication, grant
support, or other evaluation purposes, sociologists respect the
confidentiality of the process and the proprietary rights in such
information of those who submitted it.
(b) Sociologists disclose conflicts of interest or decline
requests for reviews of the work of others where conflicts of
interest are involved.
(c) Sociologists decline requests for reviews of the work of
others when they believe that the review process may be biased or
when they have questions about the integrity of the process.
(d) If asked to review a manuscript, book, or proposal they have
previously reviewed, sociologists make it known to the person
making the request (e.g., editor, program officer) unless it is
clear that they are being asked to provide a reappraisal.
Education, Teaching, and Training
As teachers, supervisors, and trainers, sociologists follow
the highest ethical standards in order to ensure the quality of
sociological education and the integrity of the teacher-student
18.01 Administration of Education Programs
(a) Sociologists who are responsible for education and
training programs seek to ensure that the programs are
competently designed, provide the proper experiences, and meet
all goals for which claims are made by the program.
(b) Sociologists responsible for education and training programs
seek to ensure that there is an accurate description of the
program content, training goals and objectives, and requirements
that must be met for satisfactory completion of the program.
(c) Sociologists responsible for education and training programs
take steps to ensure that graduate assistants and temporary
instructors have the substantive knowledge required to teach
courses and the teaching skills needed to facilitate student
(d) Sociologists responsible for education and training programs
have an obligation to ensure that ethics are taught to their
graduate students as part of their professional preparation.
18.02 Teaching and Training
(a) Sociologists conscientiously perform their teaching
responsibilities. They have appropriate skills and knowledge or
are receiving appropriate training.
(b) Sociologists provide accurate information at the outset about
their courses, particularly regarding the subject matter to be
covered, bases for evaluation, and the nature of course
(c) Sociologists make decisions concerning textbooks, course
content, course requirements, and grading solely on the basis of
educational criteria without regard for financial or other
(d) Sociologists provide proper training and supervision to their
teaching assistants and other teaching trainees and take
reasonable steps to ensure that such persons perform these
teaching responsibilities responsibly, competently, and
(e) Sociologists do not permit personal animosities or
intellectual differences with colleagues to foreclose students'
or supervisees' access to these colleagues or to interfere with
student or supervisee learning, academic progress, or
Contractual and Consulting Services
(a) Sociologists undertake grants, contracts, or consultation
only when they are knowledgeable about the substance, methods,
and techniques they plan to use or have a plan for incorporating
(b) In undertaking grants, contracts, or consultation,
sociologists base the results of their professional work on
appropriate information and techniques.
(c) When financial support for a project has been accepted under
a grant, contract, or consultation, sociologists make reasonable
efforts to complete the proposed work on schedule.
(d) In undertaking grants, contracts, or consultation,
sociologists accurately document and appropriately retain their
professional and scientific work.
(e) In establishing a contractual arrangement for research,
consultation, or other services, sociologists clarify, to the
extent feasible at the outset, the nature of the relationship
with the individual, organizational, or institutional client.
This clarification includes, as appropriate, the nature of the
services to be performed, the probable uses of the services
provided, possibilities for the sociologist's future use of the
work for scholarly or publication purposes, the timetable for
delivery of those services, and compensation and billing
to the Code of Ethics
Sociologists have an obligation to confront, address, and
attempt to resolve ethical issues according to this Code of
20.01 Familiarity with the Code of Ethics
Sociologists have an obligation to be familiar with this Code
of Ethics, other applicable ethics codes, and their application
to sociologists' work. Lack of awareness or misunderstanding of
an ethical standard is not, in itself, a defense to a charge of
20.02 Confronting Ethical Issues
(a) When sociologists are uncertain whether a particular
situation or course of action would violate the Code of Ethics,
they consult with other sociologists knowledgeable about ethical
issues, with ASA's Committee on Professional Ethics, or with
other organizational entities such as institutional review
(b) When sociologists take actions or are confronted with choices
where there is a conflict between ethical standards enunciated in
the Code of Ethics and laws or legal requirements, they make
known their commitment to the Code and take steps to resolve the
conflict in a responsible manner by consulting with colleagues,
professional organizations, or the ASA's Committee on
20.03 Fair Treatment of Parties in Ethical Disputes
(a) Sociologists do not discriminate against a person on the
basis of his or her having made an ethical complaint.
(b) Sociologists do not discriminate against a person based on
his or her having been the subject of an ethical complaint. This
does not preclude taking action based upon the outcome of an
20.04 Reporting Ethical Violations of Others
When sociologists have substantial reason to believe that
there may have been an ethical violation by another sociologist,
they attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention
of that individual if an informal resolution appears appropriate
or possible, or they seek advice about whether or how to proceed
based on this belief, assuming that such activity does not
violate any confidentiality rights. Such action might include
referral to ASA's Committee on Professional Ethics.
20.05 Cooperating with Ethics Committees
Sociologists cooperate in ethics investigations, proceedings,
and resulting requirements of the American Sociological
Association. In doing so, they make reasonable efforts to resolve
any issues of confidentiality. Failure to cooperate may be an
20.06 Improper Complaints
Sociologists do not file or encourage the filing of ethics
complaints that are frivolous and are intended to harm the
alleged violator rather than to protect the integrity of the
discipline and the public.
Note: This revised edition of the ASA Code of Ethics
builds on the 1989 edition of the Code and the 1992 version of
the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of
Psychologists and Code of Conduct.
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Last Updated on January 08,