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Five Dimensions of Research Ethics: A Stakeholder Framework for Creating a Climate of Research Integrity

DuBois, James M., DSc, PhD; Antes, Alison L., PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001966

The authors explore five dimensions of research ethics: (1) normative ethics, which includes meta-ethical questions; (2) compliance with regulations, statutes, and institutional policies; (3) the rigor and reproducibility of science; (4) social value; and (5) workplace relationships. Each of the five dimensions is important not only because it addresses an aspect of good research done in a good manner but also because it addresses the concerns of key stakeholders in the research enterprise. The five-dimension framework can guide institutions as they answer three questions central to any research ethics program: (1) Who should champion research ethics? (2) What should interventions look like? and (3) Who should participate in the interventions? The framework is valuable because the answers to these three questions are radically different depending on the dimension under consideration. An expanded vision of research ethics does not entail that institutions should require additional online training or approvals from institutional review boards. However, without acknowledging all five dimensions, programs risk missing an important aspect of research ethics or ignoring the interests of important stakeholders.

J.M. DuBois is Steven J. Bander Professor of Medical Ethics and Professionalism and director, Center for Clinical and Research Ethics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

A.L. Antes is assistant professor of medicine and assistant director, Center for Clinical and Research Ethics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science Clinical and Translational Science Award to Washington University in St. Louis, UL1 TR000448. The effort of A.L. Antes was supported in part by the National Human Genome Research Institute, K01HG008990.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Previous presentations: A version of this paper was presented at the 2016 meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities in Washington, DC.

Correspondence should be addressed to James M. DuBois, Division of General Medical Sciences, 4523 Clayton Ave., Campus Box 8005, St. Louis, MO 63110; telephone: (314) 747-2710; e-mail:

© 2018 by the Association of American Medical Colleges