University of Oulu

Ethics in using students as subjects in software engineering experiments

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Author: Enyan, Benjamin1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Information Processing Science, Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Pages: 50
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : B. Enyan, 2016
Publish Date: 2016-12-12
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Halonen, Raija
Ahmad, Muhammad
Reviewer: Similä, Jouni
Halonen, Raija
Ahmad, Muhammad
The ethical issues that researchers encounter in experiment are usually debated upon. Ethical issues are scrutinized and reported in the law, medicine and psychology areas of study. Independent boards are commonly employed to vet the ethical aspect of experiments in the above mentioned areas of study. However, in the software engineering area of research, it is not entirely like that as researchers just follow the guidelines of their respective institutions. Ethical principles of right and wrong, codes of conducts, codes of rules, and external standards that govern an organization, must be considered and followed during the research. Experiments must be designed on utmost ethical rules and values. These ethical rules must be followed and reported, as researchers conduct their experiments. Ethics in research is inevitable however; its application in software engineering might not be direct. Four fundamental principles of research ethics being informed consent, scientific value, beneficence, and confidentiality are the major pointers of ethical issues in SE experiment. The focus of this thesis was to find out the ethically related issues reported by researchers while they conducted their research on students. This study used a systematic mapping review method, to gather and analyse reported experiments that were conducted with students as subjects, by classifying and identifying ethical issues that are reported in software engineering experiment over the past few years. The studies reviewed were published within the years 2000 and 2016, and from 12 journals and conference proceedings. The search strategy identified 2512 papers, of which 70 were identified as relevant or primary studies. The findings revealed that researchers in SE research pay minimal attention to issues of ethics. No reporting guidelines developed over the years suggesting that researchers are obligated to report issues of ethics. However, one aspect seems to be considered most in the reports; beneficence, where researchers seek to motivate the students to participate in their study. In a nutshell, experiment in SE field of study does not have higher risk on its human subjects as compared to other fields of study. Ethical issues are hardly debated or never mentioned in the SE experiment publication. In the near future, experiment reporting guidelines, must be developed in order to promote or suggest to researcher to give details about ethical issues, especially when it involves human (students) subjects.
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