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An Analysis of Frequency of Hands-on Experience and Science Achievement

By placing the distribution of the independent variable(s) under the control of the researcher, an experiment – particularly when it involves human subjects – introduces potential ethical considerations, such as balancing benefit and harm, fairly distributing interventions (e.g., treatments for a disease), and informed consent. For example, in psychology or health care, it is unethical to provide a substandard treatment to patients. Therefore, ethical review boards are supposed to stop clinical trials and other experiments unless a new treatment is believed to offer benefits as good as current best practice.[19] It is also generally unethical (and often illegal) to conduct randomized experiments on the effects of substandard or harmful treatments, such as the effects of ingesting arsenic on human health. To understand the effects of such exposures, scientists sometimes use observational studies to understand the effects of those factors.

Even when experimental research does not directly involve human subjects, it may still present ethical concerns. For example, the nuclear bomb experiments conducted by the Manhattan Project implied the use of nuclear reactions to harm human beings even though the experiments did not directly involve any human subjects.