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Ethical research in public policy.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


Ron Iphofen

Dónal Dónal O’Mathúna


Public policy research is research for a purpose, guided by a distinctive range of normative considerations. The values are the values of public service; the work is generally done in the public domain; and the research is an intrinsic part of the democratic process, which depends on deliberation and accountability. Conventional representations of ethical research typically focus on ‘human subjects’ research, which raises different kinds of ethical issues to public policy research. Existing research ethics advice does not address the issues surrounding public policy research. Such research is typically concerned with collective action and the work of institutions, and the central guiding principles are not about responsibility to research participants, but duties to the public, as seen in principles of beneficence, citizenship, empowerment and the democratic process.


SPICKER, P. 2023. Ethical research in public policy. In Iphofen, R. and O'Mathuna, D. (eds.) Ethical evidence and policymaking: interdisciplinary and international research. Bristol: Policy press [online], chapter 7, pages 139-150. Available from:

Online Publication Date Jul 29, 2022
Publication Date Jul 29, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 18, 2023
Publisher Policy Press
Pages 139-150
Book Title Ethical evidence and policymaking: interdisciplinary and international research
Chapter Number 7
ISBN 9781447363972
Keywords Public policy; Public service; Public domain; Deliberative democracy; Organisational research; Ethical review
Public URL
Related Public URLs (Individual chapter by Paul Spicker)
Additional Information In addition to this book chapter, Paul Spicker also authored the following:
- SPICKER, P. "One size fits all? The problems of offering ethical guidance to everyone", pages 40=55. (


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