Researcher says ethics is restricting social sciences

    Dr. Will van den Hoonaard hopes to get people talking about the impact of ethics on research. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)

    After people finish reading Dr. Will van den Hoonaard’s new book The Seduction of Ethics: Transforming the Social Sciences, he hopes they come away thinking about how their own work is affected by ethics.

    The book deals with how ethics can restrict research in various social sciences, with van den Hoonaard arguing ethics committees are actually doing more harm than good to some fields. He hopes his book will start a conversation about ethics, which is a multi-million dollar industry.

    Van den Hoonaard, a research associate at the Atlantic Centre for Research and Qualitative Analysis at St. Thomas University and a professor emeritus at the University of New Brunswick, released the book in July.

    On Friday afternoon, he officially launched The Seduction of Ethics in the rotunda in Brian Mulroney Hall. The rotunda was filled to the brim for the book launch, with people standing on the sides of the room and outside just to hear what van den Hoonaard had to say.

    “Obviously it’s touching some that people feel very deeply about it,” he said in an interview after the launch.

    Already, van den Hoonaard has received requests from as far away as Africa to use his book as class materia and he’s received positive feedback.

    Regardless of what field you study or what you do in life, ethics is a part of everyone’s life, he acknowledged.

    “What’s the purpose of life if it’s not conducted ethically?

    “We all learn, we all fall and make mistakes. These are just reminders how difficult is it to be ethical sometimes and how we have to resist the pragmatic aspects of relationships.”

    Van den Hoonaard is a familiar face on the STU campus. He has helped professors at STU with research and has often appeared in classes as a guest lecturer.

    The STU and UNB communities offered support while he was writing the book, he said, adding that places like STU, with a strong sense of community, are ideal places for good ethics.

    “[It was] very important because there was encouragement all the way around,” he said.

    “There was no jealousy, no envy. It was a nurturing environment that allowed me to write the book. People thought we would benefit from it.”

    Published by the University of Toronto Press, The Seduction of Ethics is available at major retailers like Chapters.