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Abstract

Political scientists are increasingly conducting field experiments that raise ethical issues that standard review criteria and processes are ill equipped to address. Field experiments can answer important questions, but they can also present various harms to individuals, communities, and political processes; undermine autonomy; introduce partnerships that present complex questions of responsibility; and damage the public's trust in the discipline. This article reviews published empirical and theoretical research, professional guidelines, and media accounts, blog posts, and other sources when appropriate. It characterizes the state of the field regarding the identification of ethical problems, relevant normative guidance, proposed strategies for managing ethical concerns, and issues on the horizon. It concludes that the discipline is making good progress, with robust guidelines and strategies for conducting field experiments ethically. However, there is still much work to be done in refining and expanding current guidance, addressing remaining issues, and promoting norms. This review concludes with some general recommendations for researchers conducting political science field experiments.

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2021-05-11
2024-06-16
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