Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Social Work Research Ethics in China: A Scoping Review of Research Involving Human Subjects during COVID-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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97P (see Poster Gallery) Social Work Research Ethics in China: A Scoping Review of Research Involving Human Subjects during COVID-19

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yixuan Wang, PhD, LMSW, LLM, Assistant Professor, China Youth University of Political Studies, Beijing, China
Shiyou Wu, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Fuhua Zhai, Ph.D., Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Linjing Li, BSW, Master's Student, Research Assistant, China Youth University of Political Studies, China
Background: The topic of social work research ethics has yet to become an element of social work professional ethics in China. Neither the Guidelines on Professional Ethics of Social Workers nor the agenda of the Ethics Committee of the China Association of Social Work Education has made explicit provisions or statements on research ethics. While social work researchers often target vulnerable populations, no literature has ever studied whether and how ethical principles of research have been applied in China to protect the rights of human subjects. The present review attempts to explore the practical scope of social work research ethics in China through internationally published social work articles involving human subjects with a specific focus on those related to COVID-19.

Methods: The five stages of scoping review framework developed by Arksey and O'Malley (2005) were adopted. Stage 1: the research question is how research ethics are recognized and applied by social work researchers in China while conducting COVID-19-related empirical research involving human participants. Stage 2: Used a python web crawler to identify relevant studies published between January 5, 2020, to July 15, 2021, in Scopus-indexed social work journals. Stage 3: identified studies went through three rounds of screening and were accessed for the following inclusion criteria: 1) being written in English; 2) data collection conducted in China or among people living in China; 3) an empirical study in response to the pandemic; 4) involving human participants. Stage 4: charted the data. Stage 5: collated data based on the three fundamental ethical principles established since the Belmont Report, including Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice.

Results: In total, 1168 research articles were published in 50 of the 57 journals between January 5, 2020, to July 15, 2021. The first round of screening (title screened) retained 482 studies for the second round of screening (abstract screened), which yielded 31 studies entering the third round of screening (full text screened). Finally, 18 eligible studies met all inclusion criteria and were retained for further review. It was found that the application of research ethics primarily emphasized those ethical standards derived from the principle of Respect for Persons, such as Informed Consent, Voluntary, and Data Safety and Privacy, whereas less reported were ethical considerations on the principles of Justice (Additional Protection Subjects with Diminished or Limited Autonomy) and Beneficence (Risks to Human Subjects, Incentives Policy).

Conclusions and Implications: While the scope and application of research ethics are much influenced by Chinese culture and technology-enhanced research methods in the digital period, the Chinese social work authorities must localize and add specific ethical principles of research into the Chinese social work Codes of Ethics and promote the training of research ethics among Chinese MSW students and researchers. The scoping review also calls on international social work audiences to resonate on the issue of research ethics in their own countries.