Researchers
August 6, 2020

Ways to Understand and Avoid Negative Impact in Your Research Findings

As a researcher, your aim is most likely to perform research that aims to make an impact on the greater good in positive ways. However, as an unbiased performer of said research, you can’t control which direction the data points you to, and there are good, bad, and indifferent outcomes that could come from any research experiment. Avoiding negative impact isn’t always possible, and sometimes it’s not even preferable, but as a researcher, you must understand how negative impact can affect your research findings and what to do with it if it does.
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The ultimate process of research is to make an impact. Those types of impacts can be good, bad, and indifferent, but the typical researcher strives to make a positive impression on society somehow with their hard work.

Research itself, though, in order to be credible, must be unbiased. The researcher may have a hypothesis on which direction the data is going to lead them, but they have to follow the evidence organically, without forcing the results in one direction or another. Because of this crucial aspect of evidence-gathering, it’s impossible to know which type of outcome you are going to end up with. When it’s an end result that could have a negative impact on society, you must understand what the consequences are. Sometimes these impacts are avoidable, and sometimes they’re necessary, but they are a possibility that must be taken into account in order to analyze and process them before and after publication.

Avoiding Bias in Your Research

Bias is a serious possibility in research, and it’s crucial that the researcher be aware and constantly alert for potential instances where this could occur. This is particularly possible in areas where qualitative research is concerned, but it could also happen with quantitative findings. Bias occurs when researchers have a specific way they want their work to turn out, whether this is conscious or subconscious, and they try to influence their findings to reflect their preferred outcome.

To avoid bias, researchers have to engage in multiple personal strategies of understanding themselves and their beliefs, values, and ideologies. They must practice active reflexivity, making sure that every aspect of their work was completely neutral and devoid of subconscious or conscious skewing towards a particular direction. Using peer-reviewing of findings when qualitative data is being analyzed is another good way to ensure that researcher bias is not involved.

An understanding of the types of bias must also be present on an integral level, so the scholar can avoid things like participant bias, in which the person answering questions feels led to say “the right things” rather than the truthful things, or researcher bias in which the person analyzing the data interprets it in ways that confirm their hypothesis instead of neutrally dissecting their findings.

The Potential Results of Negative Impact

When bias is off the table, the results of your data may lead you in unexpected directions. Following the evidence is your job, but analyzing it for impact is also part of what you do. Achieving research impact is an important part of society and innovation, but as a scholar, your job is to present your findings, not apply them to societal considerations. But when obviously negative impacts are in play, it’s not always easy to separate your job from your moral and ethical obligations.

For instance, the scientists behind the analysis of COVID-19 knew their findings would play a significant role in the world at large. Never before had we seen such a virulent strain of contagious and deadly microbes, with no idea how to treat or stop it. But it was their job to spread their knowledge of the potential danger to society, and once they did, the world as it had been changed irrevocably. The damage from the global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will take generations to heal, but the potential for life-saving warnings meant the risk to the entire world’s economy and government and business infrastructures was worth the chance.

Understanding Your Findings

Being the bearer of bad news to your research’s stakeholders isn’t an easy thing. Before you approach them with the results, take some time to understand the potential consequences and get a firm grip on what to expect and how you’ll respond to it.

You may take a few different approaches in this regard. Some researchers develop the principle of refusing to release work that could potentially harm others. If the work must be released, it is done so in a way to mitigate the results and, ultimately, “sugarcoat” them to avoid fear or hysteria. This in itself can lead the researcher down unethical roads without intention, particularly if their research could have been used to prevent pain and suffering.

Another approach is to use your analytical mind to extrapolate the outcomes of different actions. Involve other experts in your postulating and decide what potential pathways could be performed and the consequences of each one. Who will benefit? Who will be harmed? Is the risk worth the harm?

Most importantly, do not try to understand negative findings and make decisions about them by yourself. Find a trusted source of expertise and work with them to decide your next steps.

Releasing Your Findings With Impactio

When you decide to release your research findings, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent, you need a program that you can trust to compile your work. Impactio is an all-in-one platform designed for researchers to make their task easier.

With Impactio, you can easily insert your text into premade templates, turn your citation and publication data into charts, graphs, and tables, and finalize your profile as a professional PDF document or web page.

Regardless of what your findings are, present them formally and professionally by using Impactio to put everything together.

Tags Negative Impact Research Findings
Jason Collins
Writer
Jason is a writer for many niche brands with experience “bringing stories to life” for both startups and corporate partners.

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