The Embassy of Good Science

Four Quadrant Approach (4QA), Adaptation for the analysis of research ethics and integrity cases

In a collaborative effort, three clinical ethicists, a philosopher, Jonsen, a physician, Siegler, and a lawyer, Winslade, developed the “four quadrant approach” (4QA) for facilitating ethics discussions and dealing with difficult cases in clinical settings.

A slightly modified, adapted version (A4QA) is provided here to test its applicability in research ethics (RE) and research integrity (RI) scenarios.

A case analysis example is provided for discussion, and commentaries to collect insights for further fine-tuning the 4QA into a tool that is well adjusted to RE and RI scenarios.

We would be immensely grateful if you could take cc. 30 minutes to actively participate in this discussion with reading and commenting on the A4QA.

Please, first read the adapted version of the case analysis method A4QA which consists of three steps, Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3, and then

read the provided case analysis A4QA Fujimuri Case

And finally, please share your views with us and rate the statements in the following comments.
Thanks for sharing your views!

The procedure of 4QA starts with collecting the primary intuitions about a case ( Stage 1 ).

“The listed questions support the collection of these “first thoughts” as an initial assessment.”

1 Strongly disagree / 2 Disagree / 3 Neutral / 4 Agree / 5 Strongly agree

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While I consider starting with these questions useful, answering them meaningfully requires already some rather thorough thinking (especially thinking about predictable effects and the desirability of outcomes) . Therefore, the step entails more than primary intuitions, at least from my point of view.

2 Likes

“In Stage 2, the “ Relevant facts ” category seems clear to apply to research ethics and research integrity (RERI) cases.”

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Sorry, I misunderstood the question. My answer here is 4. AGREE

“The “ Uncertainties ” category seems clear to apply to RERI cases.”

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“The “ Courses of Action ” category seems clear to apply to RERI cases.”

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“The “ Contextual Feature ” category seems clear to apply to RERI cases.”

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The title “Contextual Features” seems to be broader than the following question “What legal, financial and institutional policies and regulations apply to the case?”. In my view, policies and regulations are only a part of the context. Either the category should be titled “Policies and regulations” or the question should be broader.
Furthermore, the example regarding the colleagues (“what about the responsibility of his colleagues, his academic community?”) might be more relevant under the category 2 Uncertainties.

2 Likes

I very much agree with Signe’s comment. There’s a mismatch between the name of the category and its description. As contextual features beyond policies and regulations may be relevant in a number of cases, broadening the description rather than changing the name seems the more plausible option to me.

As the Embassy doesn’t let me post a reply to the next question, I’ll add my comments on the question referring to the coverage of all potentially relevant aspects of RERI cases here:
I don’t think the procedure covers all potentially relevant aspects, although it certainly addresses many of them. I’m not sure any more or less formal procedure can cover all aspects, so I’m not sure how big a problem this actually is. One shortcoming I’d like to emphasize is that the four quadrants focus on different aspects of a given RERI case in isolation only, without analyzing how the various aspects relate to each other. Consequently, important aspects of a case may remain implicit or even get lost.

Moreover, I agree that there’s an overlap between stages 1 and 2, with the underlying rationale remaining somewhat unclear. Some elaboration on what the differences are or why doing the same thing twice is worthwhile would be helpful.

2 Likes

I agree with the comments. To me, the confusing fact was that the perpetrator was an amateur archaeologist, not a researcher. This gives it a completely new aspect that goes beyond RIRE. Not sure if the case was well chosen for basic illustration of the process.

“The categories of the A4QA, these four topics ( Stage 2 ) are suitable to cover all the potentially relevant aspects of RERI cases.”

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Stege 2 in itself doesn’t seem enough to cover all the relevant aspects of RERI cases. For instance, it doesn’t help in bringing to light possible conflicts or in analyzing the consequences of alternative courses of action.

1 Like

There is some overlap between Stage 1 and Stage 2, e.g. the possible courses of action are discussed in both steps, as well as what ethical principles/codes are relevant in this case. For class of students it might be unclear why these questions are repeating in both stages.

2 Likes

I agree, there is an overlap between Stage 1 and Stage 2, so you might need to explain what the difference is between the repeated parts.

“In Stage 3 the provided list of questions is suitable to guide an adequately reasoned choice in RERI cases.”

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“The A4QA is an adequate tool that facilitates discussions about RERI cases.”

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“The A4QA is an adequate tool that facilitates decision-making in RERI cases.”

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“The A4QA is an easy method to apply in RERI cases (it does not require philosophical or other specialist knowledge in order to be useful).”

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What is your opinion about the A4QA? Could you make some general comments?