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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 6-7  

A quest for utilitarian approach in research

Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran 1419733141, Iran

Date of Web Publication26-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
Zahid Hussain Khan
Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran 1419733141
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5049.174805

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How to cite this article:
Khan ZH. A quest for utilitarian approach in research. Indian J Anaesth 2016;60:6-7

How to cite this URL:
Khan ZH. A quest for utilitarian approach in research. Indian J Anaesth [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 Feb 26];60:6-7. Available from: https://www.ijaweb.org/text.asp?2016/60/1/6/174805

While taking a cursory look at the prevailing trends in research works published in reputed journals, we find that the unfortunate trend of plagiarism, fraudulent and dual publication is not only persisting but is also on the rise causing anguish and profound apprehension for the editorial staff worldwide. The journals are replete with editorials dilating on this subject to bring an end to this menace.

We would like to focus on the much talked about issue as to whether an intent in research projects should be given the top priority or whether the consequences should engage our utmost attention. The present trend in research articles mostly dwells on the consequences as they result in an appreciable impact. This makes the intent shrouded in mystery. If both are considered together, the results would be overwhelming.

We should focus our eyes on the consequences because they finally matter and thus should be of utmost importance for us.

Our present research pursuits are and would eventually be judged by the final consequences. This is what is termed as the utilitarian approach proposed by Bentham and Mill [1],[2] as against the duty-based theory where the motivation itself is held supreme with total disregard for the consequences as upheld by Kant et al.[3] In utilitarianism, the entire emphasis is focused on the consequences or to speak in the language of research, the outcomes. The right action is weighed exclusively in terms of consequences produced. Thus, a morally right action is the action that produces the best results. This is what utilitarianism literally conveys. Kant upholds motivation theory, but the motivation itself should be morally right. It loses its value if it is biased or otherwise some connivance is involved. How can we evade the outcome and merely focus on motivation which itself is profoundly affected by human whims? The Kantian theory suggests that, conducting research negates the fundamental rights of patients if its implementation brings in an incalculable harm. This is implied in other works as well.[4],[5] Apparently each method has its own pitfalls, and it would be more pertinent and logical if the two go in tandem.

Before undertaking the responsibilities of a research project, in the deepest recesses of our brain, we should be harbouring the idea that our collective efforts in bringing our endeavours to fruition would be finally rewarding if our basic and initial intent had been logically worked out on sound judgement and a chronological assessment of the data. So long as we conduct an ethical clinical trial without inflicting any harm to our patients or animals, our intentions are worth praising and laudable; if the results also turn out to be of value for the medical community in general and the patients, in particular, then that adds sanctity to our work. In human trials, the consequences should be anticipated and conceived before initiating the trial to avert the harm. Research project begins with a lie or a hypothesis: Negative results mean wrong hypothesis. However, they help in our future research pursuits and for that matter, have a significant value in science. Research started on wrong premise can also invite criticisms of wrong intent or manipulation or even charges of trying to satisfy personal ego. Truly conveyed negative results are undoubtedly of value in science and research if they are published as such but gross and brazen manipulations of available data needs to be condemned.[6] An original hypothesis may or may not work, but the intent is ought to be right to find a plausible solution to an existing problem without incurring a substantial harm to the patient. If the results fail to bring in improvement in the current trends or prevailing treatment modalities but incur significant harm to the patient, then the researchers stand accountable for ill-conceived research.

Let us be fair enough. Do we think in terms of consequences before initiating a task or we care the least about it? Inwardly thinking, as consequences cannot be predicted, we are not to be blamed, and the question of accountability does not arise. Such an approach seems to be illogical and ill-founded because the intentions themselves are weighed and subjected to scrutiny to evade the fear of ill intent or capriciousness of a human will. This is what the hard task masters, the reviewers are interested in.

With this philosophical introduction, it is incumbent on researchers to present their works with such elegance and intonation that the reader is obliged and driven to read and re-read every written word of it with the utmost attention and inward temptation.

In case of setbacks in research, we should avail the opportunity to atone for our faults and thus prove our devotion both to our profession and patient care. Some impeccable and fault free works leave a lasting impact/impression, and would be applauded by the generations to come. On the other hand, many works and publications fade away with the passage of time and become indecipherable because either they are trivial or reproduce results and data that are already published and brought to the limelight or else they are hardly of any academic importance to be cited or referenced. We should try to measure our life not with years but by devoted work and promotions. To achieve these ends, there should be no thought of slackening pace but on the contrary, researchers should put on real effort based on honest work.

   References Top

Bentham J. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1st ed. Ch. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1907. p. 11-24.  Back to cited text no. 1
Mill JS, editor. Utilitarianism. (Part 2). Ch. 2. London: Longmans, Green and Co.; 1907. p. 2-10.  Back to cited text no. 2
Kant I, Abbot TK, editors. Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals. 10th ed. New York: Cosimo, Inc; 1785. p. 87-140.  Back to cited text no. 3
Eggleston B, editor. Utilitarianism. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. 2nd ed., Vol. 4. USA: Elsevier Inc.; 2012. p. 452-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Zalta EN, editor. The history of utilitarianism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive. USA: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP); 2014. p. 2.1, 2.2.  Back to cited text no. 5
Khan ZH. How far do we observe publication ethics and decorum? Acta Med Iran 2012;50:655-6.  Back to cited text no. 6


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