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Ethical Issues in Empirical Studies of Software Engineering

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Document pages: 17 pages

Abstract: The popularity of empirical methods in software engineering research is on the rise. Surveys,experiments, metrics, case studies, and field studies are examples of empirical methods used toinvestigate both software engineering processes and products. The increased application ofempirical methods has also brought about an increase in discussions about adapting thesemethods to the peculiarities of software engineering. In contrast, the ethical issues raised byempirical methods have received little, if any, attention in the software engineering literature. Thisarticle is intended to introduce the ethical issues raised by empirical research to the softwareengineering research community, and to stimulate discussion of how best to deal with these ethicalissues. Through a review of the ethical codes of several fields that commonly employ humans andartifacts as research subjects, we have identified major ethical issues relevant to empirical studiesof software engineering. These issues are illustrated with real empirical studies of softwareengineering.

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