5. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession
NASW Code of Ethics: Ethical Standards
5.01 Integrity of the Profession
(a) Social workers should work toward the maintenance and promotion
of high standards of practice.
(b) Social workers should uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge,
and mission of the profession. Social workers should protect, enhance,
and improve the integrity of the profession through appropriate study and
research, active discussion, and responsible criticism of the profession.
(c) Social workers should contribute time and professional expertise to
activities that promote respect for the value, integrity, and competence
of the social work profession. These activities may include teaching,
research, consultation, service, legislative testimony, presentations in the
community, and participation in their professional organizations.
(d) Social workers should contribute to the knowledge base of social work
and share with colleagues their knowledge related to practice, research, and
ethics. Social workers should seek to contribute to the profession’s literature
and to share their knowledge at professional meetings and conferences.
(e) Social workers should act to prevent the unauthorized and unqualified
practice of social work.
5.02 Evaluation and Research
(a) Social workers should monitor and evaluate policies, the
implementation of programs, and practice interventions.
(b) Social workers should promote and facilitate evaluation and research
to contribute to the development of knowledge.
(c) Social workers should critically examine and keep current with
emerging knowledge relevant to social work and fully use evaluation
and research evidence in their professional practice.
(d) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should carefully
consider possible consequences and should follow guidelines developed
for the protection of evaluation and research participants. Appropriate
institutional review boards should be consulted.
(e) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should obtain
voluntary and written informed consent from participants, when
appropriate, without any implied or actual deprivation or penalty for
refusal to participate; without undue inducement to participate; and with
due regard for participants’ well-being, privacy, and dignity. Informed
consent should include information about the nature, extent, and duration
of the participation requested and disclosure of the risks and benefits of
participation in the research.
(f) When using electronic technology to facilitate evaluation or research,
social workers should ensure that participants provide informed consent
for the use of such technology. Social workers should assess whether
participants are able to use the technology and, when appropriate, offer
reasonable alternatives to participate in the evaluation or research.
(g) When evaluation or research participants are incapable of giving
informed consent, social workers should provide an appropriate explanation
to the participants, obtain the participants’ assent to the extent they are
able, and obtain written consent from an appropriate proxy.
(h) Social workers should never design or conduct evaluation or
research that does not use consent procedures, such as certain forms
of naturalistic observation and archival research, unless rigorous and
responsible review of the research has found it to be justified because
of its prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and unless
equally effective alternative procedures that do not involve waiver of
consent are not feasible.
(i) Social workers should inform participants of their right to withdraw
from evaluation and research at any time without penalty.
(j) Social workers should take appropriate steps to ensure that
participants in evaluation and research have access to appropriate
(k) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should protect
participants from unwarranted physical or mental distress, harm,
danger, or deprivation.
(l) Social workers engaged in the evaluation of services should discuss
collected information only for professional purposes and only with
people professionally concerned with this information.
(m) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should ensure the
anonymity or confidentiality of participants and of the data obtained
from them. Social workers should inform participants of any limits of
confidentiality, the measures that will be taken to ensure confidentiality,
and when any records containing research data will be destroyed.
(n) Social workers who report evaluation and research results should
protect participants’ confidentiality by omitting identifying information
unless proper consent has been obtained authorizing disclosure.
(o) Social workers should report evaluation and research findings
accurately. They should not fabricate or falsify results and should take
steps to correct any errors later found in published data using standard
(p) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should be alert to
and avoid conflicts of interest and dual relationships with participants,
should inform participants when a real or potential conflict of interest
arises, and should take steps to resolve the issue in a manner that makes
participants’ interests primary.
(q) Social workers should educate themselves, their students, and their
colleagues about responsible research practices.