Researchers have moral, professional, and increasingly legal obligations to act ethically & with good moral intent. It is the right thing to do.
Research ethics are relevant to all research.
An ethics review process is intended to ensure that researchers have adequately considered ethical considerations in the planning and proposed implementation of their research or activity and that your work does not pose more than minimum harm to those involved.
The key principles of ethics in social science research are:
Beneficence: protect the dignity, rights, autonomy, and welfare of participants.
Non-maleficence: do no harm.
Justice: ensure the benefits and burdens of research are distributed equitably among participants.
Implementing these principles in research helps maintain integrity, trust & social goodwill of various publics with and for whom researchers work.
This is highly important because much research occurs unobserved, meaning there is significant scope for improper conduct to occur.
By demonstrating ethical behavior, researchers promote confidence in the research process & in the reliability of research findings.
The University of Oxford has developed a Code of Conduct for Ethical Fieldwork, accessible here.