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The Opportunity Cost of Compulsory Research Participation: Why Psychology Departments Should Abolish Involuntary Participant Pools (Papers: Ruth Walker | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 23, 2020
 

Abstract

A widespread practice in psychology schools around the globe that needs to end.

Psychology departments often require undergraduates to participate in faculty and graduate research as part of their course or face a penalty. Involuntary participant pools (human subject pools) in which students are compulsorily enrolled are objectively coercive. Students have less autonomy than other research participants because they face a costly alternative task or the penalties that accompany failure to meet a course requirement if they choose not to participate. By contrast, other research participants are free to refuse consent without cost or penalty. Some researchers claim that the educational value of participation justifies the requirement. They treat coercion as a cost that can be outweighed by the benefits to students. This paper argues that such an approach is flawed because coercion is not like other costs and that educational value is inherently low relative to personal study or classroom time. The unethical nature of involuntary participation is best demonstrated with an opportunity cost analysis. This shows that students are forced to sacrifice higher value alternatives that they have paid to do and undertake a lower value activity that principally benefits others. Faculty have a conflict of interest as they are the beneficiaries of student coercion in their role as researchers and responsible for student achievement in their role as teachers. Voluntary participant pools can resolve this conflict but at the cost of reducing the supply of participants. A change in departmental research conduct is required to restore the autonomy of students who are competent adults and not legitimate subjects of paternalism when it comes to research participation.

Keywords
Human subject pools, Coercion, Psychology, Research, Undergraduates

Walker, R. (2020) The Opportunity Cost of Compulsory Research Participation: Why Psychology Departments Should Abolish Involuntary Participant Pools. Science and Engineering Ethics  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-020-00232-2

Digital Ethics in Higher Education: 2020 – BecauseReview (John O’Brien | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 21, 2020
 

New technologies, especially those relying on artificial intelligence or data analytics, are exciting but also present ethical challenges that deserve our attention and action. Higher education can and must lead the way.

Some news stories are hard to forget, like the one from a decade ago about a teenager who was texting while walking and fell into an open manhole on the street. Many headlines made fun of the scraped-up fifteen-year-old. But most of the news stories were focused on the people involved and thus didn’t see the bigger story about the place where humans and technology clash—or, in this case, crash.1

A lengthy piece, but a useful discussion on a very topical matter.  We have included a selection of related items.  Regardless of how far away the singularity is, smart (and bias laden) algorithms are already having a big impact on everyday life.

In 2020, I remember this story and see it as perhaps the perfect metaphor for the challenge of digital ethics. New technologies, many that depend on private data or emerging artificial intelligence (AI) applications, are being rolled out with enthusiastic abandon. These dazzling technologies capture our attention and inspire our imagination. Meanwhile, fascinated by these developments, we may soon see the ground drop out from under us. We need to find a way to pay attention to both the rapid technology innovations and the very real implications for the people who use them—or, as some would say, the people who are used by them.
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I believe we are at a crucial point in the evolution of technology. We must come to grips with digital ethics, which I define simply as “doing the right thing at the intersection of technology innovation and accepted social values.” This is a straightforward-enough definition; however, given the speed of technology change and the relativity of social values, even a simple definition may be trickier than it seems. For example, at the point where they clash, the desire for the latest data-powered apps and the desire for fiercely protected privacy reveal significant ethical fault lines. Which desire prevails? And while we contemplate this question, the development of new apps continues.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

A fascinating history of clinical trials from their beginnings in Babylon – Medium (Prof. Adrian Esterman | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 19, 2020
 

Clinical trials are required to test treatments for COVID-19. Take a quick trip over 2,000 years and discover how our current understanding of clinical trials was formed.

Clinical trials
Clinical trials are currently being undertaken to test treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. There are many different types of clinical trial design, from a simple before and after (measure something in patients, do an intervention like giving them a drug, then measure them again), to a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of all clinical trial designs.

Planning to give a talk about clinical trials and want to give it some historical context?  This is a great resource to use.

Here is a light-hearted history of how clinical trials developed over the last two thousand years, including the first recorded instances of control groups, the use of placebos and randomization. It will give you a better understanding of how clinical trials are designed.
600 BC Daniel and his kosher diet.
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Surprisingly, the first ever clinical trial is found in the Bible in Book one of Daniel and took place in Babylon. In 600 BC, some captive children of the Israeli royal family and nobility were taken into the King Nebuchadnezzar’s service in Babylon — among them were Daniel and three friends. Supposedly, these were golden young men — physically perfect, handsome, intelligent, knowledgeable and well qualified to serve in the king’s palace.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Ethical guidelines for COVID-19 tracing apps – Nature (Jessica Morley, et al | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 13, 2020
 

Protect privacy, equality and fairness in digital contact tracing with these key questions.

Technologies to rapidly alert people when they have been in contact with someone carrying the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are part of a strategy to bring the pandemic under control. Currently, at least 47 contact-tracing apps are available globally (see go.nature.com/2zc1qhk). They are already in use in Australia, South Korea and Singapore, for instance. And many other governments are testing or considering them.

Not really research, but a topical discussion on big data, privacy, consent and respect for persons, which are of significance to research.

Here we set out 16 questions to assess whether — and to what extent — a contact-tracing app is ethically justifiable. These questions could assist governments, public-health agencies and providers to develop ethical apps — they have already informed developments in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. They will also help watchdogs and others to scrutinize such technologies.
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What do COVID-19 contact-tracing apps do? Running on a mobile phone, they inform people that they have spent time near someone with the virus. The contacts should then respond according to local rules, for example by isolating themselves. Prompt alerts are key because the incubation time of the virus is up to two weeks.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

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