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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Research, Risk-Benefit Analyses and Ethical Issues How to ensure research projects meet EU ethics standards A guidance document for researchers complying with requests from the European Commission Ethics Reviews0

Posted by Admin in on June 27, 2016

You have received feedback from an ethics panel… – Any points raised in ethical reviews are not meant to be punishments or attempts to interfere with your research. Rather, they are requests for safeguards to ensure that human subjects, animals or the environment are protected and the public perception of research remains positive. If certain research methods may raise ethical concerns, you should take measures to ensure that widely shared societal values are not compromised. This document will help you to identify some ethical issues, take measures to reassure concerns and address any points raised by an ethics panel.

What is a risk-benefit analysis? – A risk-benefit analysis is something we do in any decision-making process. In its basic form, it is a consideration of the risks in relation to the benefits. Where benefits are great or necessary, we concentrate on reducing the exposure to potential risks (where risks are too high or the benefits insignificant, we take precaution). Central to risk-benefit analyses is the consideration of introducing risk reduction measures.

Risks are not just economic, environmental or systemic. There are also societal or ethical risks (challenges to human values, rights, freedoms) which can have an impact on research directions. If research causes loss of life or well-being, confronts basic freedoms like privacy and free movement or challenges shared values, then this research is seen to be a risk. This is the human element that some researchers can easily overlook or downplay. As our personal worth (human dignity) is not something elastic that can be easily traded off , an ethical risk could interfere with the ability to continue along present research lines and should therefore not be taken lightly.

European Commission (2013) Research, Risk-Benefit Analyses and Ethical Issues How to ensure research projects meet EU ethics standards A guidance document for researchers complying with requests from the European Commission Ethics Reviews. Directorate-General for Research and Innovation Science in society/Capacities FP7. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union doi:10.2777/74325

Facebook’s Research Ethics Board Needs to Stay Far Away from Facebook – Wired (Zoltan Boka June 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on June 26, 2016

CHANCES ARE, YOU’RE on Facebook right now. About 1.7 billion people—almost a quarter of the world’s population—actively use the social media platform . And though it’s free, Facebook isn’t charity. It has a product, and that product is you and me. The company cleared a tidy $5.2 billion from user-directed ads in the first quarter of 2016 alone.

To keep that business running, Facebook doesn’t just need users: It needs active, engaged users. Facebook needs to get in your head, to understand how you’ll respond to a product or an offer or a marketing campaign—and more and more, it’s using internal experiments to predict those behaviors. But using those methods, commonly referred to as neuromarketing, means that Facebook needs to address the same ethical questions other behavioral scientists do.

In 2014, Facebook undertook an experiment on more than half a million of its users, manipulating feeds so some people saw more positive posts while others were exposed to a more negative stream. The moods were contagious: Those who saw more good news wrote happier posts and those who saw more bad news wrote sadder posts. But Facebook didn’t ask its users permission to do this; it has argued that their terms of service allows it to structure what you see. The blowback was massive, with some wondering whether the experiment pushed depressed users towards suicide. In response, Facebook has recently decided to draw on an essential element of ethics in behavioral science: an Institutional Review Board.

Read the full opinion piece

AAA Comments on Notice of Proposed Rule Making for IRBs (Papers: Rena Lederman & Lise Dobrin 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on June 22, 2016

Below are some excerpts from the 18-page comment submitted by the AAA to the Office of Human Research Protections on January 6, 2016, in response to the proposed changes in the “Common Rule”, the federal regulations that motivate the system of research ethics review that is implemented by IRBs. The AAA comment was authored on the AAA’s behalf by Rena Lederman (Princeton University) and Lise Dobrin (University of Virginia). An overview of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and the full text of the AAA’s response can be found here.

On the NPRM’s proposal to expand the definition of “human subject” to include even non-identified biospecimens:
The American Anthropological Association is in general accord with the principle of “autonomy” (or “respect for persons”) underlying this NPRM proposal to change the definition of Human Subject. Anthropologists and their study participants have objected to the reduction of biospecimens to “data” (i.e., values detachable from their sources); they have pointed out that blood, tissue samples and the like can come to stand for persons and be invested with specific social, cultural, and ritual values.

On the problematic omission of sociocultural anthropology’s signature methods from both the Common Rule and the proposed rule change:
Our first and most important general comment is that several of the proposed changes will deepen, rather than alleviate, ambiguity. This is especially true with respect to sociocultural anthropologists’ most characteristic research activity – “participant observation” (also referred to as “ethnographic fieldwork”, “fieldwork”, and similar terms) – which finds no place within the existing Common Rule at all. Insofar as the proposed changes likewise make no mention of participant observation, anthropologists and others who employ this approach—along with their IRBs—are left entirely in the dark. This situation promises to keep ethnographic field projects that rely on participant observation in “expedited” or “full board” categories when according to the logic behind the NPRM they should be “exempt” or “excluded”…

Lederman R & Dobrin L (2016) AAA Comments on Notice of Proposed Rule Making for IRBs. AAA Ethics Blog

The AAA issued an update about the changes to the common rule on 23 May 2016. You can view the update here

The Ethics of Social Research with Children and Families in Young Lives: Practical Experiences (2009)0

Posted by Admin in on June 19, 2016

Preview: A great deal of attention is now paid to the ethics of social research. Research governance has expanded, and a burgeoning literature is emerging that describes the processes, practices and questions that arise in social research with children, families and communities. This paper outlines the approach taken to research ethics within Young Lives, a long-term study of childhood poverty in four developing countries. It describes some of the practical difficulties that Young Lives faces, and emphasises the importance of understanding local contexts in undertaking research with children and families in environments that are dynamic and may change rapidly from one year to the next, economically, environmentally and politically. The paper aims to contribute to current debates about research practices, the ethics of longitudinal research with children and research with communities in majority world contexts, in the spirit of shared enquiry and learning.

Morrow, V (2009) The Ethics of Social Research with Children and Families in Young Lives: Practical Experiences.