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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

On Ethical Principles for Social Research (PAPERS – Video: M Hammersley)0

Posted by Admin in on December 31, 2015

Keynote presentation by Martyn Hammersley, Professor in Educational & Social Research, The Open University at the 2013 Research Institute for Health and Social Change Conference, July 2013.

“In some quarters today there are arguments to the effect that research ethics codes should be formulated in terms of principles, rather than specific prescriptions and proscriptions. This derives in part from what is probably the most influential approach to bioethics: principlism. What is provided here is an exploration of the nature of ethical principles as these relate to social research, and of the debates around them. It is argued that principles are useful, so long as they are treated as reminders of what ought to be taken into account, rather than as premises from which specific ethical judgments can be derived. At the same time, it is concluded that any move towards formulating codes in terms of principles is likely to make little difference in practice for researchers under the present regime of ethical regulation.”

The video of the talk can be accessed as a MP4 file from ( either to watch online or to download. It has been embedded below.

Proposed US Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (‘The Common Rule’)0

Posted by Admin in on December 28, 2015

“A Proposed Rule by the Homeland Security Department, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Commerce Department, the Social Security Administration, the Agency for International Development, the Justice Department, the Labor Department, the Defense Department, the Education Department, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Health and Human Services Department, the National Science Foundation, and the Transportation Department on 09/08/2015.

The departments and agencies listed in this document propose revisions to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991. This NPRM seeks comment on proposals to better protect human subjects involved in research, while facilitating valuable research and reducing burden, delay, and ambiguity for investigators. This proposed rule is an effort to modernize, simplify, and enhance the current system of oversight. The participating departments and agencies propose these revisions to the human subjects regulations because they believe these changes would strengthen protections for research subjects while facilitating important research.”

The proposed rule can be accessed from:

Demystifying ethical review (CFCA Resource Sheet – February 2013)0

Posted by Admin in on December 27, 2015

“This paper aims to provide an overview of the process of ethical review and how it may apply to those outside of a “research organisation” who wish to conduct research or evaluate their own programs.

Conducting research that meets high ethical standards is a priority for most researchers. Ethical review processes have been established to safeguard both those who participate in research and the individuals and organisations who conduct human research from unethical conduct. While horror stories of unethical and cruel research exist, thankfully, they are rare.

The process of ethical review can seem mysterious and difficult at first. However, it is often not as difficult as imagined. As will be outlined in this paper, some research and evaluation projects can be approved with expedited reviews, and others, such as those that solely utilise previously collected data (e.g., pre- and post-program participant surveys) and so pose no risk of harm to participants often do not require formal ethical approval at all.

This paper was compiled by Deborah Scott, Research Fellow with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.”

The resource sheet is available on the CFCA web site.

Common Rule Revision – The Ethics Police Fight Back – Social Science Space (Robert Dingwall 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on December 20, 2015

“As might have been expected, the proposed revisions to the Common Rule regulating research ethics in federally funded research in the U.S. have not gone unchallenged.

The proposals are contained in a long and complex document. Even those of us who take a close interest in these things have struggled to assimilate 500 pages of dense prose. It is not, then, unreasonable that the consultation period has been extended by another 30 days. However, it is important that scholars who basically support the proposals take advantage of this to express positive views – because it is clear that there is a determined push back.

As I outlined in a previous blog, these revisions would mean that most social science research would be excluded from IRB review.

Any research involving standardized testing, surveys, interviews, or observations, including audio and video recording, of public behavior, including behavior online, will be able to proceed without further review. Certain types of experimental work will also be excluded, where participants experience ‘benign interventions [which are] brief in duration, harmless, painless, not physically invasive, not likely to have a significant adverse lasting impact…[or to be] offensive or embarrassing.’ These studies may include an element of deception provided the participant agrees to this in advance. Oral history, journalism, biography and historical scholarship about named individuals can proceed solely with reference to the disciplines’ own codes of ethics. The secondary analysis of administrative data, including many health and criminal justice records, even in identifiable form, will be excluded from review provided it complies with data protection legislation. Some research with children would still require review: standardized tests and non-participant observation would be excluded but not surveys, interviews and participant observation.”

Read the full item here.
Also see the earlier item about the change to the Common Rule