ACN - 101321555 Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)
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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Friday afternoon’s funny – Captain Placebo0

Posted by Admin in on June 25, 2020
 

Cartoon by Don Mayne www.researchcartoons.com
Full-size image for printing (right mouse click and save file)

Members of research ethics review bodies and ethics officers need to be careful they don’t slip into a superhero mindset.  You aren’t battling evil or protecting hapless participants from dangerous research.  Such thinking will turn you into the worst stereotype of someone involved in research ethics review.  Instead, we must strive to facilitate ethical research through constructive feedback and collegiate support.

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

Is Research Ethics Committee review of most clinical trials fundamentally broken? – BMJ Blog (Mark Yarborough | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 22, 2020
 

Imagine that you suffered from a fatal neurodegenerative disorder like Alzheimers or ALS, or that you had a serious chronic condition like hypertension or heart disease. Imagine further that you were asked to participate in a clinical trial related to your disease. Finally, imagine that the person recruiting you into the trial reassured you that the study had been vetted by a research ethics committee (REC) tasked with protecting your welfare, rights, and interests.

For more than a century combined, we have chaired, served on, supported, written about and consulted on/for research ethics committees.  And we have served on NHMRC committees.  So it will not come as a complete surprise that we don’t entirely agree with this provocative piece.  But it does raise issues worthy of sober and informed discussion.

 

Of course, countless people in these exact same circumstances routinely get recruited into REC-approved trials. While many or perhaps even most of them may have never heard of RECs and the role they play in clinical research, they nevertheless are likely to implicitly trust that the trials they are being recruited into are both important and ethical to conduct. Such trust should be warranted since that is what REC approval is meant to certify.
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But does REC approval reliably certify this? I suspect that many readers of this journal believe that they do and thus rarely if ever truly ponder the question. I know this used to be true for me, in large part due to my own personal experiences working on RECs and seeing the hard work and dedication of committee members and staff. Today, though, I am convinced that the question is one of the most central ones there is in research ethics. After all, the trustworthiness of the clinical research endeavour is in large part a direct outcome of the strength of the accountability measures in place to support it and REC review is at the heart of those accountability measures.

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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.

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