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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Call for Case Studies in Social Science Research Ethics0

Posted by Admin in on February 12, 2017

There is an ongoing debate about the nature of ethics and ethics review in the design, conduct and practice of social science research. As part of Sage’s collection of cases in research methods, Dr Nathan Emmerich is commissioning and editing a series of case studies in research ethics. These should be relatively succinct tales from the field, suitable for an undergraduate / postgraduate readership, and offer insight and guidance on the ethical conduct of research. Previous cases have addressed the challenges of getting ethical approval for research, the ethics of interviewing survivors of rape in post-conflict Rwanda and the construction of information sheets for the purposes of securing informed consent. Cases that address substantive issues and reflect the complexities of conducting research are of particular interest. Further details can be found here:

To discuss a idea for a case please contact Nathan Emmerich at

The Role of Psychological Science in Studying Research Misconduct – APS Observer (November 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on February 9, 2017

Thirty-five years ago, a congressional committee led by a young US representative by the name of Albert Gore, Jr., began investigating a growing number of cases involving misconduct in federally funded research. Over time, the exposure of these cases led to the creation of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Now, ORI is not only proactively developing programs to teach responsible research conduct but also exploring the role behavioral science can play in understanding the root causes of fabrications, falsifications, and plagiarism in reporting the results of federally backed public health research.

The Observer recently talked with ORI scientist–investigator Ann A. Hohmann about ORI’s work and the role that psychological scientists can play in helping prevent scientific misconduct.

The statements and opinions expressed in the following interview are Hohmann’s and are not the official positions of ORI or HHS.

Read the rest of this interview

Common Rule Reform – A Botched Job – Network Blogger (Robert Dingwall | January 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on January 26, 2017

US social scientists have long complained about the impact of the Common Rule, the main federal regulation governing the ethical review of biomedical and behavioral research by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). This was first enacted in 1991 and last revised in 2005. In 2011, the relevant federal agencies announced a review, leading to the publication of revised regulations on the very last day of the Obama presidency. An international policy community has closely followed these US debates because of their influence on the frameworks for ethical regulation established elsewhere.

A 2014 report of the National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC) and by the draft regulations issued for consultation in 2016 raised hopes of sensible reform. The final drafting, however, seems to have been distracted by a major controversy over access to biospecimens. There are also signs of haste to enact regulations before the change of administration. Biomedical agendas have once again crowded out proper consideration of social science concerns.

The NRC set out a coherent approach that appropriately identified virtually all social science research as minimal risk. It should be ‘excused’ from ethical regulation on the basis that participants were well able to judge the risk and make their own decisions. A small number of experimental or intervention studies might require IRB review but everything else should just be registered. Specific consent should not be required for most studies – it could be inferred from willingness to fill in a survey or continue with an interview or focus group. Observations in public spaces, including social media, would also be ‘excused,’ as would most re-use of administrative data sets. ‘Vulnerable groups’ would no longer be listed but assumed normally to be capable of judging their own best interests. This approach was largely adopted by the draft regulations, which substituted the term ‘excluded’ for ‘excused’. IRBs would lose their jurisdiction over most social science research, unless it fell within narrow criteria or they could justify calling it in from the registration documents. There were still uncertainties about the status of participant observation or ethnography, but the approach was broadly welcomed by the community.

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Why researchers should get the same client confidentiality as doctors – The Conversation (Nathan Emmerich December 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on January 1, 2017

Social scientists routinely promise confidentiality to those who participate in their research. They tell participants that they will not inform anyone else about their involvement with the research or they will not reveal what they have said. This is done to encourage and ensure frank participation. But while ethics committees and review boards often mandate these promises of confidentiality, it is rare for such bodies, or universities, to speak up for researchers when they are faced with demands that they break confidentiality.

Take the ongoing struggle over the Boston College Tapes, for example. The tapes were the result of a project to create an oral history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In order to interview a number of former members of loyalist and republican paramilitaries about their involvement in the violence of the past, researchers promised that what was said would only be released posthumously.

Nevertheless, legal action taken by the Police Service of Northern Ireland could force Boston College – where the tapes are held – to release interviews with former IRA volunteer turned academic, Anthony McIntyre, who was also a lead researcher on the project. The PSNI says it wants the tapes in relation to the notorious 1972 IRA murder of Jean McConville. The subpoena is currently being challenged by McIntyre.

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