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

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

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

Published/Released on June 12, 2020 | Posted by Admin on June 23, 2020 / , , , , ,
 


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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



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