Ethical guidelines for research with human participants
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Ethical Guidelines for Research with Human Participants. July 2003. Guiding Principles. Autonomy : respect individual’s right to decide freely whether to participate Beneficence : maximize benefits and minimize harm to participants

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Guiding Principles

  • Autonomy: respect individual’s right to decide freely whether to participate

  • Beneficence: maximize benefits and minimize harm to participants

  • Justice: access to participation in research studies must be equitable (e.g., risks should not be borne disproportionately by the disadvantaged)


  • Informed Consent

  • Protect participants’ privacy and confidentiality

Informed consent
Informed Consent

Defined: voluntary choice of an individual to participate in research based on an accurate understanding of it’s purposes, procedures, risks, benefits, and any other factors that may affect a person’s decision to participate.

Informed consent1
Informed Consent

  • Participants must read and sign an informed consent form prior to their participation in any type of data collection activity.

  • Minor children (under the age of 18) must give assent to participate and a parent/guardian must sign a consent form.

Informed consent form
Informed Consent Form

  • Describes the research to be conducted

  • Describes the reasonably foreseeable risks

  • Describes the expected benefits (if any)

  • Explains how participant’s confidentiality will be protected

  • Provides name and phone number of person to contact if there are questions/concerns

  • Explains the VOLUNTARY nature of the project and the participant’s right to withdraw at any time without penalty.

Protect participants privacy and confidentiality
Protect participants’ privacy and confidentiality

  • Is there risk of criminal prosecution or loss of employment if the individual participates in the research project?

  • Is the participant willing to have his/her identity associated with the data provided to the researcher?

How to protect privacy and confidentiality of participants
How to protect privacy and confidentiality of participants

  • Do not ask for the participant’s name or any other identifying information (i.e., keep your data collection anonymous)

  • Remove participant’s name from data after it is collected and assign a number or pseudonym

  • Store data in locked file cabinet and/or encrypted in an electronic data file


  • Maximize benefits: does the research have scientific merit?

  • Minimize harm to participants: does the research involve risk?

  • What is the risk/benefit ratio?

Minimal risk
Minimal Risk

  • Defined: the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests

Examples of potential risks
Examples of Potential Risks

  • Physical: bodily injury or death

  • Psychological: emotional disturbance, impairment of cognitive functioning

  • Social: exposure to criminal penalties/litigation, loss of job or social standing

Examples of potential benefits
Examples of Potential Benefits

  • Improved physical/mental health of participants and other people

  • Increased scientific understanding of topic under study

  • Participant exposed to state of the art technology


  • Access to participation in research studies must be equitable

  • Historically the risks have been borne disproportionately by the disadvantaged and the benefits realized by the privileged

  • Researchers must give serious consideration to their subject selection process

    • Who is included? Why?

    • Who is excluded? Why?

Recruiting participants
Recruiting participants

  • Participation must be truly voluntary—avoid coercion or undue influence

  • Selection must be equitable--is there a scientific reason for excluding non-English speaking participants or is it just more convenient for the researcher?

  • Recruiting from special populations (children, pregnant women, prisoners, mentally handicapped) requires extra safeguards

Institution review board irb
Institution Review Board (IRB)

  • Established at each organization that conducts research with human participants

  • Composed of faculty members with different backgrounds (some scientific, some not)

  • Reviews applications from researchers who plan to collect data from humans

The irb evaluates proposed research projects by considering
The IRB evaluates proposed research projects by considering:

  • The potential risks to participants and whether the researcher has taken the necessary steps to minimize these risks

  • The potential benefits to participants and society—do they outweigh the risks?

  • The participant selection process—is it equitable?

  • The completeness and readability of the informed consent form

The irb monitors ongoing research projects
The IRB monitors ongoing research projects

  • Have any undesirable and/or unintended experiences (adverse events) resulted from a subject’s participation in a research study?

  • Is the researcher in compliance with IRB regulations?

    • These regulations are based on Federal laws governing the treatment of human participants in research projects.

Review of principles guiding the treatment of research participants
Review of principles guiding the treatment of research participants

  • Autonomy

    • Informed consent

    • Privacy and confidentiality

  • Beneficence:

    • Risk/benefit analysis

    • Scientific merit

  • Justice:

    • Subject selection process