Ethical Treatment of Research Participants

Whether you conduct research with animals or humans, there are guidelines that direct your treatment of your research participants. Some of the ethical aspects of research conducted with human beings include individual’s consent to participate in the study, ensuring the participants full understanding of the research procedures, the risks and possible outcomes of the research, researcher respect for the participant’s culture and race, and researcher fairness in the selection of research participants.

University Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects

All of the research you do with human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the University Committee on Research Involving Human Subjects (UCRIHS). They have a comprehensive handbook about research conducted with human subjects. It mentions that cases of non-compliance (cases that the investigator(s) did not fulfill the requirements by the University and federal regulations protecting human subjects of research) is consider a violation of Michigan State University's Multiple Project Assurance (M-1239) and federal regulations for the protection of human subjects. These cases need to be reported to the Chair of UCRIHS immediately. The committee will investigate the information and research could possibly be suspended while more information is collected about the occurrence. The investigator(s) are invited to present a written explanation of the events that may end up constituting non-compliance, and he/she may also appear before UCRIHS. If the committee decides that non-compliance took place in the study, “UCRIHS will take appropriate action to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects”. This may include possible questioning of the investigator’s competence to conduct research with human subjects, IRB corrective actions “regarding the welfare of the subjects and the research data gathered in non-compliance”, and possible disciplinary sanctions. An investigator might present a written request asking UCRIHS to reconsider its decision.

Issues of concern to UCRIHS include:

(Taken from the Office for Human Research Participants, Institutional Review Board Guidebook, 2003)

  • Informed consent, which must guarantee "that prospective human subjects will understand the nature of the research and can knowledgeably and voluntarily decide whether or not to participate" in the research.
  • Risk and benefits analysis, meaning that “the risks to research subjects posed by participation in research should be justified by the anticipated benefits to the subjects or society”. Risk is considered the probability of harm or injury (physical, psychological, social, or economic) occurring as a result of participation in a research study, and the IRB usually expects a minimal risk for the subject.
  • Selection of subjects, to make sure that the burdens and benefits of research will be fairly distributed.
  • Privacy and confidentiality, meaning that the researcher/investigator will not disclose information about research participants improperly.
  • Monitoring and observation, which implies the necessity of constant monitoring of the collection and analysis of data to assure the appropriateness of the research, its design, and the subjects' rights.
  • Additional safeguards, to protect individuals who may be "vulnerable to coercion or undue influence to participate" in the study."
  • Incentives for participation, which consider "whether paid participants in research are recruited fairly, informed adequately, and paid appropriately."
  • Continuing review, which guarantees periodic review of research activities to determine whether approval should be continued or withdrawn .

Use of Animal Research Subjects

The use of animals in research, teaching, and outreach activities is subject to state and federal laws and guidelines. University policy specifies that:

  • all animals under University care (that is, involved in projects under the aegis or sponsorship of the University) will be treated humanely;
  • prior to their inception, all animal projects receive approval by the All University Committee on Animal Use and Care (AUCAUC);
  • MSU will comply with state and federal regulations regarding animal use and care.