Application Exercises

Chapter specific application exercises will help you think about research design in practice or have you explore a relevant resource.

Exercise 1: The Ethics of Internet Research

You have been asked to advise your campus IRB on whether campus-based Internet research implies a special set of “e-ethics” specific to research on and of the Internet. There is some thinking that the basic principles of human subjects research protections cover Internet research adequately and that no specific guidelines for such research are required. List the sources of information you might go to in order to write a report and recommendations for your board.

Exercise 2: IRBs Revisited

As of 2019 the DHHS Common Rule exempts “benign behavioral interventions” such as social science interviews and surveys from IRB oversight.

The stated intent of this amendment is to better protect research subjects while facilitating valuable research and reducing delay and ambiguity for researchers.

The rule does not specify what is and is not a benign behavioral intervention. What examples of research can you think of that might be regarded as benign . . . or not? More generally, how would you define “benign”? Absent IRB oversight, is it sufficient that researchers themselves should decide that their research is benign? What mechanisms, if any, are needed to protect your interests as a participant in an online or classroom-based research? How does the presence or absence of a campus IRB affect your feelings about participating in a professor’s research? Can the Belmont Report ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice with respect to research participants be maintained in the absence of IRB oversight? Research your campus’ current IRB guidelines to determine what exemptions, if any, exist for the types of research you might be interested in.

Exercise 3: MeToo and Research Ethics

The “MeToo” movement was founded in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence. More recently, the “#metoo” discussion of sexual harassment and assault became viral internationally and launched more sector-specific discussions focused on churches, sports, military, entertainment and government. Time magazine chose The Me Too movement as its Person of Year in 2017.

As a researcher you are interested in answering the many questions that might be asked about MeToo as a communication phenomenon. On the MeToo publicly-accessible Facebook site victims of sexual harassment may self-identify, post the nature of the assault and “name names”. To what extent ought you to be able to use such data, publish it and make the data you gathered available to other researchers for further use and publication? What consent, if any, to the use of such data should you seek?

Do your answers to these questions change with respect to the non-public postings of a group of Facebook friends of which you are a member?

Hints: Facebook privacy policy currently says that “you have control over who sees what you share on Facebook.”

The Me Too movement has a web presence at