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Protection of Human Subjects in Research is an Urgent Issue

Article reinforcing the importance of human subjects protection in research

by Joe Savrock (November 2007)

Faculty members and graduate students involved in methodological research are reminded that protection of human participants is a matter of utmost importance. Regulations are in place to ensure the positive ethical treatment of human subjects in research activities and to safeguard their rights and welfare.

“Our researchers need to have a thorough understanding of the regulations and be sure to be in compliance,” said David Monk, dean of the College of Education.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) in Penn State’s Office for Research Protections works to protect the welfare of human participants who are recruited to participate in research studies. Researchers looking to further understand the requirements for protection of human subjects within specific research contexts and methodologies are encouraged to consult the IRB.

“We are more than willing to sit down with researchers who may be developing a complicated research study to determine the level of review that would be needed,” said Jodi Mathieu, assistant director of Penn State’s IRB. “Also, we can provide any suggestions to improve the study and inform researchers about obstacles they may encounter with regard to consent and other regulations that may come into play.”

Mathieu named the Family Education Right and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) as primary examples of regulatory acts that need to be followed. “Depending on the type of research being conducted, these two acts may need to be taken into account when research is being conducted in schools.”

Penn State researchers should also review Policy RA14 – The Use of Human Subjects in Research.