Ethics & Society 2015 Year in Review

Starting with a national discussion on vaccinations, public health and autonomy, and ending with widespread reflection on yet another mass shooting, 2015 had no shortage of ethics-related news and events.

Here are a few highlights of the work of Fordham University Center for Ethics Education faculty, staff, and students from 2015:

Dr. Celia B. Fisher Contributes to National Discussion on Ethical Review & Oversight Issues in Standard of Care Research

Common clinical practices might lack a robust evidence base if there have not been empirical interventional research studies to compare an array of available routine or standard treatment options. Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director Dr. Celia B. Fisher, an internationally renowned expert on empirical research on research ethics, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in an Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop aimed to inform practice and policy of regulated research studies involving standard of care interventions. Read more here.

 

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Minimal risk and minimal experience: Can researchers competently navigate OHRP’s new risk categories?

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By: Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced proposed revisions to modernize federal regulations governing the protection of research participants’ rights and welfare. The newly proposed regulations have many positive features that will improve the informed consent process through transparency and stricter requirements to protect participant privacy and enhance informed consent.

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Implications of Common Rule Changes for Minimal Risk and Expedited Review of Social & Behavioral Research

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For the first time in 20 years the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed changes to Federal Regulations governing protections for people who participate in research.  Any changes will have a substantial impact on the conduct and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval of social-behavioral research–especially in terms of how IRBs will interpret criteria for “minimal risk” research and expedited review.

At the recent 2014 PRIM&R Advancing Ethical Research conference, Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and a member of the National Research Council’s Committee on Revisions to the Common Rule for Social & Behavioral Science, explained the Committee’s recommendations for regulatory change and its impact on SBR and research involving children and other “vulnerable” populations. Dr. Fisher’s PRIM&R presentation is available for download here.

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Issues of Research Ethics in the Facebook ‘Mood Manipulation’ Study: The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

 

By: Michelle Broaddus, Ph.D.

A new study using Facebook data to study “emotional contagion,” and the ensuing backlash of its publication offers the opportunity to examine several ethical principles in research. One of the pillars of ethically conducted research is balancing the risks to the individual participants against the potential benefits to society or scientific knowledge. While the study’s effects were quite small, the authors argue that “given the massive scale of social networks such as Facebook, even small effects can have large aggregated consequences.” However, participants were not allowed to give informed consent, which constitutes a risk of the research and the major source of the backlash.

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Issues of Research Ethics in the Facebook ‘Mood Manipulation’ Study: The Importance of Multiple Perspectives (full text)

 

By: Michelle Broaddus, Ph.D.

A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes a mood manipulation experiment conducted by Facebook scientists during one week in 2012 that suggests evidence of “emotional contagion,” or the spread of positive and negative affect between people. The backlash to this publication has been significant. As two examples, Slate.com published a piece entitled “Facebook’s Unethical Experiment: It intentionally manipulated users’ emotions without their knowledge” and The Atlantic’s piece, “Even the Editor of Facebook’s Mood Study Thought It Was Creepy.”

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