The importance of protecting participants

Drew Parker

Although many Kent State students participate in a research studies for extra credit or complete email surveys for the chance to win a gift card, most are probably unaware of the process researchers must go through on campus.

The university’s Institutional Review Board oversees all research on campus involving human subjects, including studies completed by students and faculty members. The board meets to review applications for research twice a month, ensuring that the human subjects involved are safe and treated ethically.

Richard Adams, associate sociology professor and IRB member, said protecting respondents is a crucial part of effective research.

“Quite often people want to help and be a part of research,” Adams said. “Researchers can become too caught up in their studies and rationalize terrible actions all in the name of science and good information. We don’t want people do agree to anything that could do them harm.”

Therefore, Adams said, researchers must have the board’s approval before publishing any information.

“In order to get the results published, you have to have IRB approval,” he said. “They might have great information and send it to a professional journal, but the journal will ask if it has been approved by an IRB, and if it hasn’t, the journal won’t run any of the information.”

Kathryn Kerns, a developmental psychologist and Kent State psychology professor, said the IRB has special concerns with studies involving children.

“Studies involving children raise sensitive issues,” Kerns said. “One concern that we have is what to do when a child answers a question in a way that shows signs of abuse. We have a duty as a psychologist to protect the child.”

Kerns said IRB reviews often show researchers ways of protecting respondents that may not have been discovered beforehand.

“The board definitely helps me come up with tactics that I may have never thought about before,” Kerns said. “The public knows that the board is there to protect people, and it makes them feel more comfortable about being part of a study.”

Leah Infante, sophomore teaching English as a second language major, recently participated in a memory study for her general psychology class.

“I feel that the researchers got important information about how people learn and memorize certain subjects,” Infante said. “Although I had to do the study for class credit, it was interesting to learn how research was conducted and why it is important.”

IRB approval can usually take 4 weeks or more, but can sometimes be lengthier for students.

Contact Drew Parker at [email protected].