I have been the chair of the Ethical Research Board at Nashua Community College for about six months now. As a two-year college, we are starting to introduce more student-led research projects into coursework, as well as receive more outside requests for research on community colleges. Ethical research and human rights are passions of mine, so when asked, I agreed to be on the committee, and soon after, also agreed to chair the committee. I remember thinking, "I went through the IRB process during my doctorate. How hard could it be?"
As the semester went on, we as a committee started to learn what we knew, what we did not know, and what questions we didn't even know to ask. And so I found myself in a session at MeRTEC, being asked what I'm sure the presenters thought was a fairly standard series of questions, which included explaining what keeps us up at night regarding ethics. My answer? A whole lot more since attending this conference. I wasn’t sure I would sleep again given all I’d learned.
So, now I have more questions to answer, and a very long to-do list. To assist with current and upcoming projects, I hope to focus on two main goals at AER: how best to train my colleagues and coworkers about ethical research standards, and how best to address student research. We have found some materials from other IRBs, but need to compile a guide for faculty who are unfamiliar with ethical standards for research, or, more importantly, why they should care to maintain them.
Our limited resources also impact how the Ethical Research Board can review student research. Starting in Fall 2017, the college will be adding a project to a required course that will involve site visits, ethnographic methodology and note-taking, and interviews. This course, Ethnography of Work, will have approximately 300 students per semester, who are both new to college, and new to research. While I have some familiarity with SBER questions and risk, most of my committee does not.
I hope to use the sessions at AER to refine my understanding of the questions faced in SBER projects, and how to manage a large number of students and their projects with a committee of seven. At AER, I’m planning on focusing on SBER panels and sessions (if you're looking for similar sessions, see the SBER conference tracks), with a couple sessions on tips and tricks for chairs and training faculty. I’ll keep you updated on what I learn (and if I can sleep!)
Aimee E. Huard, PhD, associate professor of social sciences and chair of the Ethical Research Board at Nashua Community College, is a member of the PRIM&R Blog Squad for the 2016 AER Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who are blogging here, on Ampersand, to give our readers an inside peek of what's happening at the conference in Anaheim, CA.