Research Ethics Roundup: Facebook’s unethical experiment, FDA’s support for marijuana clinical trials, and more

Perhaps you’ve already read – on your Facebook News Feed, no doubt – about Facebook’s recent mood experiment. Not to worry—this post has no hidden motive. We’re just pleased to be able to share recent headlines from around the research ethics world with you.

Everything We Know about Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment: Following the publication of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an experiment conducted among Facebook users has come to light. The experiment, which Facebook administered over the course of one week in 2012, sought to examine whether users were more likely to post positive or negative content after being presented with extremely positive or negative content in their News Feed. Facebook claims that the experiment was allowable under the site’s terms and conditions, while others argue that the study was not consistent with ethical or regulatory standards.

FDA Supports Marijuana Clinical Trials: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced its support for research into medical marijuana use. Though the FDA has not approved marijuana for medical use, it has publicly announced its support for clinical trials that seek to understand its impact on medical conditions, and is currently working with several states to ensure that these trials are conducted legally.


Glaxo Dumps Firm for Preying on College Grads for Clinical Trials:  British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline came under fire recently for promoting clinical trials to college graduates as a way to alleviate financial debt. Glaxo has fired the external marketing firm that is responsible for posting the trials on a website that specializes in career advice for college graduates.

HIV Trial Attacked: Following new recommendations from the World Health Organization, some are urging the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to stop the Promoting Maternal-Infant Survival Everywhere (PROMISE) study, which compares the efficacy of three different delivery methods for antiretroviral therapy to pregnant women. Those opposed to the continuation of the study argue that older regimens should not be continued when newer therapies are known to be more effective.