Synthesizing SBER Learning at AER16

One of my goals for attending the 2016 Advancing Ethical Research Conference (AER16) was to figure out a plan for how to address a growing need on my campus. Each year, we have more students interested in research. This means the Ethical Research Board (ERB) at my institution needs a clear path to support the faculty in the design and incorporation of research into their coursework and a way to educate students on how to create and conduct an ethical research project, all without overwhelming its members. The majority of our projects are social, behavioral, and educational research (SBER), and most are minimal risk, but as I mentioned in a previous post we are a new board, still working on our procedures and policies. I waited to discuss this goal in my wrap-up post intentionally – my questions were not necessarily addressed in a single session, but rather over the course of the the four days, through a series of sessions, networking luncheons, conversations, and panels.

Research by students, particularly first-year college students, offers its own set of challenges for management. As I mentioned in my first post, I am also the project manager for Ethnography of Work, a course that encourages exploration of the culture of work. The majority of the coursework was designed to stay within the exemptions for observation of public behavior, using established and common accepted practices in anthropology; however, we hope to include more research and more observations in workplaces specific to student interests. Dr. Andrea McDowell and Dr. Julie Simpson provided a comprehensive guide on the questions to consider when establishing protocols in their session C24: College students and research: Challenges and issues for IRBs. This double session could have easily been a full day workshop, but the presenters did an outstanding job balancing the breadth of the problems with examples and resources (It also helped that, since Dr. Simpson is also a New Hampshire resident, I learned about relevant and specific state and case law that apply to my own state!) I also realized that many of the protocols my ERB has already created regarding conflict of interest mirror other IRBs and their thoughts on students as researchers and as the researched.

The information in this session connected nicely with lessons I learned in other sessions— particularly how to grow beyond just our ERB to build a comprehensive human research protections program (HRPP). While we still need to establish our policies, we discussed at our most recent ERB meeting how as a board, we are interested in more than reviewing protocols. We are planning on using the concepts from many of the presentations, including B23: Building and Maintaining an HRPP within a Primarily SBER Institution with a Small Research Portfolio, by Ms. Katherine Lerner, Mr. Greg Manship, and Dr. Andrea McDowell, as a guideline in our future plans.

In addition to all I learned in the conference sessions, I am grateful for all the resources and offers to help from individuals at the conference, and the establishment of PRIM&R’s SBER Network as a forum to discuss questions and issues we will encounter.

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 happened at the conference in Anaheim, CA.