Friday, December 12, 2008

Ethics Schmethics

I am writing (and I use the term "writing" very loosely) my dissertation for my Ph.D. (yes, that is generally what dissertations are written for). I am going to be a doctor... but not the kind that helps people* (or is really qualified to do much of anything... many years well spent, methinks).

*Someone's proud mother said this. I heard it somewhere. I can't remember where, but I just wanted to make it clear that I didn't make this phrase up.

I am set to collect data in February of 2009. In order to collect data from human subjects, a researcher must submit a proposal detailing the study, research methods, data collection procedures, and upload consent forms and instruments to be used to an Internal Review Board. This committee reviews said proposal and determines whether it is ethically sound (and that the univ's a$$ will not be sued for any reason).

I did this about 2 weeks ago. I was so proud of myself for finally getting it done. Stumbling over the last hurdle before actually collecting data and beginning what I hope to be the downhill slide to doctoral bliss.

but, alas... there has been a glitch... wouldn't you know it?

**Disclaimer: this scenario is ficticious. My dissertation topic is really quite boring so I have invented an "interesting" (and I use this adjective loosely) topic to illustrate my little problem. This is also the "nutshell" view... it is slightly more complicated than would be tolerated in a blog post.

I am researching my hypothesis that brunettes really have more fun. So I have made a questionnaire to try to... not prove... you can't prove anything really... to support my claim.

But, I am going to administer my questionnaire to people of all hair colors. Rather than give my participants the real title to my study (i.e. Brunettes have more fun) I titled my study "Who has more fun?" on the consent form. I rationalized this by saying that, though I am focusing on the responses of brunettes, I am going to analyze all data, even if only for sake of comparison and I don't want participants to change their responses thinking I am looking for certain answers... if that makes sense.

Well, apparently, it is "deceptive" to withhold the real intentions of the study from participants. So I have several options. The first is to make a few changes, including the title to something more "innocuous." (IRB's word)-- (I think I'll go with this option--innocuous is always good, right?)

Of course, it is suggested that I discuss the issue with my committee... uh the only problem there, is that my committee is always m.i.a. ... can't get an answer to an email to save my life.

To run the study as is, I would have to give my participants a "debriefing" after they turned in the questionnaires to tell them what I am really looking at...

... something about being straighforward and transparent... blah blah blah...

dammit that's irritating!

1 comment:

redqueencjb said...

agh, and we are both in psychology. nice. buena suerte, friend. :)