Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Its the ethics not the board


Many journals, BRIA included, asks the following or similar question as part of the submission process “Have you received clearance from an Institutional Research Board or equivalent for research involving human participants?”

What really the question means, but loses much in translation, is have you followed the norms of ethical treatment for human participants in experiments, observations studies, interviews studies etc?  Indeed, other than the IRB or Research Ethics Board (REB) itself – no one is interested in the act of approval BUT rather what the act of approval signifies.  To be precise we want to know as a research community have you

  1. Ensured that consent to participate in the research is voluntary.
  2. Consent is given by a participant who has been informed of the “nature, duration, and purpose” of the research and informed of  “the method and means by which it is to be conducted” as well as been informed of “all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected;” and any expected effects onto the person’s health and wellbeing.

These principles (and several others that are more appropriate for medical research) date back to the “Nuremberg Code” that arose from the war crimes trials held after World War II (Military Tribunals 1949) and is widely cited as the first codification of research ethics principles.

So I propose that the question currently asked should be modified to ask in the case of a “no” or “n/a” response the following:

If no formal approval at your institution is required for the research involving human participants that is reported in this paper, have you ensured that their participation is voluntary and fully informed as to the nature of the research, what they are asked to do and any potential for negative outcomes from their participation? 

Have you disclosed institutional ethical approval in the paper or explained how you have acted in accordance with principles of ethical treatment of research participants when such approval is not required?


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