Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reponsible Data Collection

I've often wondered what type of person you have to be to be considered a researcher who is collecting data. I know it isn't as simple as going out and asking a bunch of questions in a survey. I think taking a research methods class has made me think about what it would be like to actually go out and collect, compile, analyze and present data in order to try to prove a point. I asked myself if I could ever see myself doing it… at this moment, I am unsure… simply because there is an issue with the amount of free time I have… so maybe one day…

This brings me to one of the assignments that we were asked to complete for class… taking the time to go through the training at the National Institute of Health web site that covers Human Research Participants. The goal of NIH is to "prepare investigators involved in the design and/or conduct of research involving human subjects to understand their obligations to protect the rights and welfare of subjects in research. The course material presents basic concepts, principles, and issues related to the protection of research participants."

I liked looking into the ways that researchers can prepare themselves to gather data from participants in a fair way to all. Much of the training has to do with ethics. Three principles were identified as necessary to conduct ethical research with humans:  

1. Respect for persons – Individuals should be treated as autonomous agents and Persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to additional protections

2. Beneficence – Do no harm and Maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms

3. Justice – Justice requires that individuals and groups be treated fairly and equitably in terms of bearing the burdens and receiving the benefits of research

These guidelines give a clearer picture to those preparing to gather research by showing researchers how to conduct themselves in order to protect themselves, their research and their subjects.

I think that after completing the training and earning my certificate, I feel more comfortable with understanding yet another part of the researcher's role in gathering data. I would like to think that making sure research is done ethically should be on everyone's thoughts just to cover all the bases, but really, until I went to the NIH site, I hadn't really given a thought to the ethical responsibilities of a researcher. I mostly thought about making sure that the questions asked aren't biased and that a fair representation of the population is gathered in the sample. I think it is good that these guidelines have been created because it really makes you prepare yourself for doing research with human subjects. It makes you more aware of how to interact with subjects beyond the normal courtesies. I hope to one day be able to actually do some actual research with participants and go back to the site for a refresher course.


National Institute of Health. (2011). Protecting Human Research Participants. Retrieved from

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