Many Research Assistants will work with human research subjects, whether in health-related fields that research human physiology or in social sciences fields that study human behavior. Research on human subjects falls under UWM’s Human Research Protection Program, which is designed to minimize the risks and maximize the potential benefits for human subjects who participate in research.
Research Assistants may be involved in research that requires approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), which reviews proposed studies to ensure the protection of human subjects. This includes reviews of matters such as the safety of those involved in the research, proper methods of incentivizing participation and securing consent, and the secure storage of private information, to name only a few.
In most cases, a student working in fields involving human subject research will get guidance from their supervisor or advisor. Still, they should be aware that there are special requirements for human subject research, including required training for all Principal Investigators and Student Principal Investigators, and strongly recommended training for anyone interacting with research participants.
Research with human subjects involves legal and ethical considerations about risks and benefits to participants and making decisions about the appropriate approach to the research can be challenging and even controversial. Additionally, unanticipated legal and ethical issues can arise over the course of research activities. Research Assistants who have ethical or legal concerns regarding the research activities in which they are involved should first discuss those concerns with the Principal Investigator. The Principal Investigator may have good justification for the approach to the research or may consider adjustments to the approach given the concerns raised. If the Research Assistant continues to have concerns once discussing the matter with the Principal Investigator, they should consider discussing those concerns with the program’s graduate representative or the department chair.