Ethics Review Process as a Foundation for Ethical Thinking

by Chris Clifton

The Institutional Review Board process, while not perfect, has been fairly effective in balancing the progress of research and protection to human subjects. I see two key benefits of the Institutional Review Board process in ensuring ethical human subjects research. The obvious one is the review – getting outside eyes who are not heavily invested in the project and outcome to look for issues. The problem is (hopefully) not a lack of ethics among researchers, but that the excitement over the project and outcomes blinds researchers to the potential risks. The second benefit is forcing researchers to think about issues before beginning research, and giving them the tools to do so.