University adopts to human subject research changes

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University adopts to human subject research changes

By Julie Kang, Staff writer

The University is working to adapt to the changes to the Common Rule, a United States code of ethics about behavioral and biomedical research of human subjects, which will affect researchers, including University students, who study human behavior.

Changes to the Common Rule, also known as the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, are effective as of Jan. 21 and were established to lessen the amount of burden placed on investigators and to improve methods in new research areas.

According to the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects’ website, among the changes, the University was most impacted by the revising of Exempt Category 3.

Projects in this category cannot include research involving children; physiological data collection techniques, such as wearable devices or electroencephalography tests; a research design with multiple sessions or methods known to have negative effects, like VR headsets. The investigator also cannot deceive participants unless they are made aware they are being deceived.

The OPRS is holding in-person revised Common Rule workshops until mid-February to help students understand the changes.

Michelle Lore, human subjects research coordinator at the University, works in the administrative support office for the Institutional Review Boards. The IRB reviews and approves research on campus. Lore wrote the information on the OPRS’s website.

“While the changes may seem small, I think they’ll have larger, positive impacts,” Lore said.

Lore said the revisions provide more flexibility for researchers and also help them concentrate on the important aspects of their studies.

“Another change, removing the need for continuing reviews for studies that meet certain criteria, will also mean less paperwork overall for researchers, giving them more time to focus on the important work they do,” Lore said.

Daniel Pien, who graduated from the University last year and currently lives on campus, has experience as a research assistant at the Youth, Emotion, Development and Intervention Lab in Champaign. Pien said changes, such as needing to present key information at the top of consent forms, seem like extra work but is ultimately helpful for participants.

Pien said he thinks the regulations regarding physiological data collection methods can be seen as a big change, especially in a time when people want to see more biological findings.

“Regarding this specific change, I think it’s unfortunate, but I see where they’re coming from,” Pien said.

Jonathon Whitlock, second-year doctorate student studying cognitive psychology at the University, said there are always revisions being made to rules regarding the use of human subjects in psychological research.

Whitlock said these changes are necessary because psychological research is constantly growing into new domains. Components of research, such as adding a criterion for complete informed consent, need to be updated as the field of psychology becomes more complex.

Because Whitlock’s work focuses on cognition, his lab employs technological methods, such as eye-tracking and EEGs. Whitlock said it is important that he and his colleagues regularly update themselves on the rules regarding the use of these technologies.

“Psychological research continues to refine the ethical uses of human subjects, which is important in protecting the people who become subjects in psychological research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Whitlock said.

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