Historical Research and Human Subjects

Academic researchers who work on human subjects are required to request authorization from boards that review research methods for potential ethical violations. The goal is to ensure that human subjects in research studies (especially medical experiments, drug trials, and psychological studies) are not harmed.

Historians and other humanities scholars have to submit reports and statements to such boards as a routine part of their grant and fellowship applications, even if their human subjects cannot possibly be harmed.  I often report that my research will not harm the French and Italian subjects of my research, since they have been dead for over 400 years. This sort of reporting wastes time and energy of researchers and research boards.

Now, it seems that a new procedure may soon exempt historians and some other scholars from these unnecessary bureaucratic procedures. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that new human research guidelines are currently being considered that would change the requirements.

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This entry was posted in Academic Freedom, Archival Research, Graduate Work in History, Humanities Education. Bookmark the permalink.

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