Human Subjects/IRB

To assure the protection of human subjects and to comply with Federal law, the University of Massachusetts Amherst requires researchers to obtain approval for proposed human subjects research prior to recruiting subjects or collecting data from subjects. This applies to preliminary and pilot studies which are developing or testing instruments and procedures, as well as the full study.

Researchers shall explain to subjects, prior to their decision about whether or not to participate, the objectives of the research, the procedures to be followed and the potential risks and benefits.

Once a study is approved, researchers responsibilities include the following:

  • Modifications – Changes in any aspect of the study (for example, project design, procedures, consent forms, advertising materials, additional key personnel or subject population) are submitted to the IRB for approval before instituting the changes.
  • Consent Forms – All subjects are given a copy of the signed consent form. Investigators are required to retain signed consent documents for six (6) years after close of the grant or three (3) years if unfunded.
  • Training – Human subject training certificates, including those for any newly added personnel, are provided for all key personnel.
  • Adverse Events – All adverse events occurring in the course of the protocol are reported to the IRB as soon as possible, but not later than ten (10) working days.
  • Continuing Review – IRB Protocol Report Forms are submitted annually at least two weeks prior to expiration, six weeks for protocols that required full review.
  • Completion Report – The IRB is notified when your study is complete. To do this, complete the IRB Final Report Form.

OHRP Investigator Responsibility Frequently Asked Questions

Topics: 

Who is considered study personnel on a protocol involving human subjects?

The following information is intended to help researchers determine who is to be included on a protocol involving human subjects. This information is also related to the mandatory training requirement that the University of Massachusetts Amherst has for involvement in human subjects protection.

A person listed as study personnel in the IRB application is an individual who is interacting and/or intervening with human subjects or handles the personally identifiable data of a human subject.

Study personnel that are involved in the informed consent process should also be included on the IRB study personnel list.

All study personnel listed in the IRB application must complete the CITI human subjects protection training. This training is required for all researchers. Every 5 years a refresher course will be required in order to be considered in good standing and have research protocols processed through Kuali. Investigators must take either:

Group 1 -Biomedical Research (Researchers collaborating with Baystate should complete all modules to be certified for Baystate Collaborative Studies.);

Group 2 - Social and Behavioral and Educational Research;

or the

Refresher Course for either Group 1 or Group 2.

Addition of new study personnel to an IRB approved protocol will only be approved if the proposed study personnel have completed the required CITI training. Please note that funding agencies may have their own definition of study personnel as it applies to grant or other funding applications.

Topics: 

The following is based on guidance received from the Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP). (From Standard Operating Procedures, UMASS Amherst )

An Oral History decision whether oral history or other activities solely consisting of open ended qualitative type interviews are subject to the policies and regulations outlined in an institution's FWA and HHS regulations for the protection of human research subjects (45 CFR 46) is based on the prospective intent of the investigator and the definition of "research" under HHS regulations at 45 CFR 46.102(d): "a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge."

Specifically, for the purposes of this policy, the evaluation of such activities hinges upon whether:

The activity is involves a prospective research plan which incorporates data collection, including qualitative data, and data analysis to answer a research question; and

The activity is designed to draw general conclusions (i.e., knowledge gained from a study may be applied to populations outside of the specific study population), inform policy, or generalize findings.

In order to be subject to the University's human research protections policies, the activity must meet both of the above standards. This determination will be made according to the procedures described in Section 7.1 above.

General principles for evaluating Oral History type activities:

1. Oral history activities, such as open ended interviews, that ONLY document a specific historical event or the experiences of individuals without intent to draw conclusions or generalize findings would NOT constitute "research" as defined by HHS regulations 45 CFR part 46.

Example: An oral history video recording of interviews with holocaust survivors is created for viewing in the Holocaust Museum . The creation of the video tape does NOT intend to draw conclusions, inform policy, or generalize findings. The sole purpose is to create a historical record of specific personal events and experiences related to the Holocaust and provide a venue for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories.

2. Systematic investigations involving open-ended interviews that are designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge (e.g., designed to draw conclusions, inform policy, or generalize findings) WOULD constitute "research" as defined by HHS regulations at 45 CFR part 46.

Example: An open ended interview of surviving Gulf War veterans to document their experiences and to draw conclusions about their experiences, inform policy, or generalize findings.

3. Oral historians and qualitative investigators may want to create archives for the purpose of providing a resource for others to do research. Since the intent of the archive is to create a repository of information for other investigators to conduct research as defined by 45 CFR part 46, the creation of such an archive WOULD constitute research under 45 CFR part 46.

Example: Open ended interviews are conducted with surviving Negro League Baseball players in order to create an archive for future research. The creation of such an archive would constitute research under 45 CFR part 46 since the intent is to collect data for future research.

Investigators are advised to consult with the IRB Office regarding whether their oral history project requires IRB review.

Topics: 

According to Massachusetts law any physician, medical intern, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, medical examiner, psychologist, nurse, public or private school teacher, educational administrator, guidance or family counselor, drug and alcoholism counselor, psychiatrist, and clinical social worker, etc., is considered a mandatory reporter. What this means is that these individuals are required by law to report the abuse of children.

This information is important to disclose to potential participants as a part of the consent process. Subjects must be informed that there are instances where breach of confidentiality is required by law. Thus, all projects that involve minors and in which the researchers involved are mandatory reporters, should include a statement in the consent and assent forms that indicates this to the subject. A statement, such as the following, should be incorporated in the "Confidentiality" section of the consent form:

There is one exception to confidentiality we need to make you aware of. In certain research studies, it is our ethical responsibility to report situations of child abuse, child neglect, or any life-threatening situation to appropriate authorities. However, we are not seeking this type of information in our study nor will you be asked questions about these issues.

Topics: 

When a research project involves children, (in Massachusetts, those under 18 years), permission must be obtained from a parent/legal guardian. Children above age seven should be given the opportunity to assent. Assent means the child’s affirmative agreement to participate in research; mere failure to object should not be construed as assent. The child should be given an explanation of the proposed research procedures in a language that is appropriate to the child’s age, experience and maturity. The assent document should also discuss the study purpose, any discomforts or inconveniences the child may experience if he/she agrees to participate, and that participation is voluntary.

Topics: 

Conflict of Interest Human Subjects - UMass Medical School

These procedures are promulgated pursuant to the University of Massachusetts Conflicts Committee Guidelines for the Oversight of Individual and Institutional Financial Interests in Human Subjects Research dated December 22, 2009, as amended on May 1, 2012 (Guidelines) and were approved by the President effective as of May 1, 2012.

Topics: 

Document File: 

UMass Guidelines for the Oversight of Individual and Institutional Financial Interests in Human Subjects Research

(Doc. T96 -039)

I. Introduction.

The missions of the of University of Massachusetts (UMass) and its five campuses include the important goal to advance the health and well-being of the people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the nation, and the world through advances in education, research and knowledge. It has become increasing apparent that in order to fulfill its mission, UMass must engage in a variety of complex relationships with commercial entities, such as, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, with whom we share the critical responsibility of promoting the development of novel therapies for individuals for whom current health outcomes are inadequate.

In the course of these relationships, there are occasions in which the potential for real or apparent conflicts of interest arise that might call into question the integrity of advancements that are developed by UMass. It is the responsibility of individual investigators, other faculty, administrative leaders, and the institution itself to delineate clearly how and why it may be justified to act in a manner that may involve conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. Justification of conflicts of interest may only be maintained insofar as those interests are fully disclosed and do not materially damage the interests of research subjects, patients, UMass employees, UMass, or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The purpose of this document is to provide a framework for pursuing such interactions in keeping with overall University of Massachusetts policy and accepted best practices.

II. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and Association of American Universities (AAU) -“Protecting Subjects, Preserving Trust, Promoting Progress” (Parts 1 and 2), 2001 and 2002 and “Protecting Patients, Preserving Integrity, Advancing Health: Accelerating the Implementation of COI Policies in Human Subjects Research,” 2008.

The AAMC comprises the 137 accredited US medical schools with participation by their associated teaching hospitals through the Council of Teaching Hospitals. The AAU comprises 61 leading United States and Canadian universities that are distinguished by the breadth and quality of their programs of graduate education and research. As such, these organizations represent a widely accepted source of community standards of best practice with regard to the conduct of research within universities and academic medical centers. In 2001 and 2002, the AAMC and the AAU issued two sets of Policies and Guidelines regarding the oversight of conflicts of interest, the first dealing with individual financial interests and the second dealing with institutional interests. Each of these reports was authored by a panel of experts and leaders in academic medicine and was thoroughly researched and referenced. In February 2008 the AAMC and the AAU issued a new report that refined the two earlier reports and urged United States universities and medical schools to establish clear and consistent conflicts of interest policies. These three reports (AAMC Reports) form the impetus and basis for these Guidelines.

The UMass Policy on Conflicts of Interest Relating to Intellectual Property and Commercial Ventures (Conflicts Policy) is aligned with both of the AAMC - AAU reports, and our institutional mission and vision regarding this guidance document are based upon the following principles:

  • The welfare of research subjects is of foremost concern in Clinical Research studies. The Conflicts Committee affirms that all Pecuniary Interests in Research (as defined in the attachment to these Guidelines) with respect to Clinical Research are potentially problematic, and, therefore, require close scrutiny and rigorous review. Thus, UMass hereby establishes the presumption that an individual who holds any Pecuniary Interests in Research with respect to Clinical Research proposed to be conducted at UMass may not conduct that research. This presumption applies regardless of the source of funding. A key feature of these Guidelines, however, is that this presumption is potentially rebuttable when the investigator or institution can make a compelling argument for exemption. “Clinical Research” is defined in the Conflicts Policy as research involving human subjects.
  • The same presumption is in force when the institution holds Pecuniary Interests in Research (as defined in the 2001 AAMC report) with respect to Clinical Research. UMass may have a conflict of interest in Clinical Research whenever the financial interests of the institution (such as an equity or royalty interest), or of an institutional official acting within his or her authority on behalf of the institution, might affect– or reasonably appear to affect – institutional processes for the design, conduct, reporting, review, or oversight of the Clinical Research. Similarly, due consideration, informed by the AAMC Reports, shall be made of any substantial gifts, major institutional purchases or non-routine supply contracts with a company that sponsors Clinical Research at UMass.  Each VCR shall be responsible for developing procedures, using available databases, to identify potential institutional financial interests in accordance with the principles established in these Guidelines and the AAMC Reports. 
  • A Covered Individual with Pecuniary Interests in Research with respect to Clinical Research may rebut the presumption against allowing conduct of the Clinical Research and be permitted to conduct the Clinical Research only after a showing of compelling circumstances and approval by the Conflicts Committee, including its plan for managing or reducing the conflict. Similarly, compelling circumstances may exist to justify the conduct of Clinical Research within UMass despite an institutional conflict of interest.
  • Whether the circumstances are deemed compelling will depend in each case upon the nature of the science, the nature of the financial interest, how closely the financial interest is related to the Clinical Research, and the degree to which the financial interest may affect or be affected by the research. Special consideration may be given to protocols that are directed at orphan diseases (as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and to protocols for compassionate use of potential therapeutics. When the interest is very direct and the potential effects substantial, the risk is greatest, and the bar must be high. However, when the individual UMass investigator holding the financial interest is uniquely qualified by virtue of expertise and experience, and the work could not otherwise be conducted safely or effectively without that individual, he or she would be permitted the opportunity to rebut the presumption against conducting the research by demonstrating these facts along with an effective management plan.
  • Transparency of reporting of real or perceived financial conflicts of interest, whether they are individual or institutional shall be disclosed (a) within the written informed consent documents, (b) within all publications (print or electronic), and (c) within all presentations of the Clinical Research outside the  University.
  • A plan for effective, disinterested monitoring of the Clinical Research should be included in any request to rebut the presumption. Examples of appropriate features of monitoring include the utilization of an external data monitor (with periodic on -site inspection of source documents and reconciliation of documents with the case report forms) and the use of external data and safety monitoring committees or boards (composed of peer reviewers who periodically examine data and reports redacted by the independent study monitor). In the case of an institutional conflict of interest, it may be deemed appropriate to use an external IRB for initial protocol review.
  • These Guidelines apply to all Clinical Research in which any Covered Individual participates or for which they assume any role or responsibility, whether or not the study is to be conducted at the University or at another venue such as another institution, a hospital or a private concern (and all such Covered Individuals are subject to the authority of the respective campus Institutional Review Board (IRB)).
  • Often a Covered Individual who has a Pecuniary Interest in Clinical Research has made prior disclosures of related financial interests for non-Clinical Research pursuant to the Policy on Faculty Consulting and Outside Activities (DOC. T96-047), the Conflicts Policy and/or the applicable Federal financial conflict of interest regulations. However, those prior disclosures or approvals do not replace or circumvent the disclosure and approval required under these Guidelines with respect to Clinical Research.
  • For Clinical Research supported by the PHS (including the NIH), if the Department of Health and Human Services determines that a PHS -funded project of clinical research, who se purpose is to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of a drug, medical device, or treatment, was designed, conducted, or reportedly an investigator with a financial conflict of interest that was not properly disclosed or managed as required under the PHS Financial Conflict of Interest Regulations, the University, through the respective office of the VCR, must require the investigator(s) to disclose the financial conflict of interest in each public presentation (such as articles, manuscripts and oral presentations, including classroom materials) of the results of the research and to request an addendum to previously published presentations.

III. Conflicts Reporting Process.

Covered Individuals shall report to the Vice Chancellor for Research (VCR) when he/she perceives that any individual or institutional conflict of interest in Clinical Research exists, may exist, or may be perceived to exist. This is in addition to reporting all financial interests to the campus Institutional Review Board (IRB).

  • Upon the VCR’s receipt of the disclosure of the Covered Individual, the VCR shall determine whether any individual Pecuniary Interests in Research exists, may exist, or may be perceived to exist. In addition, the VCR shall also consider whether there are institutional conflicts of interests that exist, may exist,r may be perceived to exist and whether any of those interests constitute Pecuniary Interests in Research.
  • With respect to specific Clinical Research to be conducted at UMass or being conducted at UMass, it is incumbent on administrative officials with direct responsibility for the Clinical Research to immediately make known to the VCR if they hold Pecuniary Interests in Research in a commercial research sponsor or an entity that owns or controls an investigational product. The VCR shall assist these officials in making a determination whether there is a conflict of interest for consideration in the case.
  • It is the responsibility of the VCR to ensure that all of these applicable individual and institutional conflicts of interests are presented for review of the Clinical Research by the campus and the Conflicts Committee.
  • If any campus review procedures apply in accordance with IV. below, the VCR shall ensure that those procedures are undertaken promptly and shall notify the Conflicts Committee of his/her receipt of the disclosure and the initiation of the campus procedures.
  • The VCR shall refer the Clinical Research case to the Conflicts Committee for review and consideration in accordance with the standard of review established in these Guidelines, after completion of the campus procedures, if any. The VCR shall present to the Conflicts Committee, in writing, the background of the case, including an explanation of the individual and institutional conflicts for consideration, the deliberations of any campus committee(s), the risk-benefit analysis conducted including what compelling circumstances and special considerations were identified and considered, and the recommendation of the campus.
  • Even in the presence of compelling circumstances, any approval will include a sufficient plan to disclose the conflict to volunteer subjects and to provide external monitoring of the protocol.
  • If the Conflicts Committee does not approve the Clinical Research, the VCR shall inform the IRB in writing and the Clinical Research may not be approved.
  • Only upon final approval by the Conflicts Committee may the enrollment of the first volunteer research subject commence.

 

IV. Campus Review Procedures

Due to the unique complexities and health and safety concerns raised by Clinical Research and the myriad of campus constituencies and administrative bodies that participate in these decisions, including the campus IRB, the campuses may, but are not obliged, to develop additional procedures, beyond those set forth herein, for assisting the VCR in the consideration of these Clinical Research cases. Such campus -specific procedures would be supplemental to those set forth herein and are not in lieu of the Conflicts Committee deliberations and determination. However, each campus may develop its procedures and submit them to the Conflicts Committee or to the President (or his/her designee) for adoption if the procedures are consistent with these Guidelines (including the principles established in the AAMC Reports) and the Conflicts Policy and are found to not unduly delay the consideration of these cases by the Conflicts Committee.

 

V. Relationship of UMass Policy to Faculty Physicians employed by UMass Memorial Health Center (UMMHC). 

Physicians and other providers employed by UMMHC who hold faculty or other positions (e.g., student, resident, fellow, or other health care provider) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School are Covered Individuals who are subject to the Conflicts Policy for all participation in Clinical Research within the UMMHC or elsewhere, including clinical or research sites operated by the University of Massachusetts Medical School or its divisions (including Commonwealth Medicine and the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories). This element of the policy is in keeping with the statement in the 2002 AAMC - AAU policy document.

 

Pecuniary Interest in Research (Defined)

Pecuniary Interest in Research include the following interests of the Covered Individual (and spouse/domestic partner and dependent children) that is reasonably related to the Covered Individual’s Institutional Responsibilities:

With regards to Publicly-Traded Entities, any payment or value, including salary, consultant payments, honoraria, paid authorship, equity interest (stock, stock option or other ownership interest) during the prior twelve months. 

With regards to Privately Held Entities, any payment or value, including salary, consultant payments, honoraria, paid authorship, equity interest (stock, stock option or other ownership interest) during the prior twelve months. 

With regards to Intellectual Property, intellectual property rights and interests (patents, copyrights) upon receipt of income related to such rights and interests.

With regards to Travel Reimbursements, any reimbursed or sponsored travel related to the Covered Individual’s Institutional Responsibilities during the prior twelve months (with the exception of travel that is reimbursed or sponsored by a Federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute that is affiliated with an institution of higher education.

The term “Pecuniary Interest in Research” does not include: salary, royalties, or other remuneration paid by the University to the Covered Individual if the Covered Individual is currently employed or otherwise appointed, including intellectual property rights assigned to the Institution and agreements to share royalties related to such rights; income from investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and retirement accounts; income from seminars, lectures, or teaching engagements sponsored by a Federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of higher education, an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute affiliated with an institution of higher education; or income from service on advisory committees or review panels for a Federal, state, or local government agency, an institution of highereducation, an academic teaching hospital, a medical center, or a research institute affiliated with an institution of higher education.

 

These Guidelines are issued pursuant to the Board of Trustees’ Policy on Conflicts of Interest Relating to Intellectual Property and Commercial Ventures (DOC. T96-39) (Conflicts Policy) and here approved by the

President on December 22, 2009 and amended effective as of May 1, 2012. All terms which are capitalized but not defined within these Guidelines have the meaning ascribed to those terms in the corresponding campus Conflicts

Policy.

Topics: 

Release Info: 

Revised May 1, 2012

There may be times when it is more appropriate for consent to be presented and obtained orally rather than in written form, particularly if participants have limited proficiency with the English language.  In such instances, an investigator may use a short form written consent document, stating that the elements of informed consent have been presented orally to the subject or the subject's legally authorized representative.

The oral and short form written consent process is designed to provide a mechanism for individuals with limited English language proficiency to participate in human subject research where their lack of proficiency would otherwise be a barrier to their participation.

Participants who have limited English proficiency may be enrolled in research provided that researchers have the resources to communicate effectively during the recruitment process, while obtaining consent, and for the duration of the study.  Oral consent in combination with short form written consent may be used to obtain a subject’s consent.

The use of oral and short form written consent is not intended for use when research is focused on an entire or large population that lacks proficiency with the English language; in these cases, the normal consent process should be used with consent documents translated into the subject population’s native language.

Investigator Responsibilities

Investigators must obtain IRB approval for use of the short form written consent process.  For new studies, this request should be made when completing the application in Kuali.

The investigator must provide the following to the IRB for review:

  • A written summary of the information that will be presented orally to participants or their legally authorized representatives.
  • The short form document that will be signed by the participant and the person obtaining consent.
  • Identification of the individual obtaining consent.
  • Confirmation that there will be a witness to the oral presentation of consent (this cannot be the same individual who is obtaining consent).  When the person obtaining consent is assisted by a translator, the translator may serve as the witness.
  • Confirmation that the witness is fluent in the same language as the potential participant.

The short form written consent document and written summary of oral presentation must be translated into the participants’ native language.

When this method is used, there must be a witness to the oral presentation. Only the short form itself is to be signed by the participant or legally authorized representative.  The witness must sign both the short form and a copy of the summary, and the person actually obtaining consent must sign a copy of the summary.  The investigator must provide the participant with both a copy of the summary and a copy of the signed short form.

Topics: 

What is MTurk?

MTurk is a website run by Amazon that works as a readily available marketplace to match “workers” with available work from various “requesters.”  Amazon describes MTurk as, “a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence.  The Mechanical Turk service gives businesses access to a diverse, on-demand, scalable workforce and gives workers a selection of thousands of tasks to complete whenever it’s convenient.”

How are academic researchers using MTurk?

MTurk allows researchers to have access to a large population of willing participants for research studies.  Researchers can generate a HIT (Human Intelligence Task) that gives MTurk users a Title and description of the online task.  It also states the amount of compensation users will receive and the amount of time it takes to complete.  Because MTurk is being used primarily as a recruitment site, researchers have been routing users to links for their online survey’s that are housed at different online survey software sites (i.e. – Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, Google Forms, Survey Gizmo, etc.).  MTurk houses a more diverse, heterogeneous, population that is more attractive to researchers than the typical college campus population.  It also allows for pseudo-anonymity between researchers and participants by having a third party (Amazon) overseeing payments (compensation) to participants.

Amazon Mechanical Turk is a site primarily for matching people with work and submitting payments to workers.  It is not designed with an eye towards human subjects research.  It lacks the sophistication and security measures of dedicated survey software tools and collection of data by Amazon is subject to Amazon’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

What do academic researchers need to consider when submitting an MTurk study to the IRB?

Recruitment: The title of the study and the description of the HIT are acting as a form of recruitment.  Researchers should be sure to include the title and HIT description as part of the Kuali application. In the description, researchers should be sure to include the following information:

  • Researchers should be clear about compensation and bonuses.  Also, it would be useful for participants to know how long it will take for the researchers to approve their HIT (i.e. – how long it takes for turkers to receive payment).
  • Clearly and accurately state the time required to complete the task.
  • Participants should be told if there is a screener in order to qualify.  It would be important for researchers to make clear if participants are being paid for the time it takes to complete the screener or not.  One option would be to list qualifications for participation in the description.  Another option would be to make a hit for the Screener (which would pay a nominal amount) and then if a turker is eligible for the main study, they get a bonus amount or are invited to a follow-up HIT which includes the main study.
  • If any extraneous software is required to complete the task, this should be stated in the description (e.g. this task requires javascript or inquisit).
  • Researchers should be clear about the type of task participants are being asked to do.  For instance, if the task involves writing, or watching videos, this should be stated in the description.  Also be aware that certain types of tasks, such as writing tasks, elicit higher compensation.
  • The researchers name and/or school affiliation should be listed either as the Requester or in the description of the HIT.
  • If applicable: The link to the online survey should be included.

Consent: The first page of the online survey should be the consent document. The online consent will have all of the elements of a regular consent, but it will not require a signature.  Participants will either click an “I Agree” or an “I do not Agree” box.  The “I Agree” box will take them into the survey.  The “I do not agree” box will thank them for their time and take them away from the survey.  For a sample of an online consent form, please see our one page, online survey consent template.

Debrief: If the researchers are using deception or incomplete disclosure (i.e. – are not stating exactly what the study is about so as not to bias participants responses), then it is important to include a debriefing form at the end of the survey.  This debriefing form could be embedded into the last page of the survey and would require participants to answer a final question allowing researchers to use their data (or not use their data) now that they know the true purpose of the study.  For more information on debriefing forms, please see our debriefing process. Please note: For particularly sensitive topics, the IRB may want to ensure that participants receive a debriefing form, even if they do not complete the full study (i.e. – they click out before the end of the survey).  This might mean contacting participants (through MTurk) and providing them a debriefing form.  If this is something that will happen for your study, it would be important to include a statement in the HIT description and in the informed consent that the researchers will be providing participants with additional information after the study and that they may contact participants through MTurk.  This might mean collecting participants MTurk worker IDs.  Researchers should be sure to state that the collection of MTurk worker IDs will only be for debriefing purposes and after debriefing, MTurk worker IDs will be deleted and will at no time ever be linked to their survey data.

Confidentiality: While it may have been the goal that MTurk workers were anonymous to academic researchers, the reality is that anonymity cannot be guaranteed in any online environment were data is being collected.  Recent research shows that MTurk worker IDs can easily be linked to individuals Amazon profiles including individuals wish lists and previous product reviews.  This means that researchers must be careful in deciding what information to collect from participants.  The default should be that participants MTurk worker IDs not be collected.  If it is necessary to collect worker IDs, then the researchers should ensure that worker IDs are kept confidential and secure, are not linked back to survey data, and are deleted after use.

Additional things to consider with regard to confidentiality of participants identity and data are the Amazon MTurk (AMT) Terms of Service (TOS) and online survey software (qualtrics, survey monkey, google forms, survey gizmo, zoho survey, etc.) TOS especially as it relates to the collection of participants online behavior and history (through the use of cookies or other tracking systems) and the selling of participants data to third parties.  It would also be important for researchers to be aware of any policies or procedures in place by AMT and/or online survey software companies when a breach of data occurs.  It might be helpful to think about the researchers own protocol for when a breach of data security occurs.  Working with IT to solidify this process may be necessary.  This information could then be relayed to participants through the consent.

Topics: 

Pages