Human Subject Research Guidelines and Procedures


Berea College has made the decision that all human subject research,* whether funded or not funded, or subject to Federal regulations or not, will be designed such that

  • The welfare and rights of human subjects are adequately protected and informed consent given, if required. (See section C. below for a description of projects exempt from the institutional requirement of informed consent.)
  • Human subjects are not placed at unreasonable physical, mental, or emotional risk as a result of research.
  • The necessity and importance of the research outweighs the risk to the subject.
  • The researcher(s) is/are qualified to conduct research involving human subjects.
  • The researchers maintain overall ethical principles. (See section F. below.)

*Human Subject Research is a systematic investigation designed to develop or to contribute to generalizable knowledge such that the subjects of the investigation are living individuals from or about whom an investigator conducting research obtains data.

The purpose of the information below is to make certain that faculty understand the guidelines that must be applied to human subject research and to ensure that faculty and students feel supported by the institution as they undertake such research projects. Faculty should feel free to discuss this document and human subject research with the Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty and/or the Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

A. Procedures for Approval of the Research

All human subject research to be done by students as part of faculty-supervised work must be approved by the faculty member. If it is not, then it must not be done. If the faculty member feels that substantive ethical issues exist, then the proposal must be brought to the entire program.

All human subject research to be done by a faculty member must be presented to the faculty member’s program, except for research presenting only minimal risk. (See Section C. below.) Please note that faculty whose appointments are not in an academic division should bring their proposals to the Committee on General Education (COGE). If the program (or COGE) feels that the proposal raises issues that are so complex that the Berea College guidelines for human subject research are not clearly met (in other words, if the program believes that the criteria for approval of the research are not clearly met), then the proposal is brought to the Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects Committee (URCPC). In this event, the URCPC acts as a pro temp Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Faculty may send proposals to the URCPC if federal guidelines require an IRB signature. In this event, the URCPC is a pro temp IRB.

Faculty may send proposals to the URCPC if the program determines that it is not advisable that the research occur. In this event, the URCPC is the pro temp IRB. In addition, researchers or, in the case of students, the faculty supervisor may voluntarily consult with the URCPC. Members of the College community affected by a research project may bring their concerns to the URCPC as well.

B. Research That Has Potential Risk to Subjects

Research which has potential risk to subjects requires informed consent. (See Section E. below.) Research in this category must be reviewed by the faculty member’s program. If the program feels that the proposal is such that the Berea College criteria for human subject research are not clearly met, then the program will bring the proposal to the URCPC. All human subject research to be done by students as part of faculty-supervised work must have faculty review and approval.

Research which has potential risk to subjects includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Research which involves the administration of drugs or other substances to subjects
  • Research targeting pregnant women and /or fetuses in utero
  • Research involving subjects with life-threatening physical conditions
  • Research involving physically intrusive procedures
  • Research which previous experience (by the particular investigator or other investigators) has shown to create a potential risk to subjects
  • Research which potentially could put the subject at risk for legal or civil liability or invade a subject’s privacy in regard to sensitive aspects of his/her behavior (e.g., illegal conduct, drug use, sexual behavior, alcohol use)
  • Research which involves vulnerable populations. (See section D. below.)

C. Research That Has Minimal Risk to Subjects

Research which has only minimal risk is exempt from the institutional requirements of informed consent and program review. All human subject research to be done by students as part of faculty-supervised work must have faculty review and approval.

Research which has only minimal risk includes the following:

  • Research in which the risks of harm reasonably anticipated are not greater than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine procedures in education and/or in the practice of psychology and medicine. (This is the federal definition of minimal risk.)
  • Research on effectiveness of educational, classroom, and/or instructional strategies, provided that these strategies are familiar, and non-intrusive in their implementation
  • Research using educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement) if subjects’ identities are thoroughly protected
  • Research using survey procedures or interview procedures where subjects’ identities are thoroughly protected and their answers do not subject them to criminal and civil liability
  • Research involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, specimens, or other products, if these sources are publicly available or the information is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that the subject cannot be identified directly or indirectly
  • Research involving momentary, unobtrusive observation in a public place
  • Research on individual or group behavior or characteristics of individuals, such as studies of perception, cognition, game theory, or test development, where the investigator does not manipulate subjects’ behavior and the research does not involve stress to subjects.

D. Criteria for Approval of All Research at Berea College

  • Risks to subjects are either minimal (see section C above) or are clearly balanced by the likely results of the research. Note that research involving “high risk,” that is, projects that may induce potentially harmful physical or mental states, must not be permitted
  • Additional safeguards have been included in the study to protect the rights and welfare of vulnerable populations such as children, prisoners, pregnant women, mentally disabled persons, economically or educationally disadvantaged individuals or students who feel compelled to participate
  • Selection of subjects is reasonable
  • When appropriate, informed consent will be sought from each prospective subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative when this is necessary (See Section E. below.)
  • When appropriate, informed consent will be appropriately documented and such records will be adequately maintained.
  • When appropriate, the research plan makes adequate provision for monitoring the data collected to ensure the safety of subject
  • When appropriate, adequate provisions exist to protect the privacy of subjects and to maintain the confidentiality of data.

E. Informed Consent Form Checklist

The checklist below is provided to ensure that each of the following components is included in all institutionally-required Informed Consent forms.

  • The Informed Consent form is written in a language understandable to the subject or his/her legal representative.
  • The Informed Consent form is written in a consistent voice either first, second, or third person (not a combination) with the exception of the Voluntary Consent section, which is written in the first person.
  • Each page of the Informed Consent form is on original Berea College letterhead, except in cases of collaborative projects when the letterhead from a hospital, university, etc. is acceptable.
  • If the research is externally funded, the funding agency is listed under funding source.
  • The title of the study and the name, address, and telephone number of the investigator(s) is listed.
  • If the principal investigator is a student, the address and telephone numbers of his/her adviser(s), clinical Supervisor(s) are listed.
  • The telephone number 859-985-3487 is listed for contact with the URCPC.
  • A statement that the study involves research and an explanation of the purpose of the research is included.
  • A concrete description of the study procedures, including the amount of time subjects are being asked to contribute and the nature of the questions or data to be collected, is included. Any procedures which are experimental are identified and any alternative procedures are disclosed.
  • A description of any risks and possible discomforts to the subject, if any, is included.
  • A description of any benefits to the subjects is included. If no benefits are expected, this is stated.
  • A statement describing the extent to which confidentiality will be maintained is included in addition to a clause which states that all information obtained is strictly confidential unless disclosure is required by law.
  • If subjects will be compensated for their participation, a statement has been included addressing this.
  • A statement that participation is voluntary, that refusal to participate involves no penalty, and that the subject may discontinue participation and have any data collected (connected directly to that participant as subject) destroyed at any time is included.
  • A statement indicating whom the subject can contact for any questions about the study is included.
  • The Informed Consent contains no language through which the subject is made to waive any of his/her legal rights or which releases the investigator, the sponsor, or the institution from liability for negligence.
  • The entire paragraph under the Section-Voluntary Consent on the Informed Consent form appears in boldface and the first sentence reads: “I have read this consent form (or it has been read to me), and I fully understand the contents of this document and voluntarily consent to participate.”
  • A space for the subject’s signature, the date, and the signature of a witness is provided.
  • An assent form completed and signed by a responsible party is included for subjects below 18 years of age.

F. American Psychological Association Ethical Guidelines

The American Psychological Association (1981a, 1987, 1989) has provided ethical guidelines for researchers. The association outlined the following ten general principles governing the conduct of research with human participants. (See Experimental Psychology , Kantowitz, for a full discussion of these principles.)

  1. In planning a study, the investigator has the responsibility to make a careful evaluation of its ethical acceptability.
  2. Considering whether a participant in a planned study will be a “subject at risk” or a “subject at minimal risk,” according to recognized standards, is of primary ethical concern to the investigator.
  3. The investigator always retains the responsibility for ensuring ethical practice in research. The investigator is also responsible for the ethical treatment of research participants by collaborators, assistants, students, and employees, all of whom, however, incur similar obligations.
  4. Except in minimal-risk research, the investigator establishes a clear and fair agreement with research participants, prior to their participation, that clarifies the obligations and responsibilities of each.
  5. Methodological requirements of a study may make the use of concealment or deception necessary. Before conducting such a study, the investigator has a special responsibility to (i) determine whether the use of such techniques is justified by the study’s prospective scientific, educational, or applied value; (ii) determine whether alternative procedures are available that do not use concealment or deception; and (iii) ensure that the participants are provided with sufficient explanation as soon as possible.
  6. The investigator respects the individual’s freedom to decline to participate in or to withdraw from the research at any time.
  7. The investigator protects the participant from physical and mental discomfort, harm, and danger that may arise from research procedures. If risks of such consequences exist, the investigator informs the participant of that fact.
  8. After the data are collected, the investigator provides the participant with information about the nature of the study and attempts to remove any misconceptions that may have arisen.
  9. Where research procedures result in undesirable consequences for the individual participant, the investigator has the responsibility to detect and remove or correct these consequences, including long-term effects.
  10. Information obtained about a research participant during the course of an investigation is confidential unless otherwise agreed upon in advance.