Bioethics Blogs

Poster Spotlight: Ethical Challenges and Solutions Involved in Reviewing a Protocol with Sex Offenders as Participants

by Meryn Robinson, Educational Program Intern

When reviewing a study that sought to investigate how sex offenders used networked technologies and communications for human trafficking, Hila Berger, MPH, CIP, and her colleagues on the IRB at Montclair State University faced a unique challenge: balancing protections for the study’s subjects—sex offenders—against protections for potential victims. The potential for subjects to incriminate themselves and potential legal obligations related to information disclosed during the research further complicated the protocol review. To overcome these challenges, the IRB and legal counsel worked together to implement additional protections for the group.

At the 2013 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference, as a poster presenter and panelist, Hila discussed her experience and the systems put in place to manage such a challenging protocol at her institution. Recently, I connected with Hila to see how her work has progressed since last year’s conference.

Meryn Robinson (MR): It’s been nine months since you presented your poster at PRIM&R’s 2013 AER Conference. How has your research changed or evolved in the past nine months?
Hila Berger (HB): The work presented at the conference revolved around identifying and developing solutions for research involving sex offenders. The research in question is still ongoing, and the IRB and compliance team continue to informally assess whether the solutions we chose have been implemented successfully. Discussions with the principal investigator (PI) during additional submissions and at the time of continuing review have brought to light any concerns. Initially, during the review process, the PI had concerns about whether certain limitations would impact recruitment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.