8.15 Collaboration: Virtual ethics committee

Contributor Moira Maguire
Title The virtual Research Ethics Committee
Aim To explore research ethics in practical contexts. To encourage learners to interact meaningfully online.
Learning Outcomes To apply ethical principles to decision making in research. To explore ways to design ethical research.
Timing This is a substantial activity that contributes significant to a module learning outcome.  Ten days will be given to complete the preparation and discussion.
Activity Description The students are required to work together to apply ethical principles to review a short ethics ‘application.’  Students can only access the applications once the preparatory work is complete to encourage deeper, prepared responses. The students will be divided in to groups of 6 of less to form several virtual Ethics Committees.  Each committee will work together on a separate forum and then post their decision and feedback to the main board. This activity will contribute significantly to the delivery of the Research Ethics component of a Research Methods module on a Blended programme.  The students will already have met face-to-face. I have used the Gernsbacher (n.d.) principles to guide the design of this activity: Divide and Conquer; Direct Traffic, Assign Actions and Avoid Parachuting.  Following Lieberman (2019), I have given a longer time window   to encourage quality and depth of response.
Tools The Discussion Forum on Moodle.  To facilitate engagement, earners will be divided into groups of no more than 6 and separate fora set up for each group. Short scenarios (in both written (< 500 words) and short video form) that outline proposed research studies.
Resources Short screencast (10 mins) that highlights the key ethical principles and how they can be practically applied. A review template including DkIT Ethics Principles and Ethics Checklist.Guide to netiquette, Online Chapter on Research Ethics for Undergraduates https://eprints.dkit.ie/328/List    Agreed guide to netiquette(agreed earlier in the course)
Instructions You have been allocated to group (you will have had an email letting you know which group you have been allocated to). You and the rest of the group are all members of a Virtual Ethics Committee. To prepare for your role you should view the short screencast. This considers how we use the ethical principles to guide decisions in research. You should also read the chapter ‘Doing the right thing: A guide to Ethics for Undergraduate Researchers’.
Once you have completed the preparatory work, you should be able to open the ‘Ethics Applications’. Please not, this folder will only become available once you have completed the preparatory tasks. These applications describe proposed research studies that are being submitted to this committee for ethical approval. Your task is to consider one these proposals in the light of the ethical principles you have learned about and decide whether to approve or not. If you are in Group A, you will consider Application A, Group B will consider Application B and so on. Use the Ethics principles and Ethics Checklist to help you to do this.
Your Committee will discuss your application in the appropriate discussion forum (A, B or C). Remember group A should use Discussion forum A and so on.
Please start by posting an individual response to each of the scenario. If another member of the group has posted first, please post your response as a reply. This means that all responses will be part of a single thread and the discussion can be easily followed without having to move in and out of different threads.
Your response should identify any good ethical aspects and also identify any problems. You should say whether you would approve or not. You should ensure that you post before midnight on Wednesday [date] to ensure that your group will have time to engage with each other.
Then read the other posts. You should come to a decision, as a committee, on whether to approve the study or not. If there are different views on this, discuss, using the forum, and try to reach a consensus. Explain why you would approve or reject and respond to the points made by the other group members.
It is important to give the reasons for your decision. As a group, you should agree some feedback that would allow the researcher to address the ethical issues. This can be bullet points but should be agreed between you. Use the forum to make and respond to suggestions.
Once this has been agreed, one of you should be nominated to post this response to the main discussion forum on behalf of your group. Please make sure this happens before midnight on Saturday [date].
Once you have posted your decision and feedback, you should review the posts the other groups have made. Comment on at least one other by midnight Monday[date].
Feedback Learners will provide feedback to each other in the course of the task.  I will monitor the discussions and prompt and encourage as appropriate. I will also provide clarification if necessary.  In particularly, I will ensure that I encourage and reinforce constructive online interactions. If learners don’t contribute, I will contact them privately via email and see if there are any issues that can be resolved.  Once the task is complete, I will post general feedback on all the ethics applications. 


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