I’ve joined our university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) as an alternate member and received a copy of a member handbook to read to prepare myself. (1) I enjoyed reading through the handbook to get a refresher on the history of an IRB as well as to think through the mechanics of how an IRB functions. This book goes deeper than the human subjects training I’ve taken as a researcher, and the concept described in chapter 1-4 (Principles of the Belmont Report) that caught my attention and held it is beneficence.
Now sure, it’s common sense that I wouldn’t want to harm my human research subjects but I don’t think I’ve been prompted in my research career to consider what beneficence is really about, maximizing the potential benefit for my subjects. To consider: is there a way to design my future research projects that intentionally brings about good for my subjects as a direct result of participating in the research? This is a justice issue, at its heart, and the Belmont Report has a section specifically on justice, right after the section on beneficence (see https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/index.html#xbenefit). The concepts of beneficence and justice, and how they are enacted in the research process, are surely more nuanced than I am describing here. I wanted to share the idea with you so that may consider it in your own next research design. Let me know what you think, and how you imagine this may take shape in your own work.
(1) Amdur, Robert, and Elizabeth A. Bankert. Institutional Review Board Member Handbook, 3rd edition. 2011. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.