As a researcher, there are numerous steps that can and should be taken to mitigate risk of harm to human participants. The safety of human participants in a study should be of paramount concern. There have been numerous examples in the past of researchers choosing to push the limits of ethics during research involving human participants. In some cases, these unethical studies have produced incredibly useful insights, like the Stanford Prison Experiment (Prison Exp, 2019). In other cases, they simply harm human beings and damaged the reputation of clinical research and science, like the case of the Chinese scientist genetically modifying twin babies while by-passing numerous ethical considerations (Stein, 2019).
The risk of harm to human participants have been categorized into four categories, which are: physical, psychological, social and economic (UCI Office of Research, 2019). There are numerous steps that are required for research to be considered ethical as well as to mitigate the risk of harm to human participants. First, participants should be fully informed regarding the details of the research and their risks of exposure to harm. Secondly, the researchers should have sufficient knowledge and experience with conducting the specific type of research. Thirdly, researchers should ensure that the sample of the study is large or significant enough that the results will be useful and applicable to the desired population. Data must be gathered following all standard-of-care procedures to avoid needless risk, especially for research that involves invasive or potentially harmful components. Finally, all possible and necessary safeguards should be incorporated into the research design and methodology as well as emergency plans in case something goes wrong during the potentially harmful steps (UVA, 2019). Regarding the assessment of if the potential benefits of research outweigh the possible risk or harm to human participants, this will be a very subjective question and highly dependent on the topic being researched. A detailed, thoroughly researched and discussed determination should be made with particular emphasis given to the potential benefits related to the potential harm to human participants or society. In almost all cases, if a research plan involves likely harm for human participants, the benefits will not outweigh the risk for harm.
Prison Exp. (2019). Stanford Prison Experiment: Conclusion. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from
Stein, R. (2019, June 03). 2 Chinese Babies with Edited Genes May Face Higher Risk Of
Premature Death. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/06/03/727957768/2-chinese-babies-with-edited-genes-may-face-higher-risk-of-premature-death
UCI Office of Research. (2019). Assessing Risks and Benefits. Retrieved June 10, 2019, from
University of Virginia. (2019). Institutional Review Board for Social Behavioral Sciences.
Retrieved June 10, 2019, from http://www.virginia.edu/vpr/irb/sbs/resources_guide_risk_reduce.html