Steven Pinker --
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This chapter covers the
ethics of using human participants in research. As most of us who have
served on IRBs know, the black-and-white guidelines provided by the
government and our professional societies do not always translate well to
the gray areas of decision making about a particular research protocol.
Cases go a long way to impress students with both the significance and
difficulty involved in making these ethical decisions.
Learning Objectives for the Problem
After completing the problem, students will:
1. Be familiar with the major sources of ethical standards for research with human participants.
2. Understand the process through which an experiment using human participants gains approval.
3. Know the ethical requirements for research with human participants.
4. Be able to
apply their knowledge to the construction of an informed consent form.
Before implementing the PBL method in a classroom, instructors should familiarize themselves with PBL materials provided by Samford University at http://www.samford.edu/pbl/. Our method follows these guidelines.
the concept of PBL and offer a rationale for its use in your course. Determine how you will assess student progress on the problem, and communicate your grading rubric to students. Discuss a timeline for work, including what class time will be available.
2. Set the stage.
Assign students to groups, and identify a group leader. Some faculty also ask students to take the roles of encourager, skeptic, and scribe. Most PBL exercises are carried out in small groups from 4-6 students. If you plan to use more than one problem in a term, decide if groups will change or remain the same. If students stay in the same group, you may want to rotate their roles.
3. Discuss steps in problem solving.
a. Define your problem. What exactly are you trying to solve?
b. What information is needed? What do you already know that is relevant to the problem? What else do you need to know to solve the problem?
c. What actions must be taken to solve the problem? Brainstorm possible solutions and narrow your choices to a few. Prioritize your list of solutions.
d. Test your solutions, and determine which one is the best.
e. Present your results.
4. Evaluate student performance.
This might be a combination of peer evaluation and instructor evaluation. Students may give presentations, write papers, or answer questions related to their problem.
Jesse Gelsinger at
On September 16, 1999, an exuberant teenager named Jesse Gelsinger became the first person to die from gene therapy. The tragedy of Gelsinger’s death was compounded by the fact that he wasn’t really sick. Although he had a genetic disorder, Jesse was able to control his condition with a special diet and medications. His participation in the genetic therapy trial was purely altruistic—he wanted to help other people who suffered from a fatal version of his disease.
Gelsinger’s death was doubly shocking, as the American public had until that time viewed gene therapy as a safe and promising approach to disease. In the aftermath of Gelsinger’s death, however, information came to light that challenged that impression. In addition, a variety of irregularities in the approval process for the experiment that killed Jesse surfaced. Jesse’s father testified that he had been unaware of the risks involved with the procedure. In addition, one of the physicians involved with the trials appeared to have a serious financial conflict of interest in the project. Consequently, the institute performing the research was shut down, and the physicians involved were sanctioned.
Your task is to
write an informed consent form for the study in which Jesse Gelsinger
participated that would address the risks involved with the proposed
These materials are being prepared for the password-protected instructor’s resource site for Discovering Biological Psychology. Uploading them onto a searchable site such as this one would obviously defeat the purpose of asking students to do this work. However, if any instructor would like a copy of these materials to review, please email me from your university account at email@example.com
materials contain a list of resources for further information, evaluation
rubrics for different types of assessment activities, and a model
© 2007, Laura Freberg , animations © 2007, Karla Freberg