Research integrity is essential in any field of study.  How can results be reliable and useful to a larger audience if the research is not conducted with the highest ethical principles?

A system of principles known as Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) has evolved over centuries of research.  These principles include how data are collected and reported; the nature of authorship; intellectual property; relationships between mentor and apprentice.

Because of the importance of RCR, Utah State University has created an increasingly sophisticated set of courses where students can learn about research ethics. The first opportunity to learn about RCR occurs in the Connections course.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Utah State University (USU) is a committee designated to review and approve research involving human participants prior to the initiation of such research, and to conduct periodic reviews of such research. The IRB operates according to Title 45 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 46, Federal and State guidelines, and the Belmont Report. International studies involve the use and guidance of the International Code of Harmonization.

Research activities are overseen for DHHS by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP). Other agencies that the IRB reports to include: the division of Research Integrity and Compliance, funding agencies, and USU’s Institutional Official. The Vice President for Research is the Institutional Official responsible for administering the program, ensuring compliance with the Public Health Service Act, Protection of Human Participants, and 45 CFR 46.

The IRB was established to protect the rights and welfare of human participants in research and has the authority to approve, disapprove, or require modifications of research activities that fall within its jurisdiction. The IRB may work in conjunction with other universities or institutional committees; however, it reviews research projects independently based upon the principle that human participants must be adequately protected. Any risk to participating in research should be outweighed by the potential benefits of the research.

Risks associated with research vary widely depending on the project. Utah State University maintains an Office of Environmental Health and Safety that oversees such issues. On a personal level, students who engage in projects that have some risk would be advised to carry insurance. Check with the faculty mentor for advice on this subject.