Best Practices Resources: The Research Clinic

Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa

Jack Delano, “Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa.” Negative. May 1942. Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/owi2001004703/PP/. Accessed September 6, 2016.

As a researcher, it can sometimes be difficult to draw the line between what is and is not appropriate behavior while working with those participating in your project. That’s why the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) created “The Research Clinic,” an interactive training video, which can help researchers learn how to protect their research participants and to avoid misconduct.

Now, it’s not quite¬†World of Warcraft, but you choose one of four characters (my personal favorite is Megan Boyle, “a research assistant who has difficulties obtaining informed consent and following research protocols” who has a lot of student loan debt) and work through different video scenarios as that character. The goal of the program is to go back in time, and figure out what steps your character should have taken in order to have done their research ethically.¬†The tutorial also links the viewer to optional information about aspects of the research process they need some extra information on.

“The Research Clinic” manages to mix an ethics lesson with an online game that mimics a game of whodunit with engaging humor and personality. However, in order to use it, one needs an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash Player, as well as a good Internet connection, as the videos can take time to load. “The Research Clinic” has several accessibility options, including closed captions and text voice over, as well as several keyboard shortcuts for easy movement throughout the series.

An important aspect of “The Research Clinic” is the human aspect. Each character’s story begins with some information about their life and personality, which allows you to get to know them, and to sympathize with their situation. It humanizes the researchers, and reminds the viewer that people who engage in research misconduct may not necessarily be bad people, going out of their way to tamper with evidence as they laugh manically and twist their mustache. Rather, research misconduct can occur when people are put into stressful situations and make a bad decision (or three).

The right decision may not necessarily be the easy decision, but when you’re working with human participants, taking the time to think about what you will do can make all the difference.