Protecting research subjects

From The Embassy of Good Science

Protecting research subjects

What is this about?

Research subjects should be protected to minimize the harms and maximize the benefits of research. Research subjects include both humans and animals, and both types of research are subject to regulations, professional codes, and even international agreements.

Why is this important?

In relation to human research, The Belmont report lays down three basic ethical principles which are aimed at protecting research subjects. [1]The three ethical principles are:

  1. Respect for persons includes acknowledging the autonomy of individuals and protecting those with diminished autonomy. The principle respect for persons is protected in the form of informed consent.
  2. Beneficence is understood as minimizing harm and maximizing possible benefits. Systematically assessing the risks and benefits of a research project is needed to ensure the harms are minimized and the benefits of the study are maximized.
  3. Justice concerns who receives the benefits of a research study and who carries the cost. Fair procedures to select subjects is one important way to ensure justice in a study.
For animal research, guiding principles are to replace, reduce, and refine their use in research - referred to as 3R principles.[2][3]
  1. The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1978). The Belmont Report: ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research. Washington DC.
  2. Russell, W. M. S., Burch, R. L., & Hume, C. W. (1959).The principles of humane experimental technique (Vol. 238). London: Methuen
  3. Kilkenny C, Browne WJ, Cuthill IC, Emerson M, Altman DG. Improving bioscience research reporting: the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal research. PLoS Biol. 2010;8(6):e1000412

For whom is this important?