Human subjects research and the physics classroom

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Physics and Astronomy


Physics Education Research is a form of social science research in that it uses human subjects. As physicists we need to be aware of the ethical and legal ramifications of performing this research, taking into account the fundamental differences between working with substances and working with people. For several decades, the federal government has regulated research involving human subjects. With current procedures, a proposal soliciting federal funds for a research project involving human subjects will be flagged by the applicants institution and checked for compliance with appropriate regulations. However, there is a large body of Physics Education Research that is not federally funded and thus may not be flagged. Nevertheless, there are ethical standards that apply to this research. This paper outlines the preliminary considerations for conducting such research.

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