Guidelines for Community-Based Ethics Review of Children's Science Fair Projects
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2008 December; 5(4): 303-310
Low-level community based ethics committees staffed by teachers, parents and community representatives can readily review children?s science fair projects subject to the revision of two core assumptions currently governing children?s Science Fairs. The first part of the paper recasts the New Zealand Royal Society guidelines from its primary emphasis on risk to a new assumption, without benefit there can be no risk. Equally, this revision gives more prominence to the participant information sheet, allowing it to act as a quasi application form which provides ethical transparency between student researchers, participants and a community based ethics committee. A second core assumption, more accurately labeled a cult of originality, produces a random, open-ended array of student topics taking ethics review beyond the confidence level of most community based ethics review committees. This paper reins in Science Fair coordinators recommending they make community level ethics review more manageable by providing a list of preapproved topics for those students wanting to conduct research involving human participants. These revised assumptions create a workable division of labour. Teachers? preapproved topics involving human participants are more likely to be low risk, permitting community level ethics review to focus primarily on two aspects of the minimization of harm: first, for all participants, especially those with diminished autonomy, and second, for the child researchers themselves, as some participants may be unknown to the student. These revised assumptions make science and ethics more accessible to public education thus demonstrating how Science Fairs can lead students and the community into better understanding the role and function that ethics has in all scientific research human participants.
Autonomy; Children; Education; Ethics; Ethics Committees; Guidelines; Harm; Parents; Research; Researchers; Review; Review Committees; Risk; Science; Students; Science, Technology, and Society; Ethics Committees / Consultation; Human Experimentation Policy Guidelines / Institutional Review Boards; Informed Consent or Human Experimentation; Social Control of Human Experimentation; Education Ethics;
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