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J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2010 Mar;5(1):33-47. doi: 10.1525/jer.2010.5.1.33.

Nine key functions for a human subjects protection program for community-engaged research: points to consider.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The ethical conduct of Community-Engaged Research (CEnR), of which the Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) model is the partnership model most widely discussed in the CEnR literature and is the primary model we draw upon in this discussion, requires an integrated and comprehensive human subjects protection (HSP) program that addresses the additional concerns salient to CEnR where members of a community are both research partners and participants. As delineated in the federal regulations, the backbone of a HSP program is the fulfillment of nine functions: (1) minimize risks; (2) reasonable benefit-risk ratio; (3) fair subject selection; (4) adequate monitoring; (5) informed consent; (6) privacy and confidentiality; (7) conflicts of interest; (8) address vulnerabilities; and (9) HSP training. The federal regulations, however, do not consider the risks and harms that may occur to groups, and these risks have not traditionally been included in the benefit: risk analysis nor have they been incorporated into an HSP framework. We explore additional HSP issues raised by CEnR within these nine ethical functions. Various entities exist that can provide HSP---the investigator, the Institutional Review Board, the Conflict of Interest Committee, the Research Ethics Consultation program, the Research Subject Advocacy program, the Data and Safety Monitoring Plan, and the Community Advisory Board. Protection is best achieved if these entities are coordinated to ensure that no gaps exist, to minimize unnecessary redundancy, and to provide checks and balances between the different entities of HSP and the nine functions that they must realize. The document is structured to provide a "points-to-consider" roadmap for HSP entities to help them adequately address the nine key functions necessary to provide adequate protection of individuals and communities in CEnR.

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