LINGUIST List 3.403

Wed 13 May 1992

Disc: Human Subjects

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Peter Salus, Re: 3.399 Human Subjects
  2. , Re: 3.399 Human Subjects
  3. Ronnie Wilbur, human subjects
  4. , Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Message 1: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Date: Tue, 12 May 92 10:29:49 EDRe: 3.399 Human Subjects
From: Peter Salus <>
Subject: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

In 1975/76, the Human Subjects Committee of the University
of Toronto required full permission forms for research in
which I was the PI which involved (a) a word association
test and (b) the videotaping of several ASL signers "telling"
the same story.

Peter H. Salus
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Message 2: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Date: Tue, 12 May 1992 14:34 EDTRe: 3.399 Human Subjects
From: <SJS97ALBNYVMS.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

I'd like to say a few words about the need for human subjects approval. I
teach courses in ethnographic fieldwork, discourse analysis, and socio-
linguistics. Routinely, my students enrolled in the fieldwork course, which
requires a semester's long project on an interaction setting of their choosing,
must submit a request for approval from the university's human subjects
research officer. In actuality, I assemble their applications (a brief
description of the context and a signed informed consent form froms omeo
someone "in charge" of the setting/institution where interaction will be
observed/recorded), answer all the questions on the human subjects form for
the class as a whole, and submit a single packet to the research officer. I
find that by guaranteeing confidentiality (students are even asked to use
pseudonyms when describing their fieldwork experiences in class and in their
reports), indicating that no psychological measures will be taken, no
stressful manipulations will be made ... etc., I am able to get what is
called an "expedited review."
The difference between anonymously photographing/videotaping people and using
informants for linguistic/ethnographic research is that with the latter the
"subjects" are known to the researcher. While I agree that filling out the
request forms is an annoyance, it seems a small formality as part of ensuring
that students are aware of how they must handle their relationships with
informants and the subsequent data collected.
One of the problems I've not yet seen addressed is what to do with non-literate
peoples. In the case of minors, our university requires that we secure
parental permission. But what about research on adults who are unable to read
or to understand the concept of informed consent?

Stuart J. Sigman
Dept. of Communication, and
Dept. of Linguistics/Cognitive Science
University at Albany, SUNY
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Message 3: human subjects

Date: Tue, 12 May 92 21:53:36 EShuman subjects
From: Ronnie Wilbur <WILBURPURCCVM.bitnet>
Subject: human subjects

M. Fleck asks about the difference between a voice recording and a picture.
We use videotape, but otherwise do not ask our subjects to "work". Our most
recent human subjects review, for nothing more than signing in front of
a videocamera, received an expedited review, but with a 'low risk' rating,
rather than a 'no risk' rating. my understanding is that the issue here
is confidentiality [as a potential risk]. in this regard, our humans subjects
review committee, which i have never felt as hassling us, would clearly conside
r computer vision recordings without subject consetn as a violation of the
intent, if not the letter, of the law. our consent forms now ask if 1) we
may show the videotapes to other researchers, 2) we may show the tapes to our
students, 3) we may extract still pictures for use in publications, and 4) we
may thank the subject by name in the published article. it is my impression
that we are looking a review committees that are feeling very defensive about
liability in case somebody decides their rights were violated and decides
to sue, for whatever reason. while our consent form is ridiculously detailed,
and we provide a copy to each subject for their own regards, i can at least
have some confidence in the backing of the university should i need to be prote
cted, since they have approved my procedures, etc. what price peace of mind!!

a blanket project, approved for the faculty member as PI, and taking care
to make sure that each student uses the approved consent form and procedure,
can eliminate a lot of paperwork and waiting. theses and dissertations, as
well as separate funded projects, all still require separate approval.
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Message 4: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

Date: Tue, 12 May 92 22:36 CST
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.399 Human Subjects

It seems to me to be an exaggeration to say that "linguists are being
hassled for tape recording subjects wqithout elaborate permission" or
that subjects need to give more than oral permission (Margaret Fleck).
It's a good idea to check with your University's Human Subject Committee
requirements. They most likely will give you a template permission form,
the details of which you can fill in to tailor it to your own study's
constraints. The HSC is looking for assurance that the subjects are giving
informed consent. For *any* study this is spelled out to mean that the
subject can refuse to continue at any time without prejudice, that they
know what they are consenting to do, that they know all the uses that the
data coollected from them will be, that they have the right to have any
recorded data erased, and that they know what will happen to the recorded
material after the project is over. This seems pretty fair. The HSC will
most likely expedite the review of such a protocol, and allow it to serve
for a number of studies over, say a year, before routinely reviewing it
Amy Sheldon
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