LINGUIST List 16.1467

Mon May 09 2005

Sum: Human Subjects Requirements

Editor for this issue: Megan Zdrojkowski <>


        1.    Claire Bowern, Human Subjects Requirements

Message 1: Human Subjects Requirements
Date: 06-May-2005
From: Claire Bowern <>
Subject: Human Subjects Requirements

Regarding query:

Not long ago I sent a query to the list about the requirements of
universities in various countries for human subjects research evaluations.
Specifically, I was interested in how common it is for linguistic fieldwork
to require approval by a human subjects committee, and what experiences
researchers have had with these bodies. I was particularly interested in
responses from outside the US (since I am familiar with general procedures

I received responses from scholars in the following countries:


(Apologies if I've forgotten anyone)

Most respondents said that they were not required to have their research
cleared by internal review boards/human subjects ethics committees. Some
mentioned that this is a problem when applying for international grants
(the Hans Rausing fund at SOAS, for example, required local ethics
clearance). Others in Germany and the Netherlands said that they had their
own internal review processes within their own departments.

Several mentioned problems with the inappropriateness of medical ethics
guidelines in linguistic research (one very worrying one was the
requirement for all raw collected data to be destroyed after seven years,
unless the researcher could justify keeping it). Several respondents
reported difficulties with anonymity requirements, where the relevant
ethics board required anonymity in all participants, which goes directly
against linguists' wishes to give recognition to their consultants.

Only one respondent (from Canada) felt that the rules they were subject to
were appropriate and protected both the researcher and the linguistic

Thanks very much to all who responded. I would welcome further responses
and discussion on these issues as I will be doing further research later in
the year for a book on fieldwork methodology.

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
Language Description