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Ethics and Human Subjects



OSEA Statement on Human Subjects Review / Institutional Review Board

The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology is an independent non-degree school that provides courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.  OSEA does not receive federal support for its programs.  Nonetheless, OSEA requires that all students in research practicum programs learn about Human Subjects Review (HSR) issues, research ethics, and Institutional Review Board (IRB) processes. This information is imparted in OSEA research methods and practicum courses.
As part of its educational program, OSEA has adopted and modified appropriately as its Human Subjects Review guidelines, the Indiana University statement on the exemption of student research from IRB/HSR (See below for pertinent passages from the statement and a link to the full statement on the IU website).
As is commonly held by a majority of institutions of higher education, research conducted within the context of regularly assigned coursework is considered eligible for exemption from HSR/IRB.  Furthermore such research is considered to be exempt if the research methods are (a) not invasive, intrusive or stressful in terms of either physical or psychological criteria; (b) do not involve vulnerable populations at risk; and (c) do not have the potential for placing either the student researcher or the subjects of research at more than a normal level of everyday risk that is common for even those who are not involved in the research process but share the same social and experiential contexts.

OSEA educational experiences are based in seminar, workshop, forum, or practicum coursework.  Any and all research conducted by students in any OSEA program is realized for the explicit purpose of student training.  Practicum training exercises, including independent student research projects, are not considered research that leads to generalizable knowledge.  As such projects conducted in OSEA programs are categorically considered to be eligible for exemption from HSR/IRB.


  •  OSEA staff and faculty expressly exclude and prohibit any student or participant in any OSEA program to:  (a) use physically or psychologically intrusive, invasive, harmful, deceitful, or stressful methods or research protocols; (b) conduct research with vulnerable populations at risk; and (c) conduct research in any situation or under any circumstances that involve any risk which is more than, or beyond, the normal, everyday, minimal potential of routine experience in the socio-cultural settings and contexts of the OSEA programs.  The OSEA faculty, including teaching and research staff, are involved in the evaluation of all student conducted research and determine whether or not a project is in compliance with the ethical and human subjects guidelines established by OSEA.
  • The research methodologies that student use in their practicum exercises are limited to non-intrusive methods and protocols, such as interviewing, observation, participation, focus group, structured questionnaires, surveys, elicitation of narratives, audio-visual, audio and photographic recordings, and study of publicly available documents and archival materials. Protocols involving biomedical, genetic, human tissue, or deception are prohibited by OSEA.
  • Research subjects are limited to consenting adults who are required to be informed of the risks involved in their participation in the student conducted research practicum.  In the case of minors their consent must attained as well as the consent of their parents or guardians and must be restricted to issues of learning, use, acquisition, and expression of linguistic or cultural competencies within settings that include the approval and or supervision of parents or guardians.  The regulated process of attaining consent from all participants is separately provided and includes the routine provision for the maintenance of subject anonymity although informed consent also grants all subjects their choice to reveal their identity.
  • All research materials created, collected or produced by student participants are to be kept in the institutional archives OSEA. These materials are organized by the student or participant who submits materials in orignal and/or copy format using standardized procedures for the maintenance of anonymity in those cases where subjects have made this request.
  • In those cases in which a student participant does not comply with the ethical codes and standards of ethnographic research and of cultural anthropology as established by the American Anthropological Association or with the ethical standards and Human Subjects Review Guidelines established by OSEA, the student or participant will be immediately expelled from the program at the discretion of the Director and OSEA Staff without any further discussion and without any further obligation or responsibility on the part of OSEA or any of its institutional partners, including economic compensation for financial losses, reimbursement of fees, or legal repercussions.


Indiana University Statement on the Exemption of Student Practicum Based Research

Link to Full Statement on IU website
As defined in CFR Title 45, Part 46 (Department of Health and Human Services policy for Protection of Human Research Subjects), "research" is a "systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge," and a "human subject" is "a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information." Since class work assignments are usually not intended to or likely to lead to generalizable results, the Human Subjects Committee (HSC) does not normally include these projects under its operational definition of research. Rather, they are viewed as practicum resources of teaching.

A. Student projects which meet the following criteria will not require review by the HSC. Research practica (usually in the form of course-related research projects and/or directed studies), the objective of which is to provide research experience for the student; and

  • Which do not involve physically or psychologically invasive, intrusive, or stressful procedures; and
  • Which, in the judgment of the instructor, do not have the potential for placing the subjects at more than minimal risk
  • Which do not involve a vulnerable population at risk (e.g. children, pregnant women, prisoners)
B. Student research, including classroom and independent study projects, theses and dissertations, that may place the subjects at more than minimal risk is subject to HSC review. In clinical courses, subjects will be considered to be at greater than minimal risk if the procedures used and/or the questions asked do not fall under what is construed as being ordinary practice. When the student researcher is also an AI/GA for the course from which the subjects will be recruited, the same concerns apply as are stated in the section titled Students as Subjects. Consideration should be given to the research setting when assessing risk.

 C. Special populations including pregnant women, fetuses, prisoners, mentally disabled, economically or educationally disadvantaged are considered vulnerable research subjects and, projects involving such subjects are subject to HSC review.

 The following procedures are to be followed for all student research projects:

  1. Instructors are responsible for screening individual research projects and making the initial determination as to whether the project may fall in the category of research as explained above, thus requiring HSC review.
  2. If an instructor determines that a research project is assigned for the purpose of producing generalizable knowledge, may involve greater than minimal risk, or involves a vulnerable population, the project must be submitted on the appropriate forms provided by the HSC for its review and approval prior to initiating the research. Hard copies of the application packet are available from the HSC in Carmichael Center L03, 530 E. Kirkwood Ave.  Contact the HSC office by e-mail or at 855-3067. The forms may also be downloaded from the WWW at


Related Links:

University at Albany, SUNY "Investigator's Handbook: Human Subjects Research and Institutional Review Board"

University at Albany, SUNY, IRB Forms