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Resources :: Guide :: Vulnerable and risk sensitive participants :: Vulnerable participants :: Potential for coerced consent :: Employees as Participants :: Studies funded by institutions, companies, states, programs, etc.

Studies Funded by Institutions, Companies, States, Programs, etc.

Institutions, companies, states, programs, etc. often evaluate their procedures or workplace environment in order to improve their outcomes.  Researchers are hired as individuals qualified to collect data and offer consultation to these groups, which can also be a valuable resource of data for a researcher’s personal studies. It is important to distinguish the difference between an evaluation and a research study.  For example, if a company is funding the study as part of an evaluation of its employees, the researcher has been hired as an evaluator for the company, and the data collected will be used only to evaluate the company’s procedures, then the Board considers this to be an evaluation and not a research study.  The researcher is not required to submit a protocol to the Board.  However, if the researcher intends to use the data beyond the employer’s evaluation (thus qualifying the evaluation as research), the researcher is required to apply for IRB review.  
There may be instances where the employee may be required to participate in a work-mandated evaluation as part of his or her job, thus the employee may not be able to participate voluntarily.  However, the employee is not obligated to be a participant in the research aspect of the study.  In order to use this data, the Board requests that you do one or both of the following (depending on the nature of the data):

  • Receive anonymous data or data stripped of identifiers.
  • Allow the participant the option to opt out of the research study aspect of the evaluation.  The participant would still complete the evaluation but would decide not to release their data to the researcher.  For example, if the participant is completing a survey, include a question that asks if the participant wants to include that data in the study.  If the study involves more in-depth data such as interviews or other identifiable information, the participant should be given the opportunity to consent and it may be less coercive to approach the participant after the evaluation is complete. In addition, make sure that the research portion of the procedure is explained by someone who does not have authority over the participants and that the participants are assured that their employer will not know that they participated in the research portion of the evaluation. Regardless of your procedure, the ultimate goal is that participants will understand that they can participate voluntarily without it reflecting on their job performance.

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