Using Social Media as a Research Recruitment Tool: Ethical Issues and Recommendations image

The American Journal of Bioethics, Volume 17, 2017 - Issue 3
Luke Gelinas, Robin Pierce, Sabune Winkler, I. Glenn Cohen, Holly Fernandez Lynch, and Barbara Bierer

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Part of the Petrie-Flom Center's collaboration with the Regulatory Foundations, Ethics, and Law Program of Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center at Harvard Medical School to promote the ethical conduct of research with human beings.

Abstract

The use of social media as a recruitment tool for research with humans is increasing, and likely to continue to grow. Despite this, to date there has been no specific regulatory guidance and there has been little in the bioethics literature to guide investigators and institutional review boards (IRBs) faced with navigating the ethical issues such use raises. We begin to fill this gap by first defending a nonexceptionalist methodology for assessing social media recruitment; second, examining respect for privacy and investigator transparency as key norms governing social media recruitment; and, finally, analyzing three relatively novel aspects of social media recruitment: (i) the ethical significance of compliance with website “terms of use”; (ii) the ethics of recruiting from the online networks of research participants; and (iii) the ethical implications of online communication from and between participants. Two checklists aimed at guiding investigators and IRBs through the ethical issues are included as appendices.

bioethics holly fernandez lynch i. glenn cohen luke gelinas privacy public health research