In order to minimize the risks involved in social-behavioral studies, it is important to immediately remove all of the participants’ direct identifiers from the data. Additional safeguards are described in the section ‘Risks to Research Participants’ of the Human Subjects Protection Program, including research methods for vulnerable populations.
Additional safeguards are necessary to protect the welfare and rights of participants or subjects who might be vulnerable, such as children, pregnant women, people with mental disorders, or economically disadvantaged individuals. The potential identifiers to be removed include a participant’s name, home address, email address, phone number, medical records, and others. The removal of all direct identifiers from the data is a significant safeguard in social and behavioral research, since any possible breach in security involves a risk of harm against vulnerable people.
In order to ensure the protection of vulnerable individuals during a social and behavioral study, each academic body or organization conducting the research must submit its study to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for evaluation. The IRB is an administrative body concerned with the protection of welfare and human rights in the process of research on topics that might affect a vulnerable population.
Any study that involves collecting sensitive information from its participants needs the approval of the IRB. The board of the IRB reviews all research involving vulnerable individuals as participants or subjects in order to protect their privacy, rights, and welfare. The IRB also has the authority to observe, modify, approve or disapprove the research content. Several consultants are appointed to follow the privacy protocol according to the Human Subjects Protection Program and determine whether or not risks to vulnerable participants have been foreseen and minimized.