By Ariel Pang and Claudia Chong
The NTU Institutional Review Board (NTU-IRB) has updated its guidelines to include rules for recruitment advertisements for research participants.
The NTU-IRB reviews all research proposals involving human participants or human biological materials.
The rules state that researchers must submit all recruitment ads to the regulatory body for approval. The ads must feature a set of details required by the NTU-IRB, and should not contain misleading or coercive information.
Prior to this, NTU-IRB application forms did require the submission of recruitment ads. But the forms did not state guidelines that the researcher should follow when making the ads.
The update on 29 Jan follows the arrest of a 25-year-old male on 20 Jan for allegedly molesting a male minor. The Nanyang Chronicle understands that the suspect is an NTU graduate student.
The man had allegedly placed ads online, to recruit participants for a “body stimulation” experiment that involved tickling. The male minor responded to the ad in November; he claimed that he went to the alleged perpetrator’s dorm room for the so-called experiment, and was molested.
The NTU-IRB confirmed to the Chronicle last month that no such research study existed.
When contacted for this article, an NTU spokesperson said: “University-approved research projects would involve a faculty member responsible for supervising the study.
“Advertisements for university-approved research projects will have features such as a formal research title with specific recruitment criteria, contact details of the investigating researcher and the IRB, as well as an IRB project number and NTU logo.”
A search on NTU’s website revealed ads for seven unique studies posted from 2015 to 2017, none of which contained all the features that the NTU-IRB now requires. The ads were searched using the keywords “research participant”.
Asst Prof Sonny Rosenthal of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information said universities can make it easier for prospective research participants to verify a study’s legitimacy.
Prof Rosenthal, who is also a member of the NTU-IRB, said: “It is my understanding that the Board will soon be issuing instructions to all NTU researchers, covering those concerns. Of course, this solution works best if the public is aware that they can and should ask questions when they are invited to participate in research.”
Students that the Chronicle spoke to agreed that there was a need for greater public awareness about the procedures surrounding research studies. They viewed the updated NTU-IRB guidelines as a step in the right direction, but felt that more could be done.
Gerald Sim, a final-year student from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “I felt disturbed by (the alleged molestation) and the audacity of a person like that to solicit and disguise it as a project under the name of NTU.”
Sim, 24, suggested that NTU create a department to look out for suspicious ads on the internet that make use of the University’s name, posted by people for personal gain.
Pamela Tan, a final-year student from the School of Social Sciences, reckons that potential participants should take the initiative to protect themselves, too.
Said Tan, whose final year project involves research: “Be more informed. Question ads more. If you come across an ad for a study that seems suspicious, then find out more before signing up.”
Read the previous story here.
- What should be in an NTU-IRB approved project ad?
- NTU-IRB project number
- NTU logo
- Proper research title with specific recruitment criteria
- Contact details of the Principal Investigator and NTU-IRB
- Explicit statement of the need for parental consent, if minors are being recruited
- What are the warning signs I should look out for in an ad?
- Emphasis of payment for participation
- Usage of catchy words like “free” or “excitement”
- Claims or implications that a procedure is safe, effective or superior to other standard procedures
- Claims or implications of benefits beyond what was indicated in the informed consent form and application
- What should I do if I have questions about an ad?
- Contact NTU-IRB at 6592 2495 or email IRB@ntu.edu.sg
- What if I wish to withdraw from the study?
- Participants may withdraw from the study at any time without any penalty. Voluntary withdrawal will have no effect on your relationship with NTU.