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The charge of the committee is to ensure that research conducted by Bennington College faculty members, students, and staff fosters the ethical treatment of human research participants. Committee approval is required for all research on human participants conducted by College faculty members, students, and staff doing research with human participants for senior theses, senior projects, and individual and group tutorials. Research using human participants undertaken by students as a requirement of their enrollment in a regularly scheduled Bennington College course must be approved by the instructor of the course, who may, but is not obligated to, consult the Committee for advice.

The Committee will be composed of three members appointed by the Dean, all of whom must be familiar with professional association ethical standards for research with human participants, and at least one of whom has conducted research employing human participants. Members will serve on the Committee for a term of three years, the terms of office to be staggered.

General Guidelines

Those in the categories described above planning to engage in research using human participants must submit a proposal to the Committee. Proposals from students shall include a standardized coversheet signed by the student's advisor or the faculty member supervising the research, whichever is appropriate. A checklist of materials required for inclusion is available here. Proposals should be submitted far enough in advance of the date on which data collection is scheduled to begin to allow for the possibility that the Committee might require changes. Under normal circumstances, the Committee will review and respond to proposals within four weeks of their submission. In all cases, the proposal must be approved by the Committee before data collection begins.

Proposals shall include:

  • A concise description of the major question(s) the project is meant to address, the theoretical frameworks and research literatures that have been consulted to this point, and the proposed method of data collection.
  • A detailed description of:
    • the types of data to be collected
    • the people (or records, or organization) from whom the data will be collected, and 
    • the methods to be employed in gathering these data (including the way participants will be recruited).
  • A copy of the proposed Statement of Informed Consent that must be signed by each participant prior to their participation. In instances in which the researcher believes this requirement is not applicable or cannot be met, the researcher must provide a specific explanation and request for exemption. Along with that request, the proposal must include] a description of the way in which the researcher will:
    • elicit participants' informed consent to participate;
    • eliminate or minimize any potential risk of harm to the participants; and
    • protect to the extent agreed upon the fact of their participation and the confidentiality of the data they provide, including data storage.
  • A description of the way the proposed research responds directly to any specific concerns of the appropriate professional association's (American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, American Anthropological Association, etc.) code of ethics not addressed in items above.
  • A copy of the certificate documenting that the researcher has successfully completed a tutorial on the Ethical Treatment of Human Research Participants. The tutorial is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institutes of Health; it takes about two hours to complete. In the case of proposals by students, the student shall provide a certificate.

Upon receiving the Committee's approval, the responsibility for adhering to these guidelines in the conduct of the research rests with the faculty member (in the case of faculty proposals) and the faculty research supervisor and the student (in the case of student proposals).