Conducting a Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault in the Context of Human Subjects Protections: A successful campus effort
In January 2014, the White House established a Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. One of its mandates is to provide colleges/universities with tools to increase understanding of the true depth of sexual assault problems on campuses and increase opportunities for victims to report crimes. The White House is exploring legislative/administrative options to require colleges to conduct evidence-based surveys beginning in 2016. With commitment and responsiveness to national and local sexual assault prevention movements, one major Northeastern public university created a campus-wide survey to be pilot-tested in spring 2015. Though critically important, however, comprehensive research on rape and sexual assault faces important hurdles in obtaining IRB approval. The presentation will focus on one campus’s success in gaining IRB approval for a campus-wide online survey. The unique collaboration of senior-level administrators, residence-life staff, public health faculty, an IRB member, and students, was critical in the effort to successfully mitigate several potential pitfalls. Efforts included thoughtful survey design, which sought to balance invasiveness with the need to accurately measure experiences and perspectives. IRB concerns regarding emotional distress to participants was addressed by identifying the regulatory and ethical mandates to conduct this research and an emphasis on the perpetuation of negative impacts resulting from underreporting of rape and sexual assault on campus without such research. Further, data on participants’ assessments of the risks associated with participation were collected and will provide empirical data to inform IRB members and scholars about the risks and benefits of conducting such research in the future.
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related research
Identify potential pitfalls to conducting research on sexual assault in the context of human subjects review boards.
Identify potential solutions to the challenges of conducting research on sexual assault in the context of human subjects review boards.
Design campus climate surveys that provide meaningful data while minimizing the risk to study participants.
Keyword(s): Ethics, Sexual Assault
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a member of my institutional IRB, I have training in human subjects protection and ethics, and I have worked in academic research for over 10 years, successfully navigating the human subject review process for several studies which have produced over 25 publications.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines,
and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed
in my presentation.