chapter  14
12 Pages

Human Subjects Regulations on the Social Sciences

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A social scientist informally interviewing a Soviet dissident would first have to ask him to give explicit informed consent—in disregard of the consequences that would have followed if the Soviet secret police got their hands on evidence that it was not just a conversation. The protests of the social science community, the representations of its professional associations, and the advice of lawyers and Congressmen have been heard, and Department of Health and Human Services yielded. To require prior approval before a social researcher engages in an interview is as patently unconstitutional as it would be to require it of a reporter or of any ordinary citizen. The notion familiar to lawyers, economists, and social scientists that adversary combat is socially desirable and the injuries suffered in the process socially useful, was puzzling. The most frequent risk to subjects of social research is that information about them which they would rather keep secret may become known to others.