Session: Research With Vulnerable Populations: Strategies for Complex and Issues of Human Participant Protections (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

RMW-5 Research With Vulnerable Populations: Strategies for Complex and Issues of Human Participant Protections


Rebecca J. Macy, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Susan Parish, PhD, School of Social Work
Thursday, January 14, 2010: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
Marina (Hyatt Regency)
Social work researchers strive to improve the well-being of disadvantaged, marginalized populations, including people with disabilities, violence survivors, incarcerated people, refugees, and those who are impoverished. However, providing adequate protection to vulnerable research participants poses unique challenges for researchers who are working to make meaningful contributions to practice and policy. This workshop is designed to help social work researchers develop their skills to address such unique challenges and will address the practical, methodological and ethical issues of conducting research with vulnerable populations, based on the presenters’ experiences as researchers and as a member of a university Institutional Review Board. Particular attention is given to ensuring that research designs pass muster with Institutional Review Boards as well as grant reviewers. At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will understand strategies for successfully developing human participants’ protection plans, structuring research design features to minimize risk to vulnerable participants, and managing challenges that arise in the implementation of research. Topics addressed in the workshop will include: • Demonstrating the meaningfulness of the project: why are the risks worth taking? • Characteristics of vulnerable populations (e.g., inability to provide informed consent, coercive monetary inducements, challenges in retaining participants in the research over time) • Balancing the feasibility and acceptability of research • Using community members, focus groups and advisory boards in the design of studies to improve feasibility • Understanding the vagaries and intentions of Institutional Review Boards • Strategies for successful Institutional Review Board and grant proposals • Recruiting vulnerable participants • Consenting vulnerable participants and their guardians • Preventing and preparing for adverse events (e.g., how to use community members and advisory boards to help anticipate unintended consequences that may lead to adverse events; developing a safety and referral plan for potential problems) • Handling participants’ disclosure of challenging and dangerous experiences • Safety of the research team • Managing the ethical challenges of working with community partners
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