Dan Gibson,  202.483.2513

Washington, D.C. – April 3, 2018—The Ad Hoc Committee on Human Subjects is reviewing the APSA Guide to Professional Ethics, Rights, and Freedoms, Section H (on the Protection of Human Subjects), and is soliciting member feedback on the committee’s charge.

The committee, which was formed in January 2017, is working to identify broad principles of ethics relating to research on human subjects that can guide individual scholars in the design and practice of their research, inform institutional review boards about current standards and practices in political science research, and propose Association standards in areas of broad-based agreement. The committee’s roster and charge are available online. Any recommendations of the committee will be presented for public comment and reviewed by the American Political Science Association (APSA) Governing Council for possible adoption in the Guide.

The 11-member committee, co-chaired by Scott Desposato (University of California, San Diego) and Trisha Phillips (West Virginia University), met on August 30 in San Francisco before the 2017 APSA Annual Meeting. In an all-day session, they discussed ethical issues related to informed consent, deception and covert research, the security of research subjects, confidentiality, trauma, the embedded researcher as a participant in research, the impact of the research process on real-world events, the security of researchers and assistants, relationships with Institutional Review Boards, the responsibilities of faculty advisors, public official exemptions, the application of ethical standards, and graduate student ethics training.

Moving forward, the committee is soliciting input from members through the feedback tool on this website. APSA members are encouraged to provide feedback, share resources, and raise questions or concerns about the charge items.  Additionally, a survey will be sent to APSA members later this week, “Through the survey and other forms of member engagement we hope to make the Guide useful and informative for political science researchers and other stakeholders,” commented committee co-chair Trisha Phillips.

Committee co-chairs Scott Desposato and Trisha Phillips, along with other members of the committee, will also host a roundtable discussion at the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) meeting on Saturday, April 7, from 3:00-4:30.  “Given the diversity of methodologies and research contexts in our field, it is especially important that members share their concerns and that all opinions and perspectives are addressed,” Desposato noted.

The committee will also consider Qualitative Transparency Deliberations (QTD) reports, trans-disciplinary literature on principles and practices for human subjects research, and the common rule.

“As someone who studies Institutional Review Board (IRB) policy, I was pleased to be appointed to this committee because the study of powerful institutions and actors does not fit well with current IRB practices. I’m hopeful that the committee product, whether a code or guidelines, can help IRBs to better understand the genuine ethical issues in political science research,” said committee member Peregrine Schwartz-Shea.

The committee will work through the spring and summer to develop positions and principles, and will hold a second review session before the upcoming APSA Annual Meeting in Boston, with the objective of posting its recommendations for public comment by December 2018. As Desposato articulated, “We wish to have an open, transparent, and engaged process of deliberation, with as much member input and participation as possible.”  The recommendations are expected to then be revised accordingly and presented to APSA Council for approval in Spring 2019.


Founded in 1903, the American Political Science Association is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 12,000 members in more than 80 countries. With a range of programs and services for individuals, departments, and institutions, APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe to deepen our understanding of politics, democracy, and citizenship throughout the world.