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Special Classes of Participants

IRBs must give special consideration to protecting the welfare of particularly vulnerable participants, such as children, incarcerated persons, pregnant women, persons with intellectual disabilities, etc.

Vulnerability refers to the risks that researchers request their participants to undertake in relation to the ability of the participants to make fully informed consent. Populations routinely considered to be vulnerable include: children, incarcerated persons, pregnant women, persons with intellectual disabilities or disabled, economically or educationally disadvantaged persons, participants engaged in criminal activities, people under medical treatment for an illness relevant to the risk the researcher asks them to undertake, and participants who may risk or feel that they may risk retribution by a person with authority over them as a consequence of participation or non-participation in the study. Non-literate or non-English speaking populations may also be considered vulnerable in some situations.

Research with Children

Children are defined as minors in the jurisdiction in which they reside. Washington defines anyone younger than the age of 18 as a minor. The participation of children in research generally requires both parental/guardian informed consent and the child’s written informed consent or “assent” (agreement) in language that s/he could be reasonably expected to understand. Whitman students who are under 18 years of age are considered children under Washington law, and thus require parental consent to participate in research.

The IRB acknowledges that in many contexts outside of the United States, age does not easily correlate with both cultural and legal definitions of adulthood as defined in the U.S. In those instances where researchers are working with different criteria for the definition of children and adults, the following clause will apply: Children are defined as minors in the jurisdiction where they reside. It is the responsibility of the researchers/applicant to provide a justification for this exemption.

Research conducted in schools must be approved by the school or the school system, typically by both the superintendent’s office and the principal. Approval by an individual teacher is insufficient. For research within the Walla Walla school system, researchers need to first contact Christy Krutulis (ckrutulis@wwps.org), executive director of Teaching and Learning for Walla Walla Public Schools.

Research with Incarcerated Populations

The protection justice and autonomy are of particular concern for incarcerated persons. Additionally, bureaucratic requirements of incarcerating facilities can create substantial delays and limitations for research with these populations. Researchers interested in conducting research within Washington State Department of Corrections facilities should consult the DOC's website on Research.

Research Involving the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR)

Research involving Indigenous communities and peoples requires additional protections to ensure that the rights and autonomy of Tribal communities and participants are fully protected. Whitman researchers wanting to do work involving CTUIR collaboration or participation must:

1) Bring ideas to the Whitman College Advisory Council for CTUIR Collaboration (WCACCC) before initiating any conversations with CTUIR staff
2) Follow all required processes through the CTUIR, including an an application process for academic research by colleges and universities. Researchers should contact the Communications Director, Jiselle Halfmoon, for more information and a Research Permit Application. This application must be submitted at least 90 days prior to the research date.

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