As cyberspace rapidly becomes a rich medium for communication
and the number of users increases, it is becoming an attractive
target for social and behavioral research. The ease with which
the cyberspace medium allows for these types of studies also raises
issues about the ethical and legal dimensions of such research.
The ability of a researcher to anonymously or pseudonymously record
interactions on a site without the knowledge of the participants,
the complexities of obtaining informed consent, the over-rated
expectation, if not the illusion of privacy in cyberspace, and
the blurred distinction between public and private domains fuel
questions about the interpretation and applicability of current
policies for governing the conduct of social and behavioral research
involving human subjects.
To promote discussion of these issues, the AAAS Program on Scientific
Freedom, Responsibility and Law, in collaboration with the
NIH Office for Protection from
Research Risks, convened a workshop on conducting Internet research
involving human subjects. A report of the workshop was prepared
by AAAS staff.